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St. Louis-area minimalists maximize meaning in their lives with fewer items

Carmen Connors' tiny-bus house is about 200-square-feet total.
Carmen Connors
Carmen Connors' tiny-bus house is about 200-square-feet total.

While some may see the trend of minimalism as a new fad in the developed world, living simply with few possessions is a practice that dates back to ancient times. Various interpretations of the lifestyle exist. However, they all share a common theme: eliminate excess and add purpose to one’s life.

On Thursday’s St. Louis on the Air, local minimalist Amber Sebold defined a person who adopts the lifestyles as “somebody who is very careful about what they keep in their lives – the physical items, [and] basically everything has a purpose and a meaning and adds value to their life.”

Host Don Marsh discussed the less-is-more mindset with Sebold, a mother of four who teaches minimalist workshops called “Lighten Your Load.”

“Everything you own takes something from you, whether it’s 30 seconds or a year, it takes some amount of time. If you have thousands of extra belongings, then you’re gonna be spending a lot more time maintaining the stuff that you own,” Sebold said.

St. Louis-area minimalist Carmen Connors also joined the conversation. Connors has been paring down her possessions for more than a year and recently renovated an old school bus to suit her and her fiance’s housing needs.

Left, Amber Sebold and Carmen Connors are both St. Louis-area minimalists.
Credit Evie Hemphill | St. Louis Public Radio
Left, Amber Sebold and Carmen Connors are both St. Louis-area minimalists.

“When I first moved into the bus, it was interesting just how easy that transition was. It was about two car loads full of stuff, and I had everything put away in an hour,” Connors explained.

For Sebold, who adjusted to the lifestyle by ridding herself of about 75 percent of her possessions in a two-week time period, the reason for accumulating so many items is what she focuses on helping others understand through her workshops.

“We start out with the why and how to kind of break the chains that attach most of us to the things that aren’t necessary, because I think everybody knows how to declutter,” Sebold explained. “We all know how to take stuff to Goodwill … but it’s thinking about how did I get into this situation where my stuff is overwhelming me, and I how can I stop bringing things back in.”

Marsh went on to ask how minimalism relates to the United States’ consumer-driven culture.

“Us being content is completely not what any company that makes money with consumable items wants because then you’re not gonna be seeking the next better thing that’s gonna make you happy,” Sebold said. “They don’t want us to be happy, honestly, because that doesn’t keep their shareholders happy.”

As many individuals tend to hold on to sentimental items for happiness, the conversation led to the topic of mementos. Connors mentioned that she still has a box of them, though she did narrow them down.

“I had to reevaluate what mementos were really valuable and that I really did care about,” Connors added.

Listen to the full conversation:

St. Louis on the Air brings you the stories of St. Louis and the people who live, work and create in our region. St. Louis on the Air host Don Marsh and producers Alex HeuerEvie HemphillLara HamdanCaitlin Lally and Xandra Ellin give you the information you need to make informed decisions and stay in touch with our diverse and vibrant St. Louis region.

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Caitlin Lally is thrilled to join St. Louis Public Radio as the summer production intern for "St. Louis on the Air." With a bachelor's degree in journalism from Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, Caitlin also freelances for area publications like Sauce Magazine and the Belleville News-Democrat. In her career, she's covered topics such as Trump's travel ban, political protests and community activism. When she's not producing audio segments or transcribing interviews, Caitlin enjoys practicing yoga, seeing live music, and cooking plant-based meals.
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