I know that some people don’t completely understand what we’re doing. They think we’re brave, crazy or destitute. They think it’s cool, but there’s no way they could do what we’re doing, get rid of their things. They may think we’re sacrificing quality or convenience, status or stability.
In reality, we’re not brave or destitute… we might be crazy, but I think that’s a different issue.
The reality of the situation is that we’re trading our stuff in for time and choices.
I wish I could say this mindset was intentional, that we decided to become minimalists or re-engineer our lives. In actuality some of it was born of frustration… a rough winter in construction, a new not so great job to make sure we stay ahead of the slow times, customers who refused to pay. That’s how it started, innocently enough. We started selling a few things, cleaning out some tools that were no longer needed. I had been reading Zen Habits and Be More With Less for a couple of years and loved the appeal of less in theory. I had even made a few passes through the house, taking out another junk drawer or cluttered closet every time. We’d already had two big yard sales but still had more than enough stuff.
Then we decided to quit construction, and that was the catalyst. Honestly it was a long time coming, the money had dwindled, and the passion for it had left a long time ago. We started a home services company when it slowed down the first time, and Marty found a passion for work again. And it was simpler work with less risk… I guess that should have been a sign.
Over the next couple of years we started slowly simplifying, without really even talking about it. I think we both just knew it was too much of everything. Too much debt, too much working all the time, too much activity packed into every minute of the day, too little enjoyment, too much stress for too little money. It came to a head this winter, but it had been a long time coming.
Don’t misunderstand, we aren’t miserable by any means. In fact we think we have a pretty damn good life, it’s only now looking back that it becomes evident how much time is spent actually working for our stuff.
The funny thing is, when you start the process, when you start looking at things in a new light, something snaps. You realize that you don’t ‘need’ the things you thought you needed. I don’t need 7 pairs of jeans just because they all fit. I need a few pairs that make me really happy, that I love to wear.We don’t need a cabinet full of dishes or a drawer full of silverware, we need enough to eat on at night, and an extra set to share a meal with friends that might stop by. A handful of shirts that I feel great wearing means so much more to me now than a closet full of clothes. Because with that closet full (and it really wasn’t that full even) I would still dig through every morning and wear the same handful of great shirts.
Now I realize that none of my ‘stuff’ means as much to me as the benefits a simpler life offers.What’s important is:
- Feeling secure financially (no debt, less monthly contracts, more savings)
- Loving my work, being able to design for a living
- Spending my free time the way I’d like instead of cleaning, maintaining, buying, or otherwise dealing with stuff
- Getting to experience new things
- Going on bike rides or walks with my husband, sitting outside talking while he grills, spending time enjoying each others company
- Hanging out with my step kids and playing with our grand baby
- Doing nothing every now and then. Just… nothing. Because I can.
We’re not there yet, not by a long shot. But we’re well on our way. One small change begets another and another, and before you know it things seem to take on a life of their own. The key, I think, is to just start.