When I’m free to live where I want, I’ll move to my happy place—a little house on a mountainside at the end of a paved road in the Blue Ridge Mountains. In a fit of optimism a few years back, we went ahead and bought our “someday” house. I don’t need my crystal ball to see that, in my future, I’ll be downsizing from the current two homes crammed full of stuff to the smaller of those two, a reduction of more than 65%. It’s time to minimalize!
Much has been written on the downsizing process. Whether you go for Marie Kondo or my current favorite, Joshua Becker’s The Minimalist Home, there’s a guide that will match your personal style. But living with less is a lot like dieting—it’s hard work to get the weight off, but even harder to keep it off. How do we maintain our minimalist goal?
Lessons from living aboard
I spent eight years living on sail boats in the Caribbean, so I have experience with living without stuff. When you live on a 31 foot sailboat, pointy at both ends and only nine feet across at its widest, you become very discriminating about what you bring into your floating home. It should be useful, preferably on a daily basis, and you should love it. Items that meet one criteria but not the other will quickly be replaced. Our oft repeated rule for stuff was “one thing in, one thing out”. Small space imposes discipline.
My personal key to living happily with less was being shielded from the vast array of potential wants and needs. (A lovely setting and laid back lifestyle didn’t hurt, either!) We stumbled on to this truth with our live aboard lifestyle. It was the mid-90s. There was no such thing as the internet or social media and, living in an anchorage in the Virgin Islands, we were cut off from most traditional media, most importantly, TV. When I no longer watched footage of other people’s lives crammed full of things I didn’t have, my material desires waned. This was a life changing lesson!
Fast forward to 2019. Living joyfully without stuff is best done on a sailboat in the tropics or, alternatively, by living under a rock. Short of living under a rock, or maybe out in the Alaskan bush, it’s hard to envision life without media exposure, both the social and traditional forms. Living under a rock and living joyfully feel like a contradiction in terms, so practically speaking, what can an aspiring minimalist do?
Mind over Media
Being mindful of the media influences in our lives is the practical antidote to our culture of consumption.
Consider the sources: Take the time to think through the pros and cons of the different media you consume. Our household has been TV free for more than a decade. I was so entranced by the images on the TV screen, it felt like an addiction. We both love to read and decided we would be happier with more time to read and less time for the passive entertainment that I had difficulty corralling. I realize this may not be a popular choice, but consider it an example of weighing the trade-offs.
It doesn’t have to be all or nothing: I’m a social media lightweight by design. I use it a bit for business as it’s important to keep my brand out there. Personally, I’ve been delighted to be able to reconnect with old friends in distant locations on social media. Also, it’s a way for me to keep my father’s far flung friends up-to-date on his life. I’m sticking with personal social media, but limit my activity. I don’t post often and I only occasionally look at my feed.
I’ve noticed since I’ve been paying attention that some of my favorite media sources are losing their appeal. I used to love magazines, but when I started really noticing how much of the content, not just the overt advertising, was intended to convince me that I needed to buy more stuff—makeup, shoes, clothes, kitchen gadgets, I started to push back. Naah, I’m fine the way I am, thank you. I’m doing okay without Oprah’s favorite things!
While I’m getting rid of stuff, I’m already practicing not bringing in more to replace it. It’s like physical training—the more you do, the stronger you get. It may be two steps forward, one step back, but I’m determined to keep life more peaceful and simple by not letting the junk back it.
Need help right-sizing and simplifying your financial life? Give me a call at 336-701-2612.