Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Minimalism fail: journey or destination?

Do you look at minimalism as a journey, or a destination?

If I look at minimalism as a journey, I'm making mild progress. If it is a destination, I'm failing miserably.

My reading for the past year has been concentrating mostly on minimalism, frugal living, and slow food.  You might notice that this is essentially the same concept applied across different fields: stuff, money, and food.  Minimalism is the concept of clearing away the non-essential to leave room for the truly important. (This article has some great links.)

I'm getting close to admitting that maybe I'm not a minimalist.  Or that I suck at the practice of minimalism.

Since we moved to California, I have gotten rid of an entire garage worth of stuff. (Actually, that was the New Jersey garage, attic, and basement all crammed into the California garage.)  I got rid of another garage worth of stuff when we moved this spring.

We have a lot less stuff. Probably half of what we moved here with. But it is nowhere near a minimalist lifestyle. We moved from a four bedroom house to another four bedroom house. We still have a garage full of crap.  I would not describe this move as "downsizing."

When we moved, I had this opportunity to really commit.  I could have had a packing party!  I love the idea of packing up every single thing in the house and then keeping only the things that you actually pull out to use.  (Note that this requires diligent labeling of boxes.)  But I didn't.  

We could have downsized into a 1300 sq ft house.  Some of the homes we looked at were that size. In each of the tiny homes my thought was "its...so....tiny. And where are all the closets???"  Yes--if you are minimalist and have no stuff, you don't need closets!  Except I still have a lot of stuff! I need closets!

I couldn't commit.  I thought about it, I wanted to....and I just couldn't do it.  In the month of March, instead of ruthlessly decluttering, I was laying on the sofa with a concussion, in between searching frantically to find a place to live.  At the end of the month, when it was coming down to "yes, we will be living in a tiny house because nothing else is available," I was facing the realization that we would have to get rid of nearly half our furniture (and everything else) in less than a week.

I just couldn't bring myself to accept this challenging opportunity.  I took the house that would fit our stuff and had off-street parking.

In the interim, since we moved in, I did get rid of a bunch of furniture.  I craigslisted a ton, I got rid of half our books, I donated more stuff.  And then....after living here for two months...I finally figured out the furniture arrangement.....and I went out and re-bought some of the stuff I had just craigslisted.  Which was....frustrating.

We've got less stuff, but we still have lots of stuff, and I like the stuff we have left, and I don't  want to get rid of it.  We have a medium-ish house, and I like the amount of space we have.  I don't think this makes me a terrible person, but it does seem to cancel my membership in the Minimalist Living Club.

I do still dream of 1000 sq ft condo where each child has three toys and there is nothing to clean up at the end of the day.


  1. I love your honesty .
    I need to get motivated to get rid of at least some of our stuff. I have always found that after getting rid of stuff I have the room to rescue more things and bring them back into the house and to fill it all up again

    1. Yes, me too! I get rid of stuff only to bring more stuff in. It is an endless cycle.

  2. I think your intentions are good. I can only toss stuff when I'm in the mood. If I'm the least bit sentimental, not much leaves the house. With a concussion, you were limited in what you could do at the time. I promise, the stuff doesn't multiply like bunnies when you aren't looking; it just seems that way.

    My kids are grown, and the last one left home a month ago, but all of his stuff isn't with him yet. (He's moved nearby, so it will get moved shortly.) I'm ready to do a purge, but I doubt I'll ever be a minimalist. I like stuff!

    1. I should just accept that I like stuff too :-)

  3. We just lost about 1,000sf in last week's move. The house is almost free of boxes, but the garage is FULL. I am embarrassed at how full it is. But I love stuff, too! I want to get rid of more, but we are still in transition for the next year until we decide if we will settle, stay, buy, build, or move. And I HATE re-buying stuff.... so I guess I will have a full garage for the next 11 months. First world problems.


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