We’re used to questions. After raising eight kids you learn how to answer endless “But why’s?” On the other hand, there is a question that’s hard to answer. And it’s “Why do you want to be a minimalist?” It’s a tricky question because there are so many answers. Why we are on this journey is likely different from the parents educating their four kids on an RV trip through the US or the digital nomad’s quest for the next State Park.
One of the reasons for this question is that there are many assumptions about minimalism. A few that come to mind are: “Minimalists only want experiences,” “Minimalists can’t have very many things,” “You have to go without,” and maybe my favorite, “You are judging me because I just bought my fourth pair of Birks.”
Yes and no. I was surprised to learn that there really aren’t any rules or formulas to follow on the road to minimizing. Which makes it easy. Or hard. If you like structure, lists and to do’s you’re going to have some ups and downs. But if you like to figure it out as you go, you’re going to have some ups and downs.
There are a few assertions we subscribe to. These have to do with the idea that “stuff” in and of itself doesn’t make us happy.
Having lots of holiday decorations was kind of fun while the kids were growing up. But then it became a nuisance because they took up lots of storage space and the kids moved out. It was also somewhat stressful because I only had so many hours in the day and often the effort of decorating the home left less time for enjoying the time. Eventually, even before I dove headfirst into minimalism, I found that a few strategically placed pumpkins, bunnies or Valentine cookies pleased my kids as much as a display in every corner. Let me emphasize: This is us. It’s not right or wrong.
Keep what you need. Hubby has three surfboards. Even I think that is a bit much, but he surfs most days and depending on the waves, needs a longer or shorter or lighter board. Okay.
Love what you have. This is the key to happiness. Don’t hang on to anything that doesn’t “spark joy” or serve a real purpose. I look forward to using my new can opener because it works so much better than the old one. I donated the one I didn’t like and bought another. It’s okay! It’s also okay if you love collecting t-shirts, own two pairs of shoes, have 37 necklaces, don’t store your kids’ stuff, or do. Just make sure you do it because it makes you glad. If you want to be a minimalist you don't have to count anything -- except your blessings.
Don’t compare. This is a toughie because isn’t that how we figure out our standing in life? “My car isn’t… but at least it’s not…,” “I may not be...but I’m definitely…” But what good does it do? If anything, it’s only a temporary fix because the next squirrel is going to run by and get us all knotted up if we aren’t okay with being us. A friend regularly tells me she needs to “just do what you’re doing and get rid of all my crap.” Well, no. She still has four kids at home and getting rid of the “crap” wouldn’t really solve anything. Her perception that my life is effortless is flawed. Sure, I don’t have the responsibilities and paraphernalia that go with a big home and family. But I also don’t have a home that fits the whole family. Or a closet. We pick our battles.
What I’m learning is that what works today might change tomorrow. What felt awkward two months ago feels comfy now. If I realize I should have kept the toaster I can skip the recriminations -- “what kind of idiot thinks she'll never need a toaster again” (even though it was kind of stupid) and just go buy a toaster. Lots of wins, some fails, but isn’t that life anyway?