What she learned by losing it all… minimalist lessons from a survivor of the 2018 California wildfires

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Last year, 31-year-old Ariel Janko started on a minimalism journey. Inspired by a Netflix documentary and a subsequent online challenge, Ariel let go of over 400 items in one month. And that was just the beginning.

She continued to declutter her Paradise, California home, closet by closet, drawer by drawer, for the next several months.

But when she and her husband decided to move, she realized she had only scratched the surface.

“You never realize how much stuff you have until you move!” she said. “I felt so defeated.”

Ariel reached out to me for advice on how to tackle the move clutter-free. I offered some tips and she was well on her way to moving into her new home when the unthinkable happened…

She lost everything she owned.

The 2018 California Camp Fire, just one in a series of deadly wildfires, destroyed over 11,000 homes in just 11 days, including Ariel’s.

The irony?

Ariel had just completed her move and was headed back to clean her old home the day she was forced to evacuate with only the belongings in her car.

She lost both her homes and her pets that day, but she says, she is happy to be alive. And she has advice for people who are struggling to let go of their stuff.  

“If it’s not a wildfire, it could be a flood, it could be an earthquake, it could be theft,” she said, making the point that any of us could lose our possessions at any time.  

Ariel encourages people to ask themselves one key question:

“If you were to lose it somehow, would you even miss it?”

To hear more of Ariel’s story and her powerful advice on how minimalism (and a healthy dose of humor!) has helped her cope with losing all her belongings, listen to the complete interview below.


To letting go… because you already have all the important stuff, 

PS I’d love to speak to your business or organization about how minimalism and simplicity could make a positive difference in their lives. Contact me to start the conversation!

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One Response

  1. Hello. I’m Stephanie from Paradise Paradise CA. I had started downsizing before the fire. Well hahaha it’s done. The only thing I truly miss is pictures of my children and a trunk of family hand made or old glasses. Little things. I had a large 3 bed 2ba home. I bought many things for my grandchildren and my garage was full of playthings for them all. After the fire my grandchildren just wanted to know if we the grandparents, uncles and pets were safe. To this day they still haven’t asked about stuff. We teach that people are the most important along with our animals and it brings us great joy that this is the value past down to our grandchildren. We are still waiting for a home to move into. Still camping out with my 30year old disabled son. We are content.

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