Chicago, IL

Minimizing Life from Detroit to Chicago and Gaining Freedom

Rene Cizio

When I started my journey from materialism to minimalism I didn’t realize that minimalism can enable freedom, but it has.

I used to own a house outside of Detroit filled with stuff, but over the last few years, through minimalism, I’ve eliminated a lot of square footage and spending.

Now I’ve moved from Detroit to Chicago and I'm saving over $1,000 a month and traveling several times a year (when it isn't a pandemic) with the time and money I’ve saved.

My Minimalism Journey

For years I rented or owned multiple rooms filled with furniture for sitting, eating, laying, reading, writing, playing, creating … and those rooms needed stuff in them. Furniture, niknaks, plants, candles … just. needless stuff.

Each spring I’d clean or organize all of the things I owned. I bought things to store things and installed shelves to hold the things that held the things I needed to store. A lot of time and money was spent managing all of that stuff.

My full-time hobby of shopping and acquiring meant I had a lot of stuff; but it took all my time and money. The worst part? I was bored to death.

Materialism Equaled Success, Right?

I grew up believing the most successful people had a big home and a vacation home, or two. A work car and a play car, maybe a motorcycle and clothes for every day of the week and type of activity you might ever encounter. Buying stuff equaled success and I tried to be successful.

Then, one day I found myself sitting alone in a house filled with things I never used in rooms I didn’t go in except to dust. Things and shopping started to feel pointless and never-ending. For the first time, I realized it was a trap; a never-ending cycle of purchase and repeat without end.

How many things had I bought and given away over the years that I couldn’t even remember? Or even rebought or bought multiples of because I didn’t remember I already owned one? Too many. All of that purchasing was mindless, unfulfilling and totally forgettable.

So I decided to minimize.

Now I live in just over 500 square feet in Chicago and honestly, it’s more than I need and my life is fuller than it’s ever been.

All the stuff I got rid of

I started by selling and giving away everything that wasn’t essential. When you get down to it most of its nonessential.

Waffle makers that you use once a year fall into this category, same with unused fish tanks:

  • dresses two sizes too small
  • cassette tapes from the 80s
  • Graceland Monopoly
  • the bowling ball I used once
  • souffle pans
  • food processor(s)
  • hot dog toaster(s)
  • 5,000 pieces of mismatched food storage containers
  • enough “African” themed niknaks to fill an entire room (I haven’t even been to Africa)
  • I had clothes that didn’t fit, or I didn’t like, but I’d bought them so I felt obligated to hold on to them for a while. At one point I had five closets of clothes and shoes I never wore.

This was why I needed so much space and had no money.

Still, I was attached. Our things hold emotions, good and bad. Letting go was the first journey I needed to take.

I couldn’t part with everything at once, so I rented a storage unit. That first year I spent $600 to store things I never looked at once. It was easier to get rid of that stuff after that.

A sharing economy enables freedom

I mostly stopped buying things unless they were essential. I’ve traveled for weeks with only a backpack. I’ve learned, 99% of the things we “need” we actually don’t. I’ve been fine, better than fine, without things I’d thought I’d suffer without. It’s made me be creative.

It’s about being flexible. Can I use my lotion on my legs and my face? Yes. Can I wear the same pants multiple times? Yes. Do I really need to pack this deodorant? Of course, you do, don’t be crazy.

Gradually, I realized there were a lot of things I didn’t need to “own” when the sharing economy is so strong.


Because I’d moved to the city where my job was I was able to walk to work, so I got rid of my car. That saved me over $700 a month ( monthly parking rates in the city will kill you).

I borrow cars with services like Zipcar. They’re app-based, affordable, and easy to use. When I don’t want to drive myself I use Lyft or Uber.

I save a lot by not owning a car that sits unused 23 hours a day.


I used to own several bookcases of books. When I put them to the Marie Kondo “spark joy” test I found I didn’t even really like most of those books.

Now I borrow digital books free from the library app. Last year I read over 80 books ( yes, you read that right) and I bought less than five.

Clothes, clothes, clothes

Americans are obsessed with “new” and “more.” As someone who works in advertising, I appreciate that you keep buying what I’m selling but shared and less are good too, probably better for lots of reasons.

I don’t buy clothes anymore except for a few well-made basics. There are so many online clothes-sharing services like Gwynnie Bee, Haverdash, LeTote, Rent the Runway and many others.

For a small fee each month I have a selection of borrowed clothes to keep my wardrobe fresh for work. When I’m done wearing them I send them back in exchange for something else.

It’s a lot less expensive than shopping, purchasing and housing a bunch of clothes I don’t like after a few wears.

I’m saving $$$$ every month

Not buying, and eliminating ownership of other things, has saved me over $1,000 each month. O N E T H O U S A N D E A C H M O N T H.

Now that I’m not shopping every weekend I have time for things I always said I didn’t have time for like reading and exercise. And I have more money for what I really want – Travel.

All my belongings now fit in 400 square feet or a 10×10 truck


Because minimalism has taught me to live with so little, I am comfortable with only a backpack and that means I can go anywhere with ease in a moment’s notice.

This allows me to snag great deals at the last minute and never have to worry about paying to check a bag.

Instead of souvenirs, I buy experiences like ziplining, surfing, or a tour.

You probably can’t do all of these things, but I bet you can do some of them.

Minimalism has to lead me to a lifestyle that I love. The ability to explore the world we live in, meet new people, cultures and places and expand my mind and spirit.

My journey with minimalism has made my life more full than rooms filled with objects ever could. That, to me, is the definition of success.

Comments / 1

Published by

Solo traveler stories about places and things to do

Detroit, MI

More from Rene Cizio

Comments / 0