How I Discovered Minimalism In France—& How It Continues To Benefit My Life

March 4, 2020

It all started when I decided to move to France for two years. While I was packing my luggage, I was wondering how I would manage to put all my stuff into such a tiny suitcase. I had a quite huge bag, but at that moment it looked extremely small. It was a real struggle to finish that packing. At that moment, I already felt that I needed to change something. Just a few weeks later, I first heard about this lifestyle called minimalism. I became so excited that I started reading books and listening to podcasts about it. Step by step I also started to adopt this lifestyle. Here are a few things I learned along the way.

It’s about you and not others

Even after reading up on minimalism, I held a lot of skepticism and fear at the beginning. In France, I lived with people who were even more maximalists than I was that time, and they weren’t really interested in trying out this new lifestyle. This was the case with a lot of people I met in France. For me, it felt as though French culture made my minimalism seem a bit unnatural. I needed a lot of time to realize that this is a decision I make for myself and only for myself. It was not always easy to live with people with such a different mindset because there were a few things at home we used together. But after a while, I figured out that I don’t need people to agree or join me even if they are pretty close to me. It’s truly a decision we make for ourselves and not to impress others.

There are no rules

When I decided to start minimalism I started to look for some guidelines about how to do it. I had never done something like this before, and the information I found was sometimes unappealing, and even scary. I read some rules about how many items you can have in your life, and I considered many of them too strict. Another rule book dictated that most of the things of a minimalist owns should be white. I started to follow these difficult guidelines, but after a while I just decided to drop them. I created my own rules and did it completely my way. Then it quickly became much easier but not less efficient.

For example, I had a lot of books that I didn’t need anymore and it was easy for me to let go of all of them. I also felt so good to be making donations. However, I really like cooking and creating new recipes, and I owned quite a lot of tools in the kitchen. I felt guilty about it, but I eventually decided to keep them, and in my opinion that’s totally fine. Minimalism is not about deprivation, so I don’t need to get rid of things that I use, need, or truly love. For me this lifestyle is more about the mindset I have and not about the things I own.

It provides plenty of new experiences

When I adopted minimalism, I was expecting to see some benefits in my personal life. For example, I hoped that this lifestyle would help me to save some money and reduce my carbon footprint. These hopes obviously became true. Just by not purchasing unnecessary things I really felt I contributed more to environmental protection. I also saved money, which I then spent for experiences and travels. In this aspect, France made my minimalism fun and joyful because I had the chance to discover a lot of places in the country—in minimalist style, of course. Instead of just running through cities and stores, I preferred to spend time in nature by myself or visit villages and towns to get to know French traditions and people better. I could discover a lot of interesting places in France and learned a lot about the country.

Minimalism in France

It has more benefits than I would ever have thought

Besides these benefits, I also experienced some other advantages that I wasn’t prepared for. I believe that minimalism reduces stress, clears the mind, frees up time, and increases gratitude. This lifestyle has definitely made my life calmer and more organized. Even in a crowded city, this lifestyle helped me to still stay calm and patient. I felt that I didn’t only clear up space in my home but also in my heart. As I had less and less things, I started to value more things like relationships, health and personal growth. I started to have more real friendships and I eliminated superficial relationships from my life. I realized that stuff simply cannot make me happy but at the same time, I found happiness in other areas. It might sound strange but I felt like having more by owning less.

So these are the most important things that I learned among my journey into minimalism in France. After a while my flatmates started to pick up a few ideas about minimalism. Ultimately, they didn’t end up embracing minimalism, but I think that’s totally fine. Before I left France, they asked me if I consider myself a minimalist. First I was unsure how to answer because I felt I still had a long way to go. But suddenly I remembered that there are no rules and there is not really an exact definition of minimalism, so I could say yes with confidence. Long after I first discovered it en route to France, minimalism continues to benefit my life with amazing trips, fulfilling friendships and had unforgettable experiences.

Also by Adrienn: Vegan Pasta with Creamy Beet Sauce & Mint

Related: Struggle with Too Much Stuff? Let This Swedish Idea Guide Your Minimalism

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Photo: Adrienn Gyetko; Nil Castellvi via Unsplash

Adrienn is an animal right activist based in Hungary. She likes to create healthy and delicious plant-based recipes. She is also passionate about nutrition, fitness and travelling. She practices yoga and meditation. Find out more about her work on her blog and follow her on Instagram @szamocadri.


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