It is not easy to determine, in detail, just which things are really necessary to refined and beautiful living, and which are the evidence of…ostentatious waste. -1907
The lifestyle of all the cool people for the last several years–minimalism. Like most extremes, it was the reaction to the unprecedented materialism of the last few decades.
We’ve all seen pictures of the ideal minimalist home. They’re usually condo/apartment type homes consisting of one or just a few people. A twin bed (with a thin, neutral-colored bed spread), a nightstand that doubles as a dresser, and a home office consisting of a table a little bigger than a laptop next to an uncushioned chair. Oh, and the shelf with four dishes, all handmade. (And, are minimalists always writers?)
Yes, there isn’t a smidge of clutter or disorder anywhere. What’s not to like about that? You can focus on the important things, all the things that bring you happiness because you won’t be cleaning or organizing. It certainly can look attractive and stress-free.
We can’t deny that the quantities of possessions we have these days, more than at any other time in history isn’t excessive. Garage sales, thrift shops, and big-box discount stores have allowed even those of us with a small income to have stuff galore. It’s ridiculous and some of us are suffocating under our abundance.
But for those of us who make our home our profession, we can’t keep our equipment scanned and digitally managed. Ours are physical tools, essential to running a household.
A cherry pitter may collect dust 363 days a year, but when I buy 12# of cherries, it’s been worth it every time I’ve shuffled it around my utensil drawer. I keep several tins of thread in all colors on hand, because I actually mend and sew clothes and things for the house. I may not know what color thread I may need for a future project, but I have enough variety that I’m prepared. I’ve yet to see a DIY minimalist.
Having supplies on hand means that I don’t have to interrupt my day to track down what I need and run all over town to get it. Who’s to say that we’ll always be able to access anything we need at any time? Anyone ever been put on lock-down (ahem)? Life would be a lark if we never had to consider the future. But I’m a housewife–a manager–and it’s my job to prepare for possible needs in various situations.
Beyond the need for equipment and I don’t see the personality in minimalism, either. Where is the cupboard of favorite teas? The comfy quilts? The bins of craft supplies? The souvenirs and hand-me-downs from past generations? (And most importantly, where is the stash of canning jars??) Where does it feel like a home?
I’m a homemaker and my home isn’t a depot. It’s not a place to rest and eat between commitments. I live in my home and I want to be comfortable and be surrounded by things that make me feel at home, cozy, and are useful to me. Minimalism may work well for some people, but not for me and I won’t feel guilty about it.
It’s not that the minimalism movement is all bad. Several friends and I have gotten together numerous times to brainstorm and share ideas on managing our homes more efficiently and smoothly so that ultimately, we spend less time managing it all. It took us over a year to conclude that the best way to manage our stuff is to simply have less of it to manage. (We may not be a sharp group, but we’re persistent…)
I’m learning to be a little more realistic and less sentimental when it comes to hanging on to something I haven’t used and likely won’t in the future. I’ve also learned that I don’t need as much as I think I do. By culling the excess, I can spend more time, money, and energy on the stuff I do value. Like books. Ahem.
As usual, happiness is found in a balance. The Shoppers and Hoarders on one side and Minimalists on the other can tout the superiority to their ways of life. I think the rest of us can live peacefully in the middle, hanging on to what we need and use (and want) without feeling materialistic and greedy.
Where do you stand?
Great post! I grew up in a home that was styled “Country Clutter”. When I moved out, and into my first place with roommates, I brought more stuff with me than the other girls. I felt a little guilty about that because one roommate would tout her minimalist lifestyle to me. But then I noticed that she would always come to me instead of the others to borrow a bit of tape, or an envelope, or string, or … I realized then, in my early twenties, that having supplies on hand was an okay thing. I haven’t cluttered up my own home as an adult, but I have the necessary supplies to be as self reliant as I am comfortable with.
I agree. However I do have a shotgun in a glass case that says, “In case of zombies, break glass”. Het, I’m practical!
But of course! Practicality at its finest! lol
This is such a good post. I recall when I was living in the mountains, and I read a book about a zero waste home. I mean, this family only generates about a handful of trash a year, or something ridiculous like that. Each member only has one set of bedding, the mother shops by carrying glass jars with her everywhere–oh it was amazing. However, as a homesteader living on a mountain with no vehicle and primitive laundry facilities (2 five gallon buckets and a plunger on a long handle, with a clothesline hung between trees), such minimalism was impractical. If someone got sic in the middle of the night, My supply of bedding was great for simply changing the bed and putting fresh pajamas on the ill person once they cleaned up, and they could easily go back to sleep. Minimalism in my pantry wouldn’t work either, as I could only get to town once or twice a month to get groceries. I never had to worry that we didn’t have enough of anything to last us through a snow storm that blocked roads. I do try to minimalize the amount of trash we generate by buying in bulk, recycling, etc. I don’t buy things I don’t need or that don’t add to our lives in a positive way, and I am constantly getting rid of things to keep my home neat and decluttered. But just like you–don’t even THINK of getting rid of my mason jars!
In an effort to live a “simpler life” I think the people who have taken it to the extreme have become less self-sufficient, and ultimately, less simple! I don’t want to have to run out and buy something every time I need it just so I don’t have it taking up space in my cupboard. And like you said, stocking up in big quantities or growing your own means less trash, less energy used for shopping (and fewer temptations to buy more stuff), more time at home… There was no such thing as a minimalist pioneer!
“There was no such thing as a minimalist pioneer.’
Amen to that!
I know, right? Pioneers knew they had to be prepared for whatever came up, unlike modern society that thinks self-reliance is ridiculous.
Of course there is the other extreme–some of the folks I knew up in the mountains are hoarding food and other supplies, wearing tin foil hats to block the government’s ‘mind control’, and waiting for the apocalypse! Being prepared is great, but being paranoid is just sad.
What? You don’t have a tin foil hat wardrobe?!? I have a jaunty little fur-lined one for winter. (I’m totally joking.) I watched a few episodes of a cable prepper show once–exhausting! There is no way anyone can prepare for every scenario, real or far-out imagined. I couldn’t live like that. No, I think we have to be reasonably self-sufficient and leave the rest to God.