12.13.2011

Less is More


The other day, this girl wrote a post about being a minimalist. She spoke of people who had packed up their entire life into one car and drove off into the sunset. She said that sometimes she wishes she could be like that, but on the other hand wanted to know if we thought it was wrong to want stuff.  She asked us if we were “minimalists”.  It really got me thinking.  Am I? And is it wrong to want stuff? This question is especially prevalent during the holidays.

I have mentioned before that I live in a hotel most of the time. Let me explain. Roughly 7 years ago, I gave up my (much loved) apartment in San Francisco, put all my stuff into storage (Yes it all fits. I gave my furniture all to my brother) and headed to Europe for an adventure extraordinaire! Six months later, my savings had run out and I came back home, wondering…now what? 

But yes…now what? The great part was that I had no ties. I could go anywhere I wanted. I thought about joining the Peace Corps (I still think about that from time to time). Of course I had friends in the Bay Area, but they had lived without me for six months, so they could stand a few more. So I was all of a sudden at this wonderful and horrible place, where the world was my oyster. I could do what I wanted.
I just had to figure out what that was.

It is very freeing to not have a lot of stuff. You have nothing holding you back. You don’t have to make sure the dog is in the kennel or the kids have a babysitter. You don’t have to worry about moving boxes and boxes of books, a couch and a bedroom set down 3 flights of stairs. All of these things sway your decision making process. They make it a lot easier to remain right where you are. However, having no excuses NOT to do something is hard too. We are used to letting our responsibilities, our friends, our THINGS, make our decisions for us. Making a decision without these factors is strange (and difficult!). 

People always say,” Man, If only I didn’t have (to) _________ I would go with you to Europe”. But would they? It’s not like I twisted your arm and MADE you buy that new ____ which is now making it so you can’t afford the trip. It’s not like I signed you up for a 6 week ______ class so now you don’t have the time. You chose that. You chose that over the trip to Europe.

They also say, “I would totally love to have your lifestyle” (living out of a hotel, having all their stuff in storage, traveling).  But they really wouldn’t. Could you live out of a suitcase 9/10 of the year? Could you wear one pair of shoes and 2 pairs of pants for the next year? Could you avoid buying things so you don’t have to lug them around? 

I sometimes want to putter but I have no place to do so. I want to have a mindless activity such as re-organizing my already organized closet/bookshelf/pantry.  But then I sit and actually think about it, and I don’t really need that. I like having no clutter, nothing holding me back. If that means I can’t re-read my favorite book or wear that great red suede jacket I bought on sale at Nordstrom, so be it. I can do what I want, when I want. I can go wherever I want or need to at basically a moment’s notice. 

At the point in my life when I came back from Europe, I could do whatever I set my mind to. But. I was out of money. So in this case I could do anything I wanted, but I would have to somehow get money. Why would I need to get money? I needed to live. I needed food. For that I would need an apartment, and then I would need a fridge. Then I would have to buy food. So to get money I would need a job. To get a job, I might need something other than the one pair of shoes and the holey pants I had been wearing for the last several months. 

So, we’ve come back full circle. In order to live, we DO need a certain amount of stuff. In order to exist in society, we need stuff. So, we buy things. We buy what we want. We DO what we want. And then sometimes we use those things to be our beard for why we don’t do or can’t do other things (that maybe we don’t want to do?) We say we “have too much stuff” when in reality what we have is the stuff we chose to have. 

So, stop hiding behind your stuff. Stop making excuses. Do what YOU want. If it’s buying 100 new t-shirts a year, or every new gadget that Best Buy has to offer, or a Pottery Barn candle holder in every different color, do it. If it’s signing up for pole dancing classes or the gym, if it’s buying a new house or car, or if it’s traveling, or going to a new restaurant, or going to a play, do it. If it makes you happy, do it! And then be happy with the decision that you have made. 

I don’t think it’s a matter of how much stuff we have, but whether or not that stuff we have makes us happy. We can have fewer sweaters if we want to save our money for travel, or we can have more sweaters but not be able to afford that vacation. You can buy things in order to check them off your "I should have this" list, or you can buy them becuase they make you happy. You choose. 

