Two years ago, my friends Joe and Ashley left the US to volunteer for three months in Paris. They downsized from a 1200 square foot home with a yard and two cars to a studio apartment in the 5ème, near Rue Mouffetard. All they brought for 90 days were four carry-on bags, which was smart, since they soon discovered their toilet and shower was in the kitchen.
These days they're living near Petite Ceinture, in a cute neighborhood in the 15ème. This is the last trip for their carry-on bags, now over a decade old. "We brought less clothes this time," says Ashley, instead filling the luggage with food, gifts, and crocheting supplies for friends here in Paris. If you think simplification is too extreme or impossible in the modern world, Joe and Ashley's story is for you. They work full time (in Joe's case, he has his own business to run), and have an active social life on top of volunteering and traveling, showing that minimal wardrobes and possessions are possible in a variety of situations. Ashley writes:
In America, we recycle and compost. Our TV is 15 years old; the appliances are nine years old. I buy, donate, or sell on consignment. I could part with the house and things easily. More than I thought I could. I looked around my house and wondered, 'Why do I have so much?' Decorations and all kinds of stuff we don't use or don't need. When we left America, we moved into a 19 square meter flat with nothing other than clothes. Our flat is small but nice. The bed is on a platform (mezzanine). The kitchen is spacious. Our bathroom is nice. And we have good closet space.
It takes 30 minutes to clean our apartment here- maybe 45. That includes unpacking some things, doing dishes, cleaning the kitchen, bathroom, vacuuming. In the US, a good cleaning takes two to four hours. We just had too much stuff. Coming here made me want to get rid of everything at home.
I have been cleaning up for the past year. I donated 240 items of clothing- 11 trash bags full! I'm just glad for it to be out. I got rid of a lot we just don't wear. I have some keepsakes from when we started dating. The clothes I brought all complement each other, so I can mix and match more than I could last trip. I think I am packing better items now that I did my wardrobe clean out. It's a lot more travel friendly.
I guess being over 25 makes you dress better- once I got out of my old wardrobe, I looked for more chic-looking, neutral items. We do use conventional beauty products and toiletries (Ariana's note: Ashley makes a ton of her own stuff- she just gave me amazing homemade lip balm). But I barely use makeup. In the US, I wear less makeup than everyone, and I always get compliments! We use bar soap. It's just better for your skin. I also use a boar bristle brush at home. It's good to take the oils from your roots through your hair, so if the ends are dry, this helps.
We spend quality time with people here- just in the way French people socialize. I feel like you get to know people better. We get here and it feels like we never left. We feel at home.