Why/How do I enjoy being a minimalist?
The answer is really quite simple (naturally). Because stuff never made me as happy as this:
The answer is really quite simple (naturally). Because stuff never made me as happy as this:
I would like to introduce you to my friends, The Batts Family: Wendy, Howie, Helena and Georgia-Belle.
After Wendy’s father passed away, she inherited 6 acres of land in “the nature,” as I say. They were renting a 1800SF home in Killearn and weren’t sure where they wanted to plant their roots. They did however know that they intended to save money while thinking about their next move. SO, they sold/donated/eliminated 90% of their possessions (My heros!), to move into a 100SF camper on the land they now owned. They kept their washer/dryer and yard clearing tools–THAT’S IT. Five outfits for each adult (it’s all the camper closet would hold) and maybe 8-10 outfits for their teenage daughter.
This is where they lived for 8 months-Husband, wife, teenage daughter and dog.
They eventually decided to plant roots on this land and were able to build a home with all of the money they saved. I knew Wendy before I knew Minimalism. I was one of the few (two) people she told that wouldn’t “judge her.” They knew what they were doing wasn’t “normal” to most people and just didn’t want to answer a lot of questions. Or the same question over and over again. I think being debt-free and building a house you can afford should be everybody’s normal.
Howie moved a lot growing up so neither he nor Wendy ever really accumulated a lot of stuff, nor did they hold sentimental attachments to things. Emotionally speaking, minimizing the stuff (down to their beds and furniture) was easy for them. They are an extremely tight-knit family who, not knowing anything about Minimalism, naturally valued family relationships and love over things. Wendy and I worked together during this time, and it wasn’t until she got a new job and left that I discovered Minimalism. I was crazy excited with my new discovery but I was just preaching to the choir with her!
Even now they don’t fill their house with anything they don’t need or that doesn’t add value. They said that moving into 1300SF felt like living in a mansion to them, amplified by the fact that they had no furniture! They take nothing for granted in that house, but they also don’t try to fill with anything other than love and necessities. I was curious what they appreciated the most about the house after camper-life. Was it all the space and room? No. They would willingly live in a small space again….just not a camper. It was the plumbing and central heat and air! Evidently, the camper had no insulation ergo when it was hot outside it was REALLY hot inside-same with cold. I’m still forbidden to talk about the plumbing issues.
[Insert sub-story about Uncle Robert later]
When I visited them at home and asked them what they value most aside from family, Wendy said “This! This is our paradise.” The land from her father and the house they built and turned into a home by moving in and being a family. The family bond was strengthened by their willingness to challenging the norm and do something different….living with less, but living more.
Well, that was easy.
This is probably the second most asked about subject after my closet. First let me say, it is possible. And the sooner you start shifting focus away from the material things onto experiences, the easier (I suspect). I don’t have a teenager, but I was one once so I can imagine it would be a bit more challenging to do this transition with them, than a 3 year old.
We really underestimate our kids. Evan already has this innate desire for happiness and wants everyone to feel it. He already values love and experiences over the stuff. He is very empathetic. I’m quite impressed and so very proud of him. Everyday.
Now, that being said, I’m not going to deny my child toys. I just want to instill in him a sense of gratitude and joyful contribution over accumulation. Usually, after Christmas or his birthday (or any time his toy box starts to get full), I open it up and say: “You just got some really nice toys. There are a lot of kids who don’t have toys. What should we give them that you don’t play with anymore?”
Honestly, he gives-a lot-freely and effortlessly. When he got his bike for Christmas he willingly donated his tricycle (previously, the love of his life-and it was second-hand.). Again I let this be his choice. I never give any of his things away without his approval.
Anytime there is a charity drive, I let him be apart of the giving. Recently we just donated underpants and PJs to the local foster child organization. He went with me to shop and select the items and helped me deliver them to the drop-off location. Every year we do Operation Christmas Child together. We go to the Dollar Tree and he picks the toys for the kids and we pack those shoeboxes tight!
Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist has a family and I’ve found his website to be quite helpful. Anytime I get stumped, I go there for reference. So far, so good. I think Evan is better at this than me!
I used this technique before becoming a Minimalist. It was birthed (haha) more out of a financial strategy.
