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Out of Balance

Realigning work and home life after realizing my job didn't reflect my minimalist values.

Photography by Cindy Tang

“Your home must look just like this.”

A customer once said this to me as I was re-merchandising my wares at a local antique shop. I was surprised to hear myself say, ‘No, it does not, not at all.’

That comment gnawed at me. It made me wonder why I had such disparity between my personal life and my professional life.

You see, I was a vintage furniture and home accessories dealer.

I got into the business organically. I had always loved home decorating, but as a young mother on a budget, I couldn't afford to buy new items. I soon discovered second-hand furniture. With just a little fixing up, they could be useful and beautiful once again. As friends and family would come to visit, they’d often ask where I bought my unique furnishings. Those comments lead me to begin selling refinished furniture.

I shopped flea markets, estate sales, garage sales and yes, even picked up free items on the side of the road. I was saving furniture from the garbage pile, and saving the planet!

I fooled myself by saying I was recycling, in reality, I had become a borderline hoarder. I was shopping constantly, filling my truck with found treasures. I could see the potential in furniture that others passed by and I was rescuing them—bringing them back to life for someone else to enjoy. The problem was I was purchasing so much, that I didn't have the time to repair them, and as a result, they sat in our basement, in our garage and in our barn, waiting, piling up.

The irony is that I’m a minimalist in every other aspect of my life. I have no problem getting rid of items in our home, from clothes, to toys, to kitchen gadgets. Anything that was not being used by our family has always been a prime target to be removed. Our stuff was always organized and had a designated place to be returned to after it was used.

I was made to realize something, however. My growing discontent with my business was not because I was burnt out from the never ending buying-repairing-selling cycle. I was discontent because my value of living minimally was not represented in my professional life. It conflicted with my philosophy of living with just enough.

Liquidation! I decided to sell my stock of inventory. I didn’t buy a single thing for my business for a full year, and was still able to constantly replenish my shop space and hold a couple of very profitable barn sales. I still have items to sell, but overall, I have edited 75% of my inventory.

I have gained two positive benefits through this process, the first; time. I used to spend hours on the hunt, hours on hauling goods home, hours repairing and painting, and then hours hauling them to the shop. The second; I’m now able to pursue a career that aligns with my personal values. The bonus? I no longer roll out of bed at 5am on Sunday mornings to be one of the first at the flea market. Now, it’s a slow morning, with coffee, croissants and family.

Realigned. And happy.

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