The documentary Minimalism (watched it) has been trending on Netflix and The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (skimmed it) has become a phenomenon. It appears a few of us have worked ourselves up to a fever pitch of enthusiasm regarding living more simply, having less, and ensuring what we surround ourselves with is useful, beautiful, and/or both.
Being stressed out by stuff is not new to me. I’m kind of terrible at organizing things like closets and drawers. I laugh at my inability to properly deal with socks and think George Carlin mocked me directly when he said, “That’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it? Trying to find a place for your stuff.” Adding two new little humans to my life has made my struggle with stuff even more apparent.
In all seriousness, I have been feeling overwhelmed by the barrage of things I have acquired in my life, including my very long hair that’s constantly in knots. This has me interested in being a tad more of a minimalist (if that statement even makes sense).
Is my interest in minimalism partnered with privilege? Yes, absolutely. I am lucky enough to not only have everything I need, but also many of the things I want. The tendency for those interested in this trend to also have the luxury of choice is at the crux of fair criticisms of the minimalist “movement” (read some of these criticisms here and here).
I am definitely seeing minimalism through an entitled lens and thinking about this reminds me of how differently my mom and I view camping. Growing up, camping was one of my favourite things to do and she rarely wanted to take part. Why wouldn’t she want to join my sisters, dad, and I on our weekend camp trips? It made no sense to me. Didn’t she want to come and enjoy the campfire? The outdoors? When I gave her a hard time about not coming along on one of our trips she gently reminded me that she grew up without electricity or running water. For her, the novelty and joys of camping just weren’t there. Sleeping in the great outdoors wasn’t a way for her to “get away from it all.” Essentially, she’d been there and done that, thank you very much. Fetching pails of water on a weekend camping trip evoked something completely different for me than it did for my mom who had grown up fetching pails of water for daily living. Stoking a campfire to roast marshmallows versus stoking a fire in your home to deal with the damp, again, two very different experiences which make for two very different perspectives.
All of this said, and not so surprisingly, given our demographic, some notions behind minimalism have resonated with my husband and I. We’ve felt inspired to reduce the mental energy we have been using to deal with the stuff we are lucky enough to have and to try and decide what items are really needed or really bring us “joy”. We’ve also felt inspired to chat more about simple things that fulfill us. For Joe, these are things like music, keeping up on politics, and spending time with family. For me, it’s things like reading, writing, thrifting (my kind of stuff), family dinners, walks outside, and watching The Bachelor (I know, I know). We’ve also been prompted to speak more frankly about how much we have and how much more we could and should be doing to contribute positively to the world around us.
Some beginning steps of “making room” have begun in our house and we have started doing things like:
- Giving away toys that are not favoured or are doubles. We asked Frankie to help choose what he would like to give away (I held up a toy in each hand and asked him to pick one for him and one for another child).
- Culled clothes from our closets that we don’t wear or plan to wear on a regular basis. I’ve also decided to try my best to buy (mostly) second-hand clothing, something I have long enjoyed doing anyway.
- Emptied our kitchen of doubles/triples (I really did not need three nutcrackers).
- Partnered with friends who are also trying to get rid of things. Texted each other pictures and lists of what we are giving away. Sometimes, this has meant exchanging things. Other times, this has simply meant encouraging each other to reflect on what we really find useful or beautiful and laugh about what we have held on to for too long (my retainer).
Already, we are feeling like we have less cluttered minds and are hoping that continuing down this track will offset more positive actions towards what we think is important and towards what makes us feel fulfilled.
Full Disclosure: I wrote this post while sitting in a messy living room staring at 3 toy diggers that belong to my son. Such is life. Baby steps.