Babies grow out of the clothes and toys very quickly. Hand me downs are awesome, but my friends and I also started what I referred to as a toy rotation. We all had kids at different times within a 5 year span so instead of buying the big ticket baby items individually, we shared. We shared the swing, travel system-car seat-stroller thing, and of course toys (i.e. floor gyms, bouncys). When one kid grew out of them (typically within 3 months), another was usually born. This solved 2 problems:
My personal strategy is to digitize the important pieces that you really like and recycle the rest. The only pieces I keep in hard copy form are those that include hand and foot prints (for size reference).
Lead by example and always choose experiences over things. This is the first year when Eric and I finally came out of the Minimalist closet to our friends and family for the Holidays. They probably thought they were getting nothing-LOL! Surprise this has been the best most STRESS-FREE Christmas we’ve ever had.
We let people know well enough in advance that we didn’t want things for Christmas. Everyone did so great. We got cash. PERFECT. No stress on their behalf and cash is always in my size.
My Birthday really took me by surprise. By this time my friends were starting to get the hang of it and the result was an emotional tidal wave of gratitude and love that I wasn’t expecting. Here are some gifts that made me scream excitedly:
When you remove the option of things as gifts, what you do receive becomes more creative and heartfelt. This is one of my favorite songs, played by one of my favorite people. And is one of my most favorite gifts from a friend. It brings tears to my eyes every time I hear it. And now I share this gift with you.
First, a little history….
I believe I was groomed for this lifestyle at an early age thanks to my parents. My parents came from nothing and now have something-a lot of somethings and investments in areas I don’t even understand. When I say nothing I mean they lived in a trailer with no AC in central Florida. They qualified for welfare, but refused to take it. My dad grew our food in the backyard. I was eating organic before it was a thing! But they worked HARD for everything they have from their college education to their current (paid-for) home. The struggle was very real for them–in a way I didn’t fully understand until I became an adult. My brother and I always had everything we needed, but just not everything we wanted. Even when the money started coming in, we never had cable or video games. I didn’t have a CD player until I was 20 and that was given to me by my brother-(I think out of pity watching me wind up cassettes with a pencil). By this time, my parents could afford all of those things, but they understood what was a necessity and what was not. They understood how to save and live within your means. They are the best at not falling victim to advertising. I don’t have cable by my own choice now and music is digital. My CDs and cassettes are long gone.
When I formally introduced Minimalism to my parents, the timing was perfect. My Dad had just bought a sports car! (It took him at least a year before pulling the trigger on that decision. Big purchases take FOREVER.). I saw the concern on my Dad’s face and quickly reassured him with the two qualifying questions: Can you afford it? Yes. Does it add value to your life? Yes, immensely since they can’t ride their motorcycles anymore. I love the car. I’m very happy that they have it. They deserve every bit of joy that car affords them. They will enjoy the memories and experiences.
Sidenote: My mom and all her sentimental knicky-knacks, Kay jewelry and doilies is still hoping I “come around” and decide I want them one day. LOL……no.
I think its fair to say I’m an action-before-analytics kind of person. My husband, however is not. He reads owners manuals….for pleasure! Once I’ve embraced an idea, there’s really no stopping me. When things started flying out the door Eric said: what’s going on? I’m minimizing! Poor Eric, always the guinea pig to my wild ideas. I keep life interesting for him. He never knows what ideas I’ll come home with next. Below are a list of suggestions and observations, based on all the mistakes I made.
This thing is not that person. That person is always with you–in your heart and soul. And the person in Heaven wants you to be happy and live an extraordinary life. If some of their leftover stuff is preventing you from doing so, they want you to get it out of your way. They don’t need it anymore. The last thing they want is for you to hold on to something of theirs that doesn’t add value to your life–out of guilt and perceived obligation.
Or as one of The Minimalists puts it after losing his mother and having to deal with both his grief and her things…
“I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.”
-Joshua Fiels Millburn, LETTING GO OF SENTIMENTAL ITEMS
That being said, I still have the teddy bear my grandmother gave me I was 7. I have no intention of giving him away. If that’s the only hassle I leave Evan to deal with, I’m good with that.
Once Eric started to see what a relief it was to live with less and in his case, maintain less, he was onboard. Now we just walk around the house sometimes and point out more stuff we want gone. It’s kind of fun! Our once cramped 1260 S.F. home feels WONDERFUL, CLEAN and BEAUTIFUL. It’s the perfect size for E3 and Onyx.
