Ashley Eaton on (not) having it all

Photo caption: Eaton reads “The Curated Closet” in her minimalist Charlotte apartment. (Photo by @ashlynne.eaton)

Ashley Lynne Eaton logs into her YouTube account, clicks on her “13 Minimalist Tidy Hacks” video and diligently scrolls through the comment section.

“I was inspired to become a minimalist because of you,” a comment reads.

“Your videos are really good! I like that you stay down to earth,” another one says.

Blushing, Eaton types her thank-you’s and tacks on her signature blue heart emoji.

Eaton’s minimalism and intentional living YouTube channel is called Ashlynne Eaton — a pseudonym she goes by online. In most of her videos, Eaton sits in a grey barrel chair surrounded by crisp green houseplants and talks to her camera, occasionally using voice-over to speak over b-roll.

She started the channel in December of 2016, and within a year and 11 months she gained over 28,000 subscribers.

“I’ve always been OK with putting myself out there and telling my story,” Eaton said, now sipping on a frothy latte at her favorite cafe, Undercurrent Coffee in Charlotte. “It started because I was watching some minimalist YouTubers and I thought, should I make videos? Sure, why not? This sounds like fun.”

Minimalism, Eaton says, is intentionally choosing to keep things in your life that you love or actually use, and getting rid of everything else — whether it be a tangible possession or something more abstract, like an unhealthy relationship. Intentional living, she says, has more to do with your lifestyle than your possessions.

Eaton’s first six months as a YouTuber consisted of documenting her minimalism transition. All of her early videos are about decluttering and getting rid of material possessions she doesn’t love or use regularly.

After reading five books about minimalism, Eaton began making videos geared toward applying minimalism to different areas of life — videos ranging from how to budget as a minimalist to how to adopt a minimalist diet.

In addition to creating content, Eaton tries to reply to all comments on her videos, often gaining friends in the process.

“There are people who I know I’m going to see their comments,” Eaton said. “Some of them, we’ve developed quite a bit of a relationship where I know things about their lives and they know things about my life. So it’s just a fun dynamic.”

How it all started

Eaton was exposed to minimalism right after she married her husband, Christopher Chesser, 24, in June 2016. The two married young because Chesser was offered a job in Mongolia and they wanted to tie the knot before living internationally; however, two months after they set the date, Chesser’s plans in Mongolia fell through.

Ashley Eaton and Christopher Chesser
Eaton and her husband, Christopher, pose for pictures on their wedding day. (Photo by @ashlynne.eaton)

After their wedding, Eaton felt overwhelmed in their small one-bedroom apartment by the combination of her and Chesser’s possessions, as well as the gifts they’d accumulated from the ceremony.

“I was just always on edge when I was at home, and that’s not how that kind of place is supposed to be,” Eaton said, furrowing her eyebrows.

Then Eaton realized that she needed to make a lifestyle change. She’d already seen a few YouTube videos about minimalism, but was she ready to say good-bye to her things?

She was.

Fed up with the chaos of her home, Eaton turned to decluttering and took half of her belongings to charity shops.

“My bedroom went from one of my least favorite places to be to being my favorite,” Eaton said. “Now it’s more functional and also I feel like I can think a lot more clearly when I’m in a cleaner space.”

Though Chesser doesn’t consider himself a minimalist, he supports his wife and reaps the benefits of minimalism by living with her.

“I went through a couple different closet purges and discovered extra stuff that I never used,” Chesser said. “American culture tends to be really materialistic and really stuff-centric. So I think minimalism is a good way to keep the stuff that’s meaningful in your life and get rid of the excess.”

Eaton’s background

Eaton is the eldest of Donna and Doug Eaton’s four children.

Though the 22-year-old grew up in Ottawa, Canada, her family moved to Boston when she was 6 years old, and then eventually settled in Cary, North Carolina, six years later.

Eaton graduated from Liberty University’s online undergraduate program with a Bachelor of Arts in Business Administration and Digital Marketing. Her enthusiasm for learning pushed her to enroll in Liberty University’s online graduate program to get her Master of Arts in Promotion and Video Content.

In addition to pursuing an online education, Eaton works part-time as a remote digital marketer. Eaton says she likes the flexibility of working remotely.

“I like how it lets me set my own schedule, just like how I like doing school remotely,” Eaton said. “And I liked it for the same reasons as when I was younger — it lets me travel now.”

A jack-of-all-trades

Although Eaton’s minimalist mindset extends past her material possessions, her array of interests is far from minimal.

“(People think) that because I make videos about minimalism, it’s the only thing I care about,” Eaton said. “I’m obviously passionate about it, but people see one big thing that you do and then put you in that box.”

Eaton is better described as a creative jack-of-all-trades, dabbling in a little bit of everything.

“I love photography and videography. I love doing watercolors and sketching,” Eaton said. “I love all these different things and I’m not hugely fantastic at any of them, but I love learning all of them. Learning new things is probably one of my biggest passions in life.”

Another one of Eaton’s passions?

Meeting people.

She met her subscriber, Caroline Ganahl, when Ganahl messaged Eaton on Instagram after moving to Charlotte and asked about Christian churches in the area. After meeting in real life, Eaton suggested Ganahl attend church with her, and now they see each other every Sunday in the pews.

Though Ganahl and Eaton share the same religious beliefs, their materialism differs substantially. Ganahl isn’t interested in decluttering; however, she is interested in a minimalist mindset.

“I never want to get rid of stuff, but I want to be a minimalist,” Ganahl said. “Watching other people reason through why they want to have a minimalist lifestyle helps me. Instead of just trying to get rid of stuff, I’m thinking about my actual lifestyle choices and the motivations behind them. What do I want my life to look like? YouTubers like (Eaton) help keep me looking at the end product of how I want to live.”

Ganahl isn’t the only subscriber Eaton has developed a real-life relationship with.

Eaton met Brooke Ledford when Ledford asked if she could write an article about her for a college class. The two quickly became friends, bonding over being married young and living in Charlotte.

“You can tell that when she’s with you she’s all there with you and being really intentional about her time and hanging out,” Ledford said. “I guess that’s tied to her idea of minimalism and intentional living — she really lives that out.”

Eaton’s minimal and intentional lifestyle allows her to value what really matters in life; not material objects or career success, but rather something much more simple and compassionate: people.  

“(I want to be remembered for) caring about others  — that’s something that’s really important to me,” said Eaton. “Accomplishments don’t really mean anything if you don’t share them with other people.”

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