It’s a matter of quality, not quantity. 

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Today I am being featured over at The Many Thoughts of a Reader. Go and check it out HERE!

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Are you a minimalist? Do you think that it is better to be a minimalist?

14 comments:

  1. SOOO well said! I choose quality!

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  2. I am not a minimalist, but I don't like to be cluttered either. (which is sometimes hard with 2 kids). I say buy what you need and what makes you truly happy and leave the rest.

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  3. I'm not a minimalist but I always joke with my brother that he is. I think it's about knowing what's important to you and saving up for the things that make you happy not what others make us think we need or want. For me if I can find something to reuse or recycle I'd rather get it that way than buy new because I feel we live in such a disposable society. Nice post!

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  4. Great post. I'm definitely not a minimalist, but I can certainly see how that would suit some people. I have a good friend that's always lived his life in a way that enables him to move around whenever he wants to (he actually joined the Peace Corps too!), and while I joke that I'm envious of his ability to do that, I really enjoy the things that "hold me down" and think they're worth staying in one place for. Different things make different people happy and that's cool :)

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  5. For the most part, I agree with this post. But then again I sold my car, put all my stuff in storage, and moved to Europe for almost 2 years. I had two suitcases to live out of and had to make choices when I came back to the states regarding the stuff I had acquired. There are other ties, though, that might not have to do with purchasing stuff - familial responsibilities that may not be 100% independent choice (like supporting an unemployed spouse in a shitty economy). Lots of great food for thought!

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  6. Really awesome post. Definitely got me thinking.

    While my stuff IS just stuff, I like it. I like my townhouse and my king bed and my macbook and my STUFF. It's comforting. It's home to me. I don't want to live out of a suitcase or car or go where I want when I want. I have no desire to live a lifestyle like that. I LOVE to travel. Love it. For a few weeks at a time. After three weeks backpacking around Europe in 2010 I was craving my home and my structure and my STUFF. I am just that kind of person.

    That being said, at the end of the day, I DO know that all the stuff really doesn't matter and it's really not what makes my life full. It's my family and friends and the relationships in my life that make it full!

    Great post friend :)

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  7. Great post! I think people tend to overuse the phrase, "I wish I could ___" If it's that important to you and something you want to do, you make it happen. I am like Amber and I like the comfort of the things I own. I don't take it to extremes as I am not a big shopper and I do not like to accumulate stuff (except books). I'd rather spend my money on experiences than physical possessions. But to each their own.

    Great post, lady!

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  8. I am finally getting caught up and I am so happy I read this tonight...i love you girl. Great post...so well said.
    xoxo from Trinidad

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  9. I am trying to be a minimalist in my old age. My husband is a pack rat. We might 'need' 'use it' later. I go behind him and throw it away. Our house is a work in progress hahaha. Thanks for sharing your day with us!

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  10. There's a zen theory that says ownership is an equal relationship with our possessions. they own us just as much as we own them. When I owned my own business, that was my entire life. It owned me, and I worked 9 am to 11 pm 6 days a week. incredibly stressful.

    Since I found the zen theory, I've tried to own as little as possible, including selling the business. It's quite peaceful, really.

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  11. I just tagged you with a versatile blogger award. Check it out!
    http://livinthefitlife.blogspot.com/2011/12/blogger-awards.html

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  12. Such an interesting post! I love your take on it all. I am trying to become more minimalist in my life and I think it all depends on the person. Sometimes I get this feeling that people who like to have their stuff are looked down upon, thinking they don't have their priorities in line. In some ways, I like my stuff. I don't go overboard and I like to spend my money on trips and books, more than lots of clothes and purses and jewelry. That's just me personally.

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  13. I love this post. You're absolutely right. It's not about quantity, it's about quality. I think there's nothing wrong with wanting stuff or with having stuff. But if we let that stuff hold us back, or if we give up good things in pursuit of the unnecessary, that's where we have a problem.

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Thanks for commenting! Any suggestions, tips or praise you have is always welcome!