Minimalism Is a Bit Like Camping

I often see arguments against minimalism that claim it’s a lifestyle only for the wealthy. That, because stuff is so expensive to replace, poor people can’t afford to get rid of things because they might need them someday.

I suspect that this argument is put forth by non-minimalists. Because, once you’ve embraced the lifestyle, you realize that most stuff doesn’t need replacing.

You find other ways to do what you want to do without resorting to a trip to the store (or an online order).

A few years ago, my hairdryer ended its life by shooting flames at my head. This was the second one to do that and, as my heart rate slowed down, I decided that there would not be a third.

I was left with a useless lump of metal and plastic that could neither be recycled nor repaired. So I decided to learn to live as we did back in the sixties, before a hairdryer was considered essential to life.

It took a little while to grow my hair to a length and style that could dry naturally without scaring me, but I got there eventually, and I haven’t looked back.

Not only did I save the cost of replacing my hairdryer, but I’ve also been saving a few cents a day on my hydro bill for the last three years.

You can bring this sort of analysis to bear on everything you own, if you’re keen.

In my kitchen, I have a garlic press. It’s the kind of one-job wonder that most good minimalists would reject. But my husband found it at a second-hand store. It’s sturdy. And, because I adore garlic in nearly everything, we use it a lot.

When it breaks, as these things inevitably do, we won’t be in a hurry to replace it. You can chop garlic with a good sharp nice. You can grate it. You can boil it with your pasta or potatoes and mush it up when it’s done. A garlic press is not essential to life, or even to good cooking.

Sometimes, when I’m making do on a task for which there is a specified tool that I can’t be bothered to own, I think about people who go camping. Let me state here that I hate camping and haven’t ever done it since I was a pre-teen. But I have an idea of how it works.

You pack up the basics. You keep them to a weight that you can carry on your back. You arrive in some lovely piece of nature and set up camp. Only then do you realize that you’ve forgotten something. What do you do?

With no stores to turn to and potentially no neighbours to borrow from, you make do. You find some other tool or implement to do the job that you want doing, or you give up on the idea of doing it until you get back to civilization.

Forgetting your shampoo doesn’t cost you anything extra because you don’t buy another shampoo.

And this is what it’s like for committed minimalists. We don’t buy stuff we don’t need, and the longer we do that, the bigger the list of ‘stuff we don’t need’ becomes.

Mine includes the aforementioned hairdryer, as well as a tea kettle (I use a pot on the stove). We gave up the television a decade or two ago. Vast swathes of the cosmetics department are missing from our bathroom shelves.

I can’t list all the ‘stuff we don’t need’ because I’ve forgotten so many things that I thought I needed and then realized I don’t. Once they make the jump, these things stop taking up space in your head, which is one of the unsung benefits of a minimalist lifestyle. You have so much more time to think about more important things. It’s a bit like watching the sun come up at your campsite.

So if you think you might like to try a more minimalist approach to life, but you’re worried about the consequences, the what if’s, or if you can afford it, you can relax. Take it slow.

And the next time something breaks, instead of rushing to replace it, try living without it instead. Pretend you’re camping. And there are wild, ravenous bears between you and the store. Stay home, stay off the internet, and figure out how to make do with what you have instead.

I think your creativity will surprise you.

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1 Response to Minimalism Is a Bit Like Camping

  1. Douglass says:

    I’m in the midst of learning the meaning of enough, though at this point it is in flux, not having found the border between enough and too much. For me, part of navigating this flux has been an involuntarily enforced aloneness in the last few months, the reasons for which you know. This aloneness has slowly become a process of grounding which is, slowly, allowing me to look around with less selfish eyes. It’s a struggle, and then somehow it isn’t.

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