Many people start out their journey into living more simply or perhaps minimalism de-cluttering their home; it then overflows to their car, their schedule, and many times their emotions. The freedoms offered by simple living are numerous - less debt, less keeping up with the Jones’, less work, and more time just to name a few.
But many times people work through what they think is everything in their lives and still have problems. They can’t understand where they went wrong. Did they miss a step? Did they forget something?
Simple living and minimalism are tools. They can help create more time, less debt, and freedom in our lives to do as we please. This new way of life is typically better for the environment too, but there will still be bills even if there are less of them, we will still need food, shelter, and clothing, the pipes can still burst when it freezes, and the dinner we just spent the entire day preparing can still burn.
No matter what lifestyle we choose there will always be challenges, but without challenges life would be pretty boring. Daily challenges not only cause us frustration and annoyance, they also develop creativity, ingenuity, and inspiration. Expecting any lifestyle to solve all of our problems, whether it is a consumerist one or a minimal one will only lead to disappointment.
Living simply can however remove all of the unnecessary stress in our lives, teaching us to slow down, and leaving plenty of energy to creatively and happily deal with the necessary challenges of daily life.
Advances in technology are usually considered to be helpful. Many times they are. Things like the electric washing machine, the microwave, and the coffeemaker can save us hours a week, but are they really helpful?
A few months back I invested in a nice wooden broom. It cost about 7 times that of the plastic kind, but it is extremely durable and worth every penny. We have wood floors, but still have a throw rug in our living area by our couch. I own a vacuum, but I hate it. I don't feel like it works very well, and the amount of work required to clean effectively using it always seems like a lot.
I purchased the broom mainly for my kitchen, but I recently had a thought. Why couldn't I use my broom to clean all of the flooring? I tried it and I don't see myself going back. It has joined the other low tech tools on my house. We make coffee and tea on the stove, wash and dry dishes by hand, and chop with a knife, not a food processor.
Do things take longer to do? Sometimes, but I am much more mindful and relaxed, and I actually enjoy doing basic tasks now. The tasks have become meditative and I find the low tech way still very helpful, just in a different way.
I like to rise in the quiet early hours before anyone else in my family. I usually relax, have a cup of tea, sometimes listen to music, and write. For some reason this morning I was contemplating how different our simple minimalist lifestyle is from everyone we know.
As I looked around our small home at our sparsely, well chosen furniture and belongings, I realized something. Our home, although it lacks tons of "things" - we don't have televisions in every room, place settings for twelve, or more rooms than people - it is full of life. We have very little by choice; very little space (700 sqft. for the four of us and a dog) and very few belongings, but we have tons of life.
I saw the shoes by the door, the dog's bone and ball laying haphazardly on the floor, and the scratches on the dining room table, and the evidence of life brought tears to my eyes. I was a minimalist when single, but when you are single it is much easier to control the flow of stuff in your life.
If you don't care for something, you don't have to consult anyone else, or listen to an upset child to remove or change it. The shoes by the door, dog toys, and scratches in the wood aren't clutter, they represent life; without those things my house would simply be a minimal and neat place to live.
To me, the purpose of minimalism is to remove the unnecessary to focus without distraction on the things that matter. The little things so many times seem like a distraction, but in reality they are what brings soulful energy to my life. Without these little reminders, the stuff in my life would simply be just that, stuff.
Even as a minimalist, I constantly struggle between want and need, especially living in the US. It is hard to not get sucked into mainstream society's more, more, more mentality. But how much is enough?
The only real necessities of life are food, water, shelter, and social interaction of some sort. These things are unbelievably easy to satisfy actually. There are many people all over the world that live on only a tiny percentage of what I do, and they are happy too!
Many times this is motivation for me to part with things in my life I no longer need. Happiness isn't determined by what I have and I figure if millions of other people can live without something and still find happiness, so can I.
But where should we draw the line? It is such a fuzzy grey line at that. Surely I can live without my computer, cell phone, or internet access, but I don't really want to. My nourishment doesn't need to be flavorful either, but a flavorful meal is rather enjoyable.
I really don't know where the line should be drawn, and I suppose I will constantly be refining my life to find a balance of wants, needs, and happiness.
How much do you think is enough?