I have never really thought about my life in terms of material possessions. In the last 3 months that I’ve been blogging, I’ve been exposed to a fascinating sub-speciality of the personal finance community; minimalism. As I read more about it and, more importantly as I look around my life, I have to wonder “OMG! Am I a minimalist?”
I’d love to be able to open this article by providing a solid, workable definition of minimalism. Yet, from the little that I know, minimalism is as unique as the infinite perspectives on personal finance.
I’m going to go out on a limb here and propose that minimalism is as unique as the person living it. From the inexperienced viewpoint (my current viewpoint), there seems to be various categories of minimalism; the “simple living” folks, the “sparse possessions” folks, the “saved time is saved money” crowd. There are de-clutter advice books and simply living manifestos lining the shelves of self-help sections. And exceptional blogs on the subject. However, at the end of the day, I have no idea what makes a person a minimalist.
However, I’m beginning to suspect that I am one.
Here are a few things that make me question my minimalist tendencies.
Am I A Minimalist?
My possession of these books is really kind of a big deal. Well, my retention of these books is a big deal. You see, I’ve lived at 8 different residences over 3 states in the last 5 years. In moving around that much, you naturally let go of many possessions (read, “most possessions.”) Bulky heavy books are some of the first things to go.
Yet, sitting among my college Invertebrate Zoology textbook and my books about tree houses, is Janet Fuhr’s The Simple Living Guide and also Simple Abundance: A Daybook of Comfort and Joy. (Huh. Now that I write this, it occurs to me the “how to live in a treehouse” books could also be a clue to my suspected minimalism.)
Both of these “simple” books are a great inspiration to me. I often just flip though the pages randomly, seeing if the Universe has any new messages for me.
My daughter and I joined another mom and her two daughters at the beach this past Saturday. The other mom texted the invitation and, since we had no plans, we packed our bags and met them on a whim. The operative word here being “had no plans.” The mom and I sat for hours chatting about this and that. We came upon the topic of some of the other moms we knew and how stressed and overextended they seemed. And not just the parents but the kids, too. I made an innocent observation. “I think so many parents try to do too much.” Her honest response was that she believed herself guilty of exactly that.
Don’t get me wrong. My child participates in three extracurricular activities during the school year. Her summer is chock full of beach and science camps, vacations with friends and family. I work full-time, work diligently on a burgeoning blog, and even try to date.
However, I know both myself and my child well enough to know that it is better for us to remain largely “unscheduled.” We have “lazy mornings” often and “cuddle boat” evenings full of doing not much more than watching TV or playing cards.
This works for us and I’m happy to be able to be spontaneous and crafted a day’s activities around our current mood.
I have a strange little secret fetish.
I love empty drawers. Pristine, empty drawers with nothing in them.
I have one empty drawer in my kitchen and two in my office desk. Why? Well, hell if I know!
I suspect it somehow symbolizes to me that my life still has room for more. An empty drawer speaks of potential and promise and wonder. As in “I wonder what will eventually live in here?” I’m fairly protective of these empty drawers and have been known to place items in them only to remove the stuff shortly thereafter.
For me, an empty drawer is somehow a comfort.
As I mentioned, I’ve never been a clothes horse. In fact, I might be one of those ladies that are often scoffed at behind closed doors…”is she wearing that outfit AGAIN?” As an example, I recently dug up an old photo of myself and realized I was wearing the same shirt as in the photo….8 years ago!
On the rare occasion that I do purchase a new outfit or two, I generally pull something from my closet to donate in trade.
And let’s not even talk about shoes. My poor shoes. Let’s just say they certainly do more than their fair share.
Sorting and Organizing
Here’s another weird secret. I love throwing stuff out.
I carved out 30 minutes yesterday to dump out drawers and grilled my kid “Does this fit? Will you wear it?” Today, two bags for donation sit by my doorway. Unmatched socks thrown away. (Ain’t nobody got time for that!)
I relish cleaning out files and letting go of the administrivia of my past life. It’s a freeing feeling. I even get excited to take out the recycling and trash. I have always had a thing for organization, too.
My cherished postcard collection is any librarian’s wet dream. Nicely stored into vintage wooden boxes and organized by topic with index cards. (Oh, Jesus. That makes me seem like SUCH a freaking dork. Oh well.)
Please understand, not everything of mine is perfectly organized and neat as a pin. I do have junk drawers full of random crap and suitcases full of old photos and memorabilia. But, all in all, everything has a place.
I once saw a bumper sticker that read “Cool Prius! – Said no one ever.” Screw them! What do they know!?!
My Prius, affectionately named Itsy, is awesome. Not only can she get me and my daughter anywhere we want to go, she fits into my extremely narrow parking garage, tiny parking spaces, and she gets at least 50 miles/gallon. She’s little and amazing and I’m grateful to her everyday. She’s the only car I’ve ever had that I take pride in cleaning and keeping well maintained.
Itsy is petite, lovely, and hard-working.
I’m not sure this counts as minimalism but when it came time to furnish my new 891 square-foot apartment, I purchased a clear acrylic dining set and bar stools. Aesthetically, it prevents the space from looking to cluttered and “heavy.” See-through furniture MIGHT be a clue to my minimalist tendencies or it might just remind me of Wonder Woman riding in her invisible jet. Either way, long live feminism, modernism….and IKEA.
My Writing Style
As a professional marketing writer in today’s nano-second-attention-span society, I’m constantly striving to create maximum impact with minimum words. My mantra at work is “Less is More.” This succinct writing style has contributed to my continued success as a writer.
Interesting to note: this succinct tendency isn’t always reflected here in my blog posts. I attribute that to the fact that many of these posts are stream of conscious-type exercises, a way to sort out my thoughts and feelings. Oh, and since blogging is supposed to be my “fun” project, I generally don’t over-edit these bad boys.
Let’s add it all up. Small apartment, minimal possessions, tiny car, simple living philosophy.
“OMG! I AM A MINIMALIST!”
And with any other self-realization or self-diagnosed “-ist”, I’m not sure how to feel about my minimalist lifestyle or what the hell to do about it (if there is something to be done.)
I mean, is there a special handshake or secret code word to join the minimalist movement? Is there a flag? (Huh. Probably not.) Should I sign up for a tiny house mailing list or get a Container Store credit card? Is one box of Christmas ornaments enough, too little, too much? Is it embarrassing to store left-over rice in a reused frosting container? Is it unacceptable to take the spoons home with you after a visit to Yogurtland? But most importantly, is it time to give up those Jordache jeans and leg warmers? Yikes!
I don’t know what it means to self-identify with being a minimalist but I’m pretty sure the clues around here are pretty telling.
I do know, the minimalist peeps seem like a cool crowd. (Shout out to my first official minimalist BFF, Britt at Tiny Ambitions.)
So, if they can embrace a same-shirt-wearing, postcard-collecting, two-wine-glass-owning, simple-living Lady, I’ll gladly fly the transparent flag of minimalism…you know, on my non-lazy days.
(PS – Just kidding about the Jordache/leg warmer thing. That would be weird.)