2012 and the Minimalist Lifestyle

Minimalism and it’s growing social trend fascinates and appeals to me. I’m not talking art, I’m talking simple living. 2011 was a year of purging and decluttering for me and, in doing so, I became interested in reading about others who felt the need to purge and declutter and what about their life made them desire downsizing. I found out I’ve pretty much always been a minimalist  – I just didn’t know it – and here’s why:

  • I still live in the first house I bought in 1980. When my peers “traded up” from their first homes, I stayed in mine because I liked the neighborhood and I didn’t need or want a bigger home. I like the sense of place I feel by living in the same home for so long. My mortgage was paid off years ago which has given me peace of mind in knowing I will always have a roof over my head as long as I can pay the taxes.
  • Much of the furniture in my house is the same I bought initially.
  • I rarely eat out and never buy from fast food places – we (my husband and I) cook real food and look at it as fueling our bodies and souls as well as honing a skill. Eating out is for special occasions and the best restaurants.
  • I don’t have much in the way of tech gadgets. We don’t have a Wii or whatever the equivalent of video games are right now, we do have satellite TV but only the basic package.
  • We have dumb cell phones which we use sparingly. I tried a smartphone but sent it back after three weeks because I found it added no value to my life.
  • We don’t belong to gyms; we walk for exercise.
  • We really don’t spend a lot of money on entertainment because we really aren’t night people and prefer a picnic in the park over fighting the jostling crowds. That’s not to say we don’t go to events; we do.  We’re fortunate to live in New Orleans where there are so many free and low cost events and those are the ones we enjoy.
  • I buy clothes when I need them or if I need something for a special occasion. I don’t shop for pleasure or entertainment because I don’t usually find it pleasurable or entertaining.
  • We have two cars but could easily get along with one and we have in the past. The car I now have is only the fourth car I’ve owned in 31 years.
  • I use things (household items, electronics, handbags, etc,etc) until they wear out instead of robotically buying the “new thing”.

I realize our lifestyle isn’t for everyone but it’s perfect for us. We’ve always been this way, not just since we became older.  I just don’t need to be entertained by something or someone every minute of the day – I can entertain myself. I don’t need huge amounts of stuff in my house that only creates clutter and is a background stress plus has to be dusted and cleaned. I’d rather be doing something else than cleaning or paying someone else to clean my stuff. One of the greatest benefits of a simpler way of life is the decrease of overwhelm in your life.

I haven’t always been the perfect minimalist, I can’t lie. Over the span of a 30+ year marriage I’ve accumulated lots of stuff by not purging while accumulating and through shopping binges that I thought would make me happy but didn’t. Last year I began a quest to declutter my house which I’ve written a little bit about on my personal blog. This decluttering has dramatically decreased the background stress I was feeling and has made my  place a more tranquil refuge from the world.

Q: Why be a minimalist?

A: “It’s a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise. But too little meaning. Minimalism is a way of eschewing the non-essential in order to focus on what’s truly important, what gives our lives meaning, what gives us joy and value.” ~ Leo Babauta

As I said, in the past year I’ve discovered a growing movement toward minimalism and simple living. I can only imagine it’s the result of the economy, the rampant trend of foreclosure and the high unemployment rate among other things. Many appear to be scaling down their spending and making do with less. Some people look at “making do” as a negative instead of looking at it creatively and giving the minimalist lifestyle a chance. There are a few websites and newsletters I read by the pioneers (relatively speaking) of the new minimalist movement who mostly appear to be in their 20’s and 30’s. Although much of what they write about are ideas and habits I already use, I like communicating with others who think like I do and I do find that I’ve learned things I didn’t know by reading their work. If you’re unfamiliar with this concept and want to explore the minimalist lifestyle, read this and check out the websites of the minimalists that I follow below. (Be sure to peruse the archives for specific topics.)

Zen Habits
The Minimalists
Rowdy Kittens

Checking out these sites doesn’t mean you have to drink the kool-aid,  it just means you’re mind is open. And that’s a good thing.