Minimalism. The word conjures up thoughts of rigidity doesn’t it? A strict adherence to a firm set of rules. Discipline. Seriousness.
And I am pretty much the opposite of all of that. Undisciplined. Silly. My parents thought I was lazy. Sometimes I think they were right.
So why do I love minimalism so much?
It’s partly because I’m claustrophobic and having less stuff in my life helps me to breathe.
But the other benefits of the practice (and it is a practice – it’s not something you do once and then it’s done) have become really clear over the last year or so and they are, for me, freedom and flexibility.
Not having a lot of stuff makes it far easier to relocate when that makes sense in your life. And it’s made sense quite a lot of times in mine. Packing is an onerous and difficult task. It forces you to contemplate every bad shopping decision you’ve ever made. Eventually, I realized that less shopping would mean fewer ‘What was I thinking???’ moments down the road. Which is really what started me on the path to minimalism.
By not having a lot of stuff and giving up the habit of going out and acquiring more, we’ve been able to put our resources, both physical and financial, to more creative pursuits, like writing a blog and opening a bakery. We’ve been able to weather the periods where all our spare cash and energy is taken up by the business without feeling resentful that we can’t replace our throw pillows with this year’s colour or whatever else we might have been shopping for.
And it goes deeper than that when you’ve been following the practice for awhile. By paring back what you have and do, you get a better idea of what you truly need. And what you don’t. So that when the exciting, perhaps risky opportunity comes along, you can reach for it fearlessly. When you don’t have as much to lose, you’re much more willing to risk it.
The past two years have a been a huge challenge as my health went south, making it impossible for me to help out in the bakery for awhile. But it would have been a whole lot scarier if we hadn’t had the experience of cutting our expenses down to the minimum, if we hadn’t known how little we truly needed to live.
Questioning everything you own is a wonderful habit to get into. Because eventually, questions of ‘How many towels do two people actually need?’ lead to other, better questions, like, ‘Do we really need a dryer?’ or ‘How can I live a little more lightly on this earth?’ or ‘Who am I?’
Once you start asking questions, you really don’t stop. And eventually you find yourself questioning all the accepted norms. Do you need a job with a boss, benefits and the ever-elusive security? Do you need to eat meat? Do you need to have children? Own a house? A car?
Bit by bit, you are able to build a life that suits you, rather than one that suits the norms handed to you by your parents or friends or neighbours. Yes, it can feel a little odd to admit that you’ve never owned a microwave, don’t know how to load a dishwasher because you’ve never owned one of those, either. Some people do look at you funny when they find out you don’t own a dryer. But when you know why you’ve made those decisions, because you’ve asked yourself a bunch of questions, the awkwardness passes quickly and conversation moves on.
When you’ve asked enough of the right kinds of questions you will find that your life is really close to the way you want it to be. It will only ever, I think, be close and then only for awhile. And then the dog dies and the neighbours move away and it’s time for another round of questions. But in those moments of close to how I want it, there is an ease to life, an ability to relax and enjoy. To wallow in the kind of laziness that used to horrify your parents.
Freedom and flexibility. I will choose those over this year’s throw pillows any day.
I do realize that other paths will get you to the life that’s right for you. Minimalism is a good path for my claustrophobic soul. Other people are comfortable with more stuff in their lives. I think maybe the true practice is the habit of questioning everything. What do you truly need? What is the best way for you to get to a particular result?
Your path will be different, but I hope it will lead you to your happiness. And if it doesn’t, there’s always another path to try.
Please leave a comment and let us all know what path you’re choosing these days! And thanks so much for stopping by.