Since heading up this journey to minimalism over a year ago I’d say I’ve had equal amount of support and scoffing sent in my general direction. I’ve heard words like “impossible”, “stupid”, “not good for my kids” and so forth. I think there is a HUGE misconception out there about what it means to live simply and minimally. I say that because I was most definitely one of those people. I used to think that to live minimally meant living in a tiny space with next to no furniture and a burlap sack for evening wear.
Though I’m sure there are many who live this way (perhaps not the burlap sack part…it must chaff…), I think living minimally needs to be distinguished from “cheap”
1. Minimal living does not equate to spending as little as possible on stuff. I know of many people who have closets, drawers and even garages exploding at the seams with stuff bought “cheap”. Not that being thrifty is a bad thing. I only buy my kids clothes on clearance or second hand and most of their toys are bought the same way. However, my hubby and I are conscious about how we spend our money. We spend based on what we need, not what we want. We look for the best price for the quality we’re after. We apply this to household items, clothing and electronics.
2. Living minimally does not equate to living with nothing. Our house is fully furnished. There is a car in our garage. There are clothes in our closets. What we are striving for is not to have an overabundance of stuff. We have one tv and one laptop. We don’t own a lot of clothes but what we do own, is good quality that will last us through the wear and tear. Do we still have more than we need? Yes. It’s a work in progress and every few months, we re-evaluate what our needs are and what we can get rid of.
3. Living minimally does not deprive you or your kids of anything. I will admit that I get a touch defensive about this one so rather than rant about how less toys allows my boys to learn to share, be creative and develop their imaginations I’ll use an example of what profoundly shaped my mind-set about how I want my family to live today:
In 2009, I was blessed with the opportunity to travel to Africa for 2 weeks to visit a care point in Swaziland, Africa that my church had been sponsoring. While there, we worked to build a washroom facility and garden at our care point to help our African family better be able to provide for the dozens of children that came to the care point daily for food, shelter and love. We expected to see poverty and illness around us (Swaziland has the highest HIV-AIDS ratio in the world) but what took me by surprise was the amount of joy radiated from these people. Pure, unadultered joy. People who had nothing, many were orphaned, many were caring for the children of their deceased brothers and sisters in homes no bigger than my bedroom had found joy in the simplest of things. The children played games for hours using nothing more than imagination. When games were done, they would sing the most beautiful music. There was no need for “stuff” there. Only love, acceptance and some imagination. That lesson has stayed with me for years and is only now starting to make sense in my life.
Now that I’ve probably pissed off a few of the 5 people who actually read my ramblings let me pause to say this: How you live your life is your business. I don’t judge you in any way shape or form. We all live our lives differently because we all have different circumstances in our lives that contribute to our decisions. For me, living more minimally allows me more quality time with me kids after I’ve been away from them all day. For me, living minimally has significantly reduced the anxiety I felt in my own home because of the clutter. For me, living minimally suits our paper thin budget and limited income and is allowing us to put money aside for our kids futures as well as our own retirement.
Now if only living minimally would make me a better house keeper….