I love the idea of minimalism, in moderation. Tiny houses and jars full of whispers aside, for me, minimalism is:
- Keeping and cherishing only what is beautiful and useful to you
- Experiences over possessions
- Spending your time carefully
Despite a small, guerilla marketing campaign to convince people otherwise, I’m not perfect. Amazon.com and I have a co-dependent relationship that’s only been made worse by the prospect of having drones deliver my packages (YES PLEASE DO THIS) and that everything in Prime Pantry is suddenly accessible because of my husband’s benign seltzer addition. (If you can deliver our seltzer, dog food & kitty litter order, fleet of drones, I salute you.)
I also have a constant internal struggle when I look around our house, because I am an OCD planner, and like to anticipate future household needs and so may have 62 paper towel rolls in our downstairs closet. (To be fair, our dog was potty training when this purchase decision was made.) Our closets are often overflowing, and I’m not ready to talk to you about the number of toys and art supplies our children possess – let’s just draw a curtain over this topic and call it an intriguing mystery.
That being said, I think my life is pretty minimal, or at least that’s the head space I try to make decisions from.
Keeping and cherishing only what is beautiful and useful to you
My most important possessions are:
- iPhone (how I access my books & music, & talk with my friends & family)
- wireless earphones and dog walking supplies including my poofy vest from Jon’s mom with iPhone-friendly zippered pockets.
- Weirdly, our house, not just because it’s you know, shelter and we live in New England where it frequently snows/sleets/rains/is 50 degrees one day then 25 degrees the next, but because I’m a Cancer and need to have a shell to retreat into to be happy. My super ginormous fluffy blanketed bed is a microcosm of this.
- everyday things like my glasses and pants and other stuff that prevents blindness and misery and being arrested for indecent exposure
I tend to find beauty outside the house more than in, although you wouldn’t know it because I am also deathly afraid of ticks and poison ivy and ever since discovering both, nature has been a chancier proposition. A walk to the nearby reservoir, or down a (paved) tree-lined trail, or a visit to the beach (the beach is super safe, nature-wise, unless you start considering drowning and jellyfish and extremely angry seagulls) does a lot for me, more so than interior decorating, which I admire but which would honestly be covered up in my house by craft projects by Jessica or Pokemon cards by Maddox (kiddo treasures are important) or random things like rice cookers and coffee makers, which provide The Delicious and therefore are embraced despite the questionable aesthetic appeal.
Experiences over possessions
When I read about minimalism online, I see a lot of focus on travel. I like how other places feel different and think it’s important to travel to kind of stretch your perceptions of the world and the people in it. I also get homesick (Bucket o’ Contradictions, that is my secret name) and am much more comfortable with the familiar. As a compromise, I tend to focus on experiences that are close to home but which will make us (our family) happy, like going to the library or the beach, building something together, or having nerf sword battles in the yard.
As the kids get older, it’s easier to go farther afield, as there’s a lot less to carry (diaper & nursing years have their merits, but also their literal baggage). We live relatively close to both the city and to some really beautiful natural places and to some interesting things to do, and we are lucky in that there’s really no reason to wait to try these out.
For just me, getting close to the water is always a plus (reservoir, beach, downtown on the waterfront walk, moderately deep puddles), and Petra and I have started exploring other places to go on our walks. She is especially good at reminding me that we both need exercise, because she will press my keyboard and insert random characters into my code or work emails or stand on my leg as a gentle, 55lb reminder.
Spend your time carefully
Furry code injections aside, I like my job. It’s interesting and pays fairly, and I’ve been fortunate in that my clients are intelligent and nice people. I also like limiting the amount of projects I take on so I’m not working just to work, but rather so I can contribute to our expenses/savings and so it’s not a pinch when we want to try something new. I remember a time in my life when all of our furniture and meals were made of 99 cent meatballs from Ikea and my craft/rodent condo building supplies were from recycling centers and roadside refuse, so I’m thankful for this, and the freedom it allows.
We all have to do laundry, fill out really lengthy forms, update and test WordPress plugins (this might just be me), take out the trash (this might also just be me, you guys might all have amazon trash drones), etc. Because of this, how you spend your free time is even more important. If there’s an optional activity and you’re only halfway on board with it, there is almost always a better solution.
For example, I miss kickboxing, but it cost too much and took way too much time out of my work day. Now we have a dog, and she takes just as much energy (and bites me a lot more, no one at kickboxing ever bit me) but I don’t have to drive to see her and she doesn’t renew monthly.
For awhile, I had the kids signed up for an activity almost every afternoon, and they were exhausted and I was just plain mad, and would they actually ever regularly use floor hockey or head-standing in real life situations? So, now they are just doing survival things (swimming, shark-punching) or things through their schools (dance, music, learning the fine art of passive-aggression from their more burnt-out tenured teachers) and we can relax together after school.
Minimalism is a reminder that while you can do more work or get more things, you don’t ever get more time. Unless you are Justin Timberlake. But even then, someone can tie you to a table and steal all your arm clock.