I realize we’ve not yet addressed our self directed label of a minimalist family.
As the new year begins, I thought it was as good a time as any to set down a bit of back story as to how we came to be part of the minimalist crew.
A simplified life was my 2015 resolution.
As of 2016 our life is indeed much simpler.
A simplified life is again my 2016 resolution. And likely again in 2017….Which doesn’t sound so simple, however it’s a constant process, a way of life, not a destination. And as the years roll on the simple thing is staying the course. It’s difficult to think of ever going back!
It’s been a year of hard work, and busy weekends filled with projects, where we felt every step forward was matched with two steps back, but this week, my husband and I felt the fog start to lift – life finally seemed easier.
The house remained virtually spotless throughout the week, we had easy meals prepared, made more mindful choices regarding our health and environmental footprint, and soaked up lots of quality time with our son. We even took down the Christmas decorations (a dreaded task each year) in record time.
In desperate need for new artwork for our kitchen (but refusing to purchase anything at this point) we also found time to sit down and paint for a half hour or so, coming out of it all with the project completed, and a few silly paintings and sketches just for fun.
Fun – remember that? We’re having much more of it these days. How did we do it all?
Minimalism. Shock, gasp.
Minimalism is not something new. It’s been tried and tested for centuries. Monks, Ancient Greeks, The Amish, Gandhi, Henry David Thoreau to name just a few, are all members of the minimalist tribe – eschewing worldly possessions in exchange for freedom of mind, self knowledge and the time and luxury to focus on their meaningful work and vocations.
While we are hardly going to be packing as light as Gandhi, or styling our home in full Shaker style anytime soon (though it seems the height of vogue believe it or not!) this simple quote from Joshua Becker at “Becoming Minimalist” perfectly highlights the complicated and unhealthy relationship our society has developed regarding the correlation of possessions, happiness and success – and rings so strongly for us.
“Nobody says, ‘My goal in life is to own a lot of stuff,’ and yet most of us live life that way. We try to find jobs that pay a lot of money, and buy bigger houses and faster cars, and that’s not really what we most want out of life. We want to make a difference. We want significance. We want to be good fathers and husbands.”
It’s crazy how many of us fall prey to this sad cycle. Cuckoo Bananas.
Last year in 2015, a new baby, a new year, a disorganized (small!) house, my return to the 9-5, and an overall chaotic life had us scattered, unhappy and scratching our heads and feeling like we had gotten it all wrong. We had everything going for us, (#blessed even), but sometimes we didn’t feel that way, we felt burdened. There was so much to organize, look after and plan, and we just plain didn’t have the time for it, let alone the energy.
What came last in all this? Time with our family, time with our son. Not any ol’ time, but quality time with uncluttered and present minds.
We felt trapped, which was especially difficult for a family with relatives on either side of the Atlantic. Our life could dictate a move to America at any point, and it was becoming increasingly difficult to figure out how we would ever manage it in an easy and affordable way.
I started stumbling around the web for answers, and eventually wound up with lasting inspiration.
Marie Kondo, Zero Waste Home, Becoming Minimalist, Zen habits – these authors, books, and blogs were a god send to someone searching for some common sense in our consumer driven world.
Tiny houses were popping up all over the web, with inspiring testimonials from the residents who were using the precarious situation of an economy gone bad/a volatile housing market, and combining it with their modest salaries to still carve out homes and lives for themselves utilizing creativity, ingenuity and resources at hand.
It showed us you really can design the life you want. People were doing it, and coming out the other side happier than ever. Pressure does indeed create diamonds.
Suddenly we were riding the wave too and began to realize that money and “stuff” were no longer markers of success. Time and freedom were the new currency, the new indicator of real wealth.
So we purged our life and edited everything back to our most loved and basic possessions. As we unloaded closet after closet, sent off bags of clothes to various charities, and packed off useless items to be taken to the landfill, the sheer waste became staggering.
Our thoughts began to shift to our carbon footprint.
There is only so much trash the earth can take! And if this was the output for a small, young family – the thoughts of multiplying this by the entire global population was unfathomable and unsustainable.
Hello Great Pacific Garbage Patch for a start!
These are not new ideas, but to quote Oprah, we had our “Aha moment.”
Sure, turning a blind eye to these nagging feelings, could restore our peace of mind albeit temporarily, but it would be no help to our son, and his children some day when they face a dying planet, too far gone for change to make any real impact. Granted we can’t change the world ourselves, but our habits are the only thing we can change, so we’ll start with that.
To be human is to consume. We still do it, but we can be choosier about it. To choose quality over quantity. To exercise self control and slowly cultivate our wardrobe and our home – thinking long and hard and saving up for special pieces that are worth the time and energy to maintain. We can choose sustainability and those items that are made and disposed of in a responsible way.
We are far from perfect. This Christmas saw unending, wrappings, clothes, knickknacks, tchotchkes, toys and gifts enter our lives from generous family and friends (and each other. Oops!), and that’s a great thing! We are so fortunate.
It also poses a challenge to this uninhibited way of life.
The opportunity we are now presented with is that we are able to donate some items that we’ve outgrown, to make room for our family and friend’s generosity. We are also afforded the luxury to refresh our home with thoughtful gifts and enjoy the delight that comes with discovering that someone knew the perfect item that would add value to our lives, (better than we could envision)!
Next year we will continue to strive for a simpler Christmas, renewing the focus on family time and experiences. We plan to avoid the pressure that “we need to have enough to open or to give”- sending us in a scramble and robbing us of time to welcome the holiday with open arms and give more of ourselves, instead.
Playing on my mind lately has been an old Shaker tune, that sums up my wishes for 2016 and beyond. It’s wise and true and I can’t wait to see how these simple thoughts continue to transform our lives in big ways.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
- ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
- ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
- To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
- Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.