Removing distractions and re-calibrating your focus on important aspects of life and relationships is healing (see article below). Yet again, I feel like I’m presenting something we already know. Humans don’t like change. So instead of taking action to remove or fix those things that detract from our life we tend to anesthetize (i.e. TV, alcohol, shopping, busy-ness, Candy Crush-guilty!). I’ve become more mindful of even minor aggravations (i.e. not being able to find keys, grabbing a pen from a cup of pens that don’t have ink anymore, my forgetfulness etc.). I’ve noticed that although these annoyances are minor, they add up during your day and affect your overall happiness. Being aware of them means I remove them-IMMEDIATELY. Or in the case of my keys, install a hook near the front door. Tony Robbins says “procrastination is a theif!” I heard that–TR with your big ‘ol banana hands!!
Also, do not feel guilty if minimizing your obligations creates a better life for your inner circle. Those who live in your home come first before all others. If you spread yourself too thin, you are of no use to anyone. I’m terribly guilty of this myself. Outsource help for someone you can’t get to right away. Sometimes I’ll even call a mutual friend and ask them to go check on the person in need.
Making Decisions. Lost in the infinite or lost in the finite? Either way a decision will be made. Either by you or on your behalf.
If you are not mindful of your decision to purchase and more importantly your MOTIVATION to purchase, you will not find lasting joy in the thing you bought. Or worse-now said thing requires maintenance and space and actually detracts from your life joy. The time spent maintaining possessions could be spent on experiences, making family memories or societal contribution. In short, if you aren’t consciously making an intentionally well-motivated decision, one will be made for you. And I promise it will be made by someone who probably wants your money has very little regard for your happiness.
Minimalism is the only life-philosophy that will teach you what you already know. All it does is clean the lenses through which you view your world. The hardest part is no longer being able to ignore and justify what you see. Your reward is autonomy. Guess who’s driving your life bus now? YOU.
It really is simple: Don’t buy what you don’t need or does not add value to your life. Live within your means. Ta-DA! I would also add reject impulse buying. There is no issue of scarcity in this country, so wait. If it is something that you continue to want and it passes the “Can I afford it?” and “Does this add value to my life?” questions, then go for it.
The problem is not consumerism. It’s compulsory consumerism.
-Joshua Fields Millburn, The Minimalists
The proverbial Jones’ have robbed you! They lied to you and and the companies they work for preyed on your insecurity. They took your money, your time (which is far more precious than your money), and your joy. But they just got busted by the knowledge po-po. You can’t get your money or time back, but sure can take back your joy and peace of mind ……today.
“Self-doubters evaluate themselves from the perspective of others,” explains Arkin. “So, the pleasure one of them would take from having a possession might not be defined so much by how much they enjoy it, but by how much others covet it.”
-American Psychological Association; Those who doubt themselves buy the most, study finds.; October 2002, Vol 33, No. 9; Print version: page 13
I had a professor tell me the following phrase and it has stuck with me for over 10 years now. I don’t know how, considering my memory is faulty, so I assume it’s God and the universe highlighting something important for me on my brain:
“Never confuse Standard of Living with Quality of Life.”
One of my favorite questions that I received regarding my transition to Minimalism came from my friend Mary (and consequently became the inspiration for the name of this blog).
Me and Mary on her wedding day. I was the maid of dishonor.
Let me quote her:
So how do your reconcile your love of color and design with Minimalism? I’ve seen all the videos and it seems everyone lives on black, white, beige, and sometimes grey. I need color and suspect that you do as well.
Ah ah ah-Don’t get caught up and in somebody else’s style of minimalism. Minimalism is individual-there is no one way to do it-your minimalism will look different than everybody else’s. I know mine does!
Granted, there is talk of a “uniform” in the Minimalist world, but the color of your clothes or the clothes themselves (unless you have an excessive amount) are not worth the emotional effort. The word uniform is too close to the word conform for me to ever read those articles anyway. Not to mention subscribing to someone else’s dress code in order to “fit-in” will NEVER appeal to me. Hot Pink adds value and joy to my life. It’s the color with which the people I love most associate with me. It’s a happy part of who I am as much as being a minimalist.
I like the title The Hot Pink Minimalist because it immediately dispels the myth that minimalist sit around wearing all black in a stark white room with no things and not smiling. Goth-Hipsters! Much like when I tell people I’m Christian I immediately have to address their preconceived notions with my catch phrase: “We are not all like that!” Even talking about my faith and beliefs on this blog make me feel uneasy. I can’t see my audience and I can’t explain that I’m Christian but I’m no door-knocking bible-thumper. But I digress….That’s for a different blog on a different day.
Come to think of it my “going-out” outfits are quite minimal…….in fabric.