A year shy of 30, Elesha Piper found herself drowning in nearly $15,000 worth of debt without any savings or assets to her name.
Fast-forward five years later, and the Queensland native has become a popular minimalist blogger and is happier than ever.
It only took Elesha, now 34, a year to completely pay off her debt after she made the decision to ‘reset’ her life.
‘I kind of finally pulled my head out of the sand about the problems I was in financially,’ she told Daily Mail Australia.
Elesha Piper, 34, was in $15,000 debt five years ago – and paid it completely off in just a year
‘My goal was to get out of debt as quickly as possible.’
It was a debt that had accumulated over time, with hundreds of small purchases rather than one or two big ones.
‘It wasn’t like I was a shopaholic going out every weekend and buying heaps of new stuff,’ she said.
‘It was continuous overspending on little things like beauty products. I couldn’t walk into Priceline without spending $150 when I went to buy something that was $10.’
‘I think it just crept up because I just didn’t want to deal with it.’
None of Elesha’s family or friends knew about her secret struggle, and the anxiety and stress of the debt began to weigh heavily on her.
‘I felt really ashamed and embarrassed because I put myself in the situation,’ she said. ‘I didn’t want to live that way anymore, something needed to change – and it needed to change drastically.’
So Elesha made a decision. She wouldn’t buy anything she didn’t absolutely need.
Elesha made a decision that she wouldn’t buy anything she didn’t absolutely need, and it was a rule that led her to embracing minimalism completely
As she began paying off her debt and limiting her spending habits, Elesha said she started looking at all the things at home that already surrounded her.
‘I thought, oh man, I don’t even need half this stuff,’ she said. ‘It felt like I had stepped off the wheel of consuming, it was really liberating.’
It was then that Elesha stumbled across The Minimalists, two American men who left the corporate world and have written extensively about the benefits of minimalism.
‘I thought, this is so awesome and so aligned with what I’ve been experiencing for the last year,’ Elesha recalled. ‘I just jumped straight in and began the process of decluttering my home.’
Elesha got rid of 80 per cent of the things in her home, removing anything that wasn’t ‘useful or inspiring to her’.
‘I really wanted to get rid of the things that didn’t serve me anymore in life,’ she said. ‘I kept the practical things and those few things that do mean something to me.’
She got rid of many of her books and worked hard to declutter her wardrobe, which Elesha said was the most difficult to take on.
Elesha kept around most of her kitchen appliances because she loved to cook, and also held onto cards people had written to her over the years.
Elesha got rid of 80 per cent of the things in her home, removing anything that wasn’t ‘useful or inspiring to her’
Elesha kept around most of her kitchen appliances because she loved to cook, and also held onto cards people had written to her over the years
Decluttering her home then led Elesha to streamline other aspects of her life, from her personal Facebook to the way she spends her days.
‘I decluttered my finances, decluttered my stuff, and then I focused on decluttering the distractions and time wasters of my schedule,’ she said.
Elesha credits decluttering with teaching her how to focus her energies and finances on the things that ‘matter most to me’, like travelling and running her own website.
‘I’m spending my time in quality activities, not just wasting hours cleaning or organising stuff or on social media or watching TV shows that don’t add any value to my life,’ she said.
Minimalism has become a career for Elesha, who now runs the blog Minimise to Maximise
‘I still consume media and enjoy entertaining things, but I’m so much more mindful about what I bring to my life whether online or in my schedule.’
Minimalism has become a career for Elesha, who now runs the blog Minimise to Maximise where she teaches courses in the art of decluttering.
Elesha said she was inspired to help others after online resources and bloggers significantly helped during her own battle.
‘Back when I was in debt and no one knew the situation I was in, I really looked to online resources to help support and inspire me through my journey, and that’s when I fell in love with blogging,’ she said.
‘It helped so much to reach out to people online and realise I wasn’t alone and have an instructional guide on how to navigate something.’
Now Elesha loves helping people learn how to declutter, teaching them everything from letting go of sentimental items to dealing with unsupportive partners.
She created the 50 Things in 5 Days Challenge to give her followers a ‘super simple way’ to start the process.
The challenge is simple: Every day you give up 10 things inside your home, for five days straight.
‘A lot of people feel really overwhelmed at the start of their decluttering journey and sometimes you need a kick in the a** to get started,’ she said with a laugh.
‘But once that momentum starts, that’s the real purpose of the challenge.’
Elesha got rid of many of her books and worked hard to declutter her wardrobe, which she said was the most difficult to take on
Elesha said her biggest tip for those who want to start decluttering their homes is to never, ever, start with the sentimental items.
‘Sentimental items have a lot of emotional attachment,’ she said. ‘Leave them for last because by that time you’ve got the decluttering momentum.’
She also recommends breaking the process down into categories or doing it in 15-minute blocks of time through the day.
‘And if you’re not sure where to start, go to the bathroom,’ she said. ‘It’s the smallest room in the house and there’s not a lot of items with sentimental attachment.’
‘It’s easy to get started there with expired makeup and medicine that you can let go really easily without feeling too stressed or overwhelmed.’
It has been a long journey, but Elesha said she is proud of her life.
‘I think the most important lesson I’ve learned is that I don’t need to live the way that a lot of society lives in this consumer-focused crazy world,’ she said.
‘Some people may look at my life and say it’s a bit strange, but I love it and it’s given me a lot of confidence to do my own thing.’