It’s not about who can get rid of the most stuff. It’s not about living with less to find happiness. It’s not about living in the tiniest house. It’s about knowing the value of enough.
If you follow minimalist blogs, you’ve probably seen lots of memes about how owning less possessions will lead to more happiness and freedom. Or maybe you’ve seen comments about how you are not your possessions. Although those statements might hold some truth, they might also be taken to an extreme. And anything taken to its extreme is still extreme, even minimalism. The key is understanding the value of enough.
How Much Is Enough?
I’m a single dad with an 11-year-old girl. I live in a town of 100,000. I own a home. I’m a college professor. I’m a writer, a blogger, and a musician. All of these things factor into what “enough” means for me.
My home: I’m buying a 1200-square-foot, 3-bedroom, 2-bath, home. It’s probably a little more than enough. But it’s what was available in the market in a safe part of town. It was also a for-sale-by-owner deal at about 15% below its worth. So I had equity from the start.
My transportation: I own a 2012 VW Golf TDI. As a homeowner, I discovered owning an older pickup truck was valuable for a variety of home-improvement projects. My daughter and I both have bicycles. Enough.
My living room: One couch, one recliner, one end table, one piano, one TV, an old cabinet, a lamp, a few pieces of art. Enough.
My dining room: One old table with three old chairs. Enough.
My kitchen: An oven, a refrigerator, a dishwasher, a simple set of pots and pans, a four-peice dinnerware set, a set of silverware, one drawer of various kitchen utensils, a few other various dishes and kitchenware. Enough.
My bedroom: One bed, one small dresser, one night-stand, a lamp, a clock. Enough.
My wardrobe: About five sets of clothes, four pair of shoes, a few jackets, coats, and hats. Enough.
My music: I own several musical instruments that I use for writing, recording, and performing. Three guitars, a mandolin, a banjo, a ukulele, a cajon, a couple amplifiers. Enough.
My technology: A laptop, a tablet, a smartphone. Enough.
Enough Is Personal
I could go on, but I think you get the idea. Of course, I have many more items in my house. I may own a little more than I need, but not much. Each room in my home is sparsely furnished and free of clutter. Most every item either gets used or adds aesthetic beauty to my life.
Until I was 40, I lived in trailers and small apartments. Throughout my 20s, I rode a bike as my sole form of transportation. I’ve always lived fairly small. I’ve always considered my needs. I’ve always had enough.
So am I a minimalist?
Based on posts I see about minimalism on the Internet? Probably not. Do I care? Absolutely. Not.
Here’s the problem: Anything taken to its extreme is still extreme, even minimalism. When minimalism becomes a dogma, it loses its value.
When I was a kid, I was the victim of a cult. I lived minimally. I had a bed, a few sets of clothes, and a trumpet. Enough? Maybe not.
Here are some of the things that the most popular minimalists are saying:
- If you haven’t used it in 90 days, let it go.
- No debt is good debt.
- Own less than 33 items of clothing.
- Only wear one pair of jeans.
- For every one thing you buy, let two go.
- Let go of possessions and you’ll be happy.
I’ve even heard minimalists say, “You’ll never be truly free until you no longer need or use money.” Seriously? So you either become homeless or a monk?
Get real. Think critically. When a few people begin to dictate dogmatic rules, and thousands of people begin to follow those rules, it reminds me of my youth. It feels like a cult.
Over the years, I’ve known dozens of people who have moved out to the country. Guess what? After a few years, most of them move back into town. It’s the same with most people who become so-called minimalists. It’s a phase. They get rid of 60-90% of their possessions only to realize they got rid of things they needed. So they buy more. It’s great for the economy.
Living simple is not a quick lifestyle change. It’s a way of life. It’s a long slow process. It’s a practice. It includes critical thinking and well-thought decisions.
Enough Is Not One-Size-Fits-All
Think about the things that people are saying before you buy into them. Don’t believe everything. Live your life. Keep it simple. Consider the following:
- Know your needs.
- Buy the things you need.
- Buy quality, so you don’t have to replace things.
- Buy used when you can.
- Don’t buy things you don’t need.
- Don’t overindulge.
- Don’t live extravagantly.
- Be practical.
- Stop at enough.
Someday, when my daughter goes off to college, I hope to downsize a little more. Right now, I have the things I need.
Some minimalists might say I have too much. I have enough. I’ll continue to consider my purchases critically. I’ll continue to live with less than the average American. I’ll continue to stop at enough. My hope is that you’ll do the same.