A stay-at-home mom who swapped “mindless shopping" for minimal waste and mindfulness – and is now showing others how clearing their cupboards will help tidy their minds – told how a book on simple living triggered her epiphany.
Constantly buying things she did not need to “keep up with the Joneses," a life changing moment came in 2017 for Cassie Tomesek, 34, when she read a French book entitled L'art de la Simplicité, meaning "The Art of Simplicity", by Dominique Loreau – which advocates a "no frills" existence – and overhauled her family's way of life.
Now embracing minimal living, Cassie, who lives in Dubbo, New South Wales, Australia, with her husband Thomas, 39, who works for the department of education, and their children, Lucas, three, and Aksel, one, said:
“I used to suffer with social anxiety."
“But, since I started living a more minimal life, my anxiety has eased off. I think the saying, 'Tidy house, tidy mind' is very true."
Now trying to follow zero waste principles, Cassie uses as little plastic as possible, owns no ornaments, side tables or sofa cushions, has less clothes than her husband, and only owns eight pairs of shoes.
And she firmly believes that decluttering her home has, in turn, removed a lot of the unwanted thoughts that were cluttering her mind.
Cassie now has just eight pairs of shoes (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“The book has a note area at the back where I wrote down how it made me feel. It made me realize that only once we have eliminated excess, we can see the horizon ahead and our everyday activities will take on a new meaning."
“Before that, going shopping was my guilty pleasure. I used to do it all the time and I wasn't mindful about what I was buying."
“I'd shop to make myself feel better, as if I was trying to fill a hole. I'd buy all sorts of stuff I just didn't need – clothes, shoes, things for the house, lots of wellness products like protein powders and supplements."
Cassie's children playing at home (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“In some ways, I was shopping to 'keep up with the Joneses.' I'd see someone who seemed happy and successful and I'd think, 'If I buy this, I'll be happier and more successful like them,' but that just wasn't the case."
As Cassie approached 28, the quick fix she gained from shopping was wearing off and she began to crave, instead, a more meaningful way of life.
“I started to resent how much stuff I had and how much of my day it took to clean and organize it all – creating extra chores that ate into my day."
“I started feeling overwhelmed by all the stuff I owned, like I was being suffocated by meaningless things."
So, Cassie started looking for more meaningful ways to approach life, stumbling across L'art de la Simplicité when she was browsing the book section in Big W in 2017.
Buying the book, every page made perfect sense to her, as she devoured its advice on living minimally.
Cassie's streamlined wardrobe for her children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“As I set about decluttering my home, I kept two principles in mind, asking myself, 'Does the item bring me joy and is this item practical for my family?' If the answer to either question was no – it was out," she said.
“There was so much stuff sitting around that we didn't need or use, so I just went on a purge."
“I chucked out our ornaments, TV unit, coffee table, loads of clothes and just bits and pieces that were lying around collecting dust."
Cassie Tomesek (Collect/ PA Real Life)
Taking three garage sales to shift her unwanted item, as she cleared out her house, Cassie said she also decluttered her mind.
“Since I've embraced minimalism, it's helped me to be more mindful, to clear my mind and think more clearly," she said.
Further inspiration came in 2019, when she watched the Netflix series Tidying Up with Marie Kondo.
Cassie on her wedding day (Collect/ PA Real Life)
On the show, expert on organization, Marie, helps people to clean up their homes and, after tuning in, Cassie realized that she, too, could help others to embrace minimal living.
“Even though I only embraced minimalism and a zero-waste lifestyle a little later in life, I've always been super organized," she said.
“I've always loved writing lists and my wardrobe used to be color coded, although now I've switched that up and keep my clothes in order from longest to shortest."
“Plus, my CD and book collections have been kept in alphabetical order for as long as I can remember."
“So, I know my organizational skills, coupled with my positive experience of minimalist living, will go a long way in helping other people."
Launching her own website late last year, Cassie now hopes to help others by sharing tips and tricks on how to successfully live a more minimalist, yet organized life.
Cassie and her children (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“I wanted to show other people that you don't need possessions to be happy," she said. “You can choose what makes you happy. It's not about accumulating stuff."
“I share advice and ideas for how to live less materialistically, as well as advice and templates that people can follow to get more organized."
“And I run a declutter scavenger hunt which people can follow. On the first day it involves decluttering out-of-date medicine, day two is out-of-date make-up, and day three is out-of-date cleaning products, and so on."
Cassie Tomesek (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“It's about gradually, little by little, getting rid of the bits you don't need."
Now training to be a life coach, Cassie hopes to qualify in 2021 and then plans to incorporate her minimalist approach when helping her clients.
“My tagline is 'manifest, minimalist, and flow,'" she said. “I want to help people reorganize their lives through my minimalist approach."
Cassie also applies her philosophy to her mental wellbeing.
“It sounds like a cliché, but it's about living your most authentic life," she said. “When I started, I went through a process of clearing out toxic relationships."
“It can be tough, but you feel a lot better for only having positive people in your life."
Cassie's workspace (Collect/ PA Real Life)
Not only is Cassie now far less materialistic, personally, but by cutting back, she hopes her zero waste principles will help the planet.
“I decided I wanted to become more mindful about mine and my family's way of life so, gradually, little by little, we became more and more 'zero waste,'" she said.
“I started using reusable coffee cups and I swapped plastic shopping bags for reusable bags. Then I started using shampoo bars instead of bottles of shampoo and shopping at wholefood shops, where you can buy food in bulk and take it home in reusable containers."
Cassie's home (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“I use reusable nappies and reusable baby wipes that you can just wash and use again, too."
“And, nowadays, I try to only buy clothes for myself or my family from secondhand shops, or from sustainable brands."
Cassie has also overhauled what she eats and, in 2017, started following a plant-based diet – which is made easier by her ever-expanding fruit and vegetable patch.
“I do find that I have more energy and feel so much better within myself following a plant-based diet," she said. “We grow heaps of our own kale, radishes, and potatoes, and we also have our own fig tree. The plan is to keep adding to it, so we have loads of fruit and veg."
Although she is not living quite zero waste yet, Cassie hopes to one day.
“At first, I put myself under a lot of pressure and I get annoyed at myself for not being completely zero waste," she said. “But now I realize it's all about taking baby steps and gradually changing lifestyle habits and it's a lot harder than people think."
Cassie's medicine cupboard (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“For example, if my children desperately want a plastic toy for Christmas or their birthday, I will get it for them – so there is a bit of wiggle room."
Now Cassie has made it her mission to help others improve their wellbeing by embracing her eco-friendly way of life.
“I want to show others that's what is most important is our health and mental health and if you have a more organized life you have a clearer mindset to focus more on your wellbeing," she said.
Cassie's cupboard (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“I'd love to grow my social media following – and one day I would love to have my own program that helps show people how to declutter their home and their mind."
Meanwhile, for Cassie, her more sustainable lifestyle remains a work in progress.
“I don't have the perfect home and I'm constantly trying to evolve and declutter – it's an ongoing process. Sometimes things are needed now, but not in the future, so it's ongoing."
Cassie Tomesek (Collect/ PA Real Life)
“People need to take each day little by little – it's not about perfection it's about progress."
“Even for me, it's a work in progress. But even the tiniest changes can make the biggest difference."
To find out more follow Cassie on Instagram @cassietomesek.