Minimalism: according to the first few hits of a google search, “Minimalism is a tool that can assist you in finding freedom. Freedom from fear. Freedom from worry. Freedom from overwhelm. Freedom from guilt. Freedom from depression. Freedom from the trappings of the consumer culture we’ve built our lives around. Real freedom.” Also, “…at its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.” Oh, and this too: “[Minimalists]… do not just accept what life throws at them as their fate. Sure, they don’t have control over the world, but they choose how they will respond to what is out of their control and steer their life in a direction they have decided on.”
Sounds pretty amazing. I want freedom and intentionality and the ability to steer my life.
The problem is, I also want all of my stuff.
The theory of minimalism is that you clear the clutter from your life physically, which then allows you to declutter mentally, refocusing your priorities. Minimal = the least amount of stuff possible, stripping your life down to the necessities. But I think it is dangerous to expect that getting rid of stuff can be the answer to all that is wrong with our busy lives and minds. I agree that we should not hang on to stuff for stuff’s sake. Clothes that don’t fit, tupperware with no lids, toys that are broken or never get taken off the shelf, books that you have already read; those things have served their purpose (or never had one) and hanging on to them only clutters your home and your life.
But joy can be found in things.
The problem comes when you try to substitute physical possessions for the other, more important aspects of your life. What I have read about minimalism makes me feel that it is an all or nothing proposition, but I can simplify without having the least possible amount of things; I enjoy and frequently use items that are not really necessities. I don’t want to obsess over my personal possessions in either extreme — having too much or feeling like I should have less.
I like that my home looks lived in. My four children have made their indelible stamps on my life, it only stands to reason that they would impact the house they live in (and the car they ride in). While I try to keep parts of my house toy-free, I have no expectation that it will look like the inside of a magazine or the white-washed glowing images popping up all over Pinterest. The sterility is not appealing to me. My house walks a fine line between cozy and chaotic, but I know that one day all too soon I will miss the stray puzzle pieces and Barbie clothes and Lego creations that make their way into my living room.
I like that I am in the position to choose minimalism at all. The very idea of minimalist living is extremely #firstworldproblems, but rather than feeling guilty about my consumption I try to feel grateful, and to balance my footprint by recycling, consigning, and not being wasteful. I embrace the possessions that make my life more efficient, pleasant, or easier.
I don’t want to give the impression that my house resembles an episode of Hoarders or that my materialism is rampant. I like purchasing things, for others as much as for myself, but I have grown more willing to invest more on quality items and to be more selective about what I bring into my home. I do regular sweeps of closets and playroom bins and junk drawers, tossing what is unused or useless. We work on making it easy to organize our home, even for the kids; their art supplies have labeled drawers, there are bins for Legos and everything else pretty much gets tossed in a basket for quick, easy clean up. I do the same with bathroom cabinets and closets (although don’t come check in on my closet right now… being six weeks postpartum means I have about four different sizes of clothing and it’s a bit of a train wreck in there). I can appreciate the feeling of freedom that comes from reclaiming your space from clutter, I just don’t want to throw it all away.