First of all, to the folks really embracing the minimalist lifestyle movement, I get you. This movement has lit the fire to help people understand how to simplify and enjoy life, and for that, I’m grateful. And I thought I wanted to be on board 100%!

I wanted to be that person — the one you see on commercials for Netflix documentaries that’s so happy and free of stuff and travels the world as a nomad with nothing but a journal and a backpack. Or at least the one that has it all figured out without the clutter. 

That, for me, is unrealistic — at least for right now anyway.

The Garage Guilt

Due to recent (and not so recent) weather-related events over the past few years, nothing gets your garage cleaned out faster around here than a looming hurricane in the Atlantic. When I unloaded an ENORMOUS amount of who knows what at the local Goodwill the day before a mandatory evacuation, they informed me that they received more donations in one day than they had for the whole month.

An entire third of my house flooded — TWICE — and I still had accumulated enough stuff in less than two years to fill up the same amount of space. How did this happen to me??? 

Possibly because I am a direct descendant of hoarders. Ok, well maybe not “hoarders” but more of … um … Collectors! Yes, that’s it! Collectors of thiiiings. Different things. A lot of things. 


I strive my best to be the antithesis of that, and anyone will tell you how insanely (a bit OCD) organized I am. I’m definitely NOT organized all the time. However, organization comes fairly natural to me. Probably from the countless hours of working retail, and absolutely from owning and running restaurants.

Yet somehow, stuff still creeps in. As a kid, we were on a super tight budget, and thus I was raised from a wee dumpster diver to a full-on thrift shop junkie. As a creative spirit and lifelong artist, I can look at anything and try to make it into something else. That comes in super handy when I need to repair something, which is a much more fulfilling and less expensive (if I know how to do it right) alternative. I think I learned that from my Dad who has a garage filled with more parts than a Home Depot.

And then it made sense. The garage: why cars are never in it. He has to have a place for all the stuff to repair the other stuff … and he really enjoys it! I look at my garage and it is full of similar things — albeit for different repairs, perhaps instead for my well being and love of nostalgia, and I’m kinda ok with that.

Teeny Spaces, Tiny Houses

I think tiny houses are adorbs! I mean, who hasn’t envisioned themselves living in a dollhouse at some point in their lives? And from what I gather, they’re a means to keep you traveling and/or living a fun and fulfilling outdoorsy lifestyle!

But what if you like to be inside? You know, when its … I dunno … super freaking hot? Maybe you have a completely legit fear of lightning because it really can kill you and you happen to know people who have been struck by it, and I don’t know why everyone thinks I’m, uh, I mean you or whoever is freaked out by lightning? Oh, and tornadoes! Don’t get me started on tornadoes. We all saw the Wizard of Oz and where a tiny farmhouse can get you. Although the plus side for me would be the ability to pack it all up and escape from the looming hurricane.


Now, on an actual journey to somewhere (say on a vacation or something) is a different story. I’ve become an expert on evacuating on an almost moment’s notice. But before that, I traveled. A lot! Internationally! My first flight was at nine months old, and I’ve been on the go ever since. 

I wouldn’t be doing this post justice if I didn’t refer to Marie Kondo and the concepts in the Konmari method. I learned (oddly enough from the same Collectors I mentioned earlier) how to travel light. This included how to pack clothes in tiny spaces, a technique I’ve used for years! 

Y’all … this is not a new idea. And no it’s not some secret thing that’s been around for centuries used by ancient cultures hidden in some cavernous mountain somewhere. It’s the common sense we all have that gets lost with consumerism and material desires. I guess we just need a little push now and then (remember the Feng Shui craze) to recenter ourselves in the universe.

Capsule Chaos, Closet Conundrum

When I first heard of the capsule wardrobe, I immediately envisioned it in pill form. Wait, you can just take a vitamin to be free of your closet woes? Sweet.

When I found out what it really was, I realized I’m already doing a version of this, but don’t like the stress of maintaining a true number of items, because that’s ridonc to me. Remember the OCD thing? I can’t get all started on that.


With so many diverse activities, I wear a lot of hats – which means I need a lot of actual hats and clothing. Like I said, I travel, which means to different climates. I have like four jobs not even including being a mom, which also means different attire.

AND untrue to popular belief, you can’t just run around naked or even half-naked in St. Augustine even though I personally really, really want to somewhere around the end of August, envious of toddlers and babies getting away with it. Except then there’s that whole mosquito and sunburn thing – ick!

I periodically clean out a drawer when possible, and yes I discovered you can eliminate multiple items down to one, ie: wine openers, since I can open a bottle of wine with practically anything. Anyway, I know to really dive deep, takes time — time as a single working mama I don’t always have readily available.

Kitchen Drawer

So when my son’s father took him to NY for a couple of days, I jumped on the chance to purge some of the closets. I knew this to be nearly an impossible task with a rambunctious toddler around because I had tried it before, and it wasn’t pretty. More like pretty discouraging and possibly (undoubtedly) even dangerous with the odds and ends collected being quickly transformed into weaponry to take down a lamp or two.

I didn’t get it all done, and I was disappointed

I wanted to be that person – the one full of endless amounts of joy.

And then I realized…

I am that person!

I made a lot of discoveries in that short amount of time, and not just material. I discovered lots of things bring me joy. I probably have 250 art books and I can honestly say every one of them brings me immense joy! Can I live without them? Yes. Do I have to live without them? No. Will I live without them someday? Most likely. But not today.

Art Books

Sure, I still have worries in my life, but it’s not about holding onto those cute jean shorts that I will never EVER fit into again (unless I want to wear them as another hat). Honestly, if anyone is completely free of worry in their lives, y’all better holla. I have yet to meet such a person, let alone a mama, like this.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for clearing the clutter and making space for your body and mind, and there is indeed something so completely satisfying about donating and re-purposing things you don’t need anymore. To all you mamas making your best effort at minimalist lifestyle changes, I’m there with you. Maybe with a little more stuff, but still a heck of a lot of joy. 🙂

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Teresa Merritt
Teresa, a fifth-generation Floridian, grew up in North Palm Beach. Her family purchased a historic Victorian "fixer-upper" house in St. Augustine in 1992. After living in Atlanta, Manhattan, and traveling extensively, she returned to the sunny coastal family home and established Jasmine's Coffeehouse – a restaurant loved by locals and tourists alike from 2004-2008. Teresa also worked as a wine consultant for several years and enjoys doing anything "foodie" related. After the birth of her son in 2015, she decided to follow in her family's 40+ years of real estate experience and join the trade. She currently works at Coldwell Banker Premier Properties where her office window overlooks the mission grounds. When she's not working with wine or real estate, Teresa is seen gallivanting around town with her son, who often persuades her to roll down the fort hills, which she happily complies - regardless of dress or weather.