Some Thoughts on Minimalism

IMG_0129 I am obsessed with minimalism.  I love getting rid of stuff and spending freezes and really thinking about how we live. I've found freedom in not buying stuff and giving away stuff we don't need. I love the idea of living in 600 square feet and spending most of our lives outside.

But I also love our home. I love that it has three bedrooms so that we have plenty of room for guests. Sometimes I love sorting through an old jewelry box I don't technically need and finding little trinkets that conjure up memories. I love finding that those paint supplies I saved (and have room for) are actually really useful now that we have a child. I love the way our home is structured so that we don't feel cramped. I was actually shocked at how much easier life with a toddler was once we moved from our apartment into a home with more space for running around and a yard.

I just don't know where to draw the line. I've read the arguments;  I understand that it is easy to go out and buy an inexpensive set of paints for your kid rather than storing your old ones for years. I get that it is incredibly freeing to limit your closet, and I found freedom in giving away bags of clothes. But I also don't want to give up clothes I love and have room for just to get down to a certain number. Yes, I have blouses I probably won't replace when they become unwearable, but I kind of want to keep them until then.

I also struggle with the gift dilemma. It's harder to buy quick, thoughtless gifts when you start to enter into a journey of less stuff. I don't want to buy my nephew a toy that I'm not sure he'll love just to buy something. Minimalism has forced me to be intentional (and it's also made me cringe at my own wastefulness, as well as the wastefulness of American society in general).

I've wanted a rug for my son's room for a while. We have a hand-me-down rug from my grandmother. It's not really girly, but the Persian pattern also doesn't fit his room exactly. I rolled it up and stuck it in the corner because it didn't fit with the new paintings my sister gave us for him. Just last week, I found the perfect rug for his room online. But it's money. And while we could afford it, it's hard right now for me to imagine spending that money on a rug. Still there's a part of me that wants to make sure his room is beautiful. Is there anything wrong with that? Where do I draw the line when examining usefulness and beauty?

We were watching home videos the other night. In one, my siblings and I run around our playroom, which was an unfinished basement when I was born. When I picture the playroom, I see a perfectly crafted room with dark wood built-ins with a fish tank. But in the video, I was shocked to see that even when I was five or six-years-old, it was very much a room-in-progress. There were plastic cubbies instead of cabinets for our toys. It was littered with the paraphernalia of childhood. Sometimes, we think we have to achieve a standard of living for our kids, but our childhood homes often looked very different than the ones we return to now. That realization gave me the freedom to unroll that rug, realizing we will build a home very slowly and over time. And that's okay.

I unrolled the rug and found it met our needs for now perfectly. My son agrees, as he immediately plopped down on it with his toy car.

But there's a part of me that feels silly for even worrying so much about creating a home. We could live with less. How far do I take this?

I'm finding that it's more about the process than the end result. Minimalism is teaching me two crucial lessons: awareness and contentment. We're all different in what we need, what we want, and how much money and time we have. We're very, very different. So there's no perfect formula. But I'm becoming more aware of what I bring into our home and what (and how!) I take out of our home. I'm becoming more aware of how we use our space. I'm more aware of how much we have.

And mostly, I'm becoming more content. I realize every time I open the fridge how amazing it is that we have food. I'm thinking about how much it costs--not just financially but ecologically--to leave a light on or raise the thermostat. I'm realizing how blessed we are to have this home and our clothes and the freedom to consider where we live and how we live. I'm realizing we have more than enough, and it has slowed down the thoughts that run through my head about what to purchase next (which are there more than I care to admit).

It's a slow but important growth for me. I don't strive anymore for the perfect house, the perfect parties, or the perfect dinners. I'm better at enjoying the here and now. I'm realizing that there's a reason I often feel unease after buying something. I love how easy it is to make do, to start to see the beauty in the ridiculous amount of stuff you already have rather than longing after something new. And I'm also finding that there's a time to buy, and when I am thoughtful about it, a purchase can bring peace rather than unease.

I wish I had clearer answers when it comes to these questions--whether I should sell or keep my son's baby clothes for now, how to better handle gifts, or when I should actually buy something. But minimalism is a journey and a mindset rather than a simple set of rules. It's about actually asking questions rather than blindly accepting that the way I live is the only way to live.

In another few years, this blog might become the story of how we moved our family into a tiny toolshed. Or I might just keep sharing pictures of the home we're living in now. Either way, I hope to be even further along in this journey of awareness and contentment, challenged to reevaluate whether I should click "purchase" by someone else's inspiring decision to live well in a dumpster.

For further reading, check out this blog on minimalism.