Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Why Minimalism(ish?)

(originally posted as a Note on Facebook)

Our little family has undergone many changes over the last year. Some big changes - namely, Pete quitting his job in a bad employment market with no position lined up, then finishing his MBA and starting a new job in a new field. Some moderate changes - like dropping down to one car. And some small changes - like forgoing paper towels and a microwave (which now stores our toaster). I have also been reading a lot of blogs and books on simplicity (from toys to education to parenting to schedules), decluttering, and minimalism. As time goes on, these concepts and ideals influence our practical lives more and more. Really, at heart, Pete’s probably been there all along - it was me that needed the gradual convincing. We have not become complete minimalists by any means, but we may be moving in that direction ever so slowly. At any rate, as typically happens when life changes, priorities and values get re-examined.

Since I haven’t been very shy about sharing the process thus far, I find that a lot of people want to know WHY?. What is driving these decisions and actions? And, when I am asked, I feel like I can’t come up with the right answer for that person on the spot. So, I decided to type out some of my thoughts. Pete said he agrees with what I came up with. So here we go, in no particular order.

Why Minimalism(ish)?

  1. We are generally anti-consumerism and anti-marketing. We don’t want to get caught up in comparing ourselves to or keeping up with other people, nor with the prevailing culture of excess and waste. We want to take the focus off of what we own and instead focus on what we do.
  2. We believe that owning less and buying less keeps us in touch with what it means to have “enough.” It helps keep us closer to and more mindful of people who don’t have enough to meet their basic needs, as well as freeing up more financial resources to help.
  3. We want to spend less time researching, buying, working to pay for, cleaning, cleaning around, maintaining, fixing, and thinking about stuff - and to spend more time on people and relationships.
  4. We value living in the present. A lot of “stuff” is related to commemorating or hanging onto our past selves, trying to anticipate the future (oh but we “might need it someday!”) or something we aspire to be or do (our imaginary selves). Meanwhile, all that stuff is collecting dust and taking up space.
  5. We want the freedom to take opportunities and be spontaneous. Stuff and attachment to that stuff can be a physical and psychological “weight” that prevents us from seizing opportunities (i.e. following a passion - maybe a career in a different location and/or with less pay, living overseas, helping someone in need, etc).
  6. We don’t like clutter and we value empty space. We find this creates a peaceful environment that also inspires creativity and resourcefulness.
  7. We value community and even have some communal living ideals. We want to foster relationships with our friends and family in which people share more and individually consume/own less.

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