Cindy spends her days with her doggy and her Mr. Sunshine in the deep south, is co-founder of Spoons 4 Spoonies, and one of my dearest friends. She’s here sharing what it’s like to live a minimalist lifestyle, and how she’s living better with less stuff.
When Cindy isn’t out making the world a better place, she can be found on the tweeter machine sharing her views on life.
I remember, back in the 90’s, wondering where in the hell all these people were coming up with the money required to buy all the shit they bought. Looking back, I realize they weren’t–we were in the early stages of a credit-fueled spending spree that involved credit cards, home-equity loans, home improvement loans, second mortgages, personal loans, credit default swaps and other barely understandable made-up things that fed the consumerist frenzy that probably had its roots in the excesses of the 80’s.
Here I sit, post Great Recession, and I wonder why people are still buying all this stuff. Where are they putting it? What are they doing with it? We live in the great consumerist era, constantly bombarded with all kinds of messaging that tells us our clothes aren’t cool enough and we don’t have enough of them, our kitchens aren’t big/modern/gourmet enough, our hair isn’t shiny enough, our cars aren’t cool/new/big/fast enough, our dogs need shoes/coats/sweaters/toys/scarves/doggles/birthday parties, our electronic devices are built with planned obsolescence in mine so that in six months we will have to go get the newer/bigger/better/faster/more model, and if we don’t buy all this shit, we are somehow not enough.
I say enough, already. Stop the madness.
Dave Ramsey sums it up rather well.
“We buy things we don’t need with money we don’t have to impress people we don’t like.”
Once we buy it, we spend an insane amount of time and money organizing and cleaning and storing all this stuff. We don’t own this stuff, it owns us. We become defined by our stuff. It declares our status in society. It dictates how we spend our time. It goes further than that, though. The stuff we’re buying today isn’t even made as well as the stuff we were buying in the 90’s. We’re buying more poorly made plastic/polyester/disposable crap. This crap doesn’t last–the clothes fall apart after one or two washings, the phones are not cool after six months, the furniture breaks if the dog looks at it funny, the couches look worn in less than a year, and the shoes fall to pieces after being worn only a few times. Even buying designer is no guarantee of quality–I’ve seen four figure designer dresses made out of polyester shiny grossness that looked like something a cheap hooker might wear. I’ve personally had to resole $800 boots after only six months of occasional wear.
When I look back over my 44 years of life thus far, my happiest memories don’t involve stuff.
My happiest memories involve experiences and people. Riding the tractor with my dad. Playing trivia games with my mom, brother, and sister as a kid. Watching “The Mikado”, Kenny Wayne Shepherd, and “The Color Purple” from the stage left wings at The Strand Theatre. Standing on the beach on Christmas Day with my Mr. Sunshine, watching my little doggy bark fiercely at the waves as they rolled into shore.
My deepest moments of serenity have come when everything else was stripped away and I was left with nothing standing between me and my creator. Finally admitting I was an addict, and surrendering to the twelve steps. Huddling on the floor as a tornado destroyed the world around me. Standing in the middle of a seemingly endless field of grass, listening to the wind as it whispered in my ear.
Over the last four years or so, Mr. Sunshine and I have downsized. We moved from a bright airy house filled with furniture, clothes, shoes, and tchotchkies into an RV that has just enough room for very basic necessities. I’ve become quite the minimalist–almost to the point of brutalism.
I wish Sunshine were as minimalist as I am. In his defense, the stuffs he stockpiles is all very practical and useful; it just takes up space that I would much rather see filled with the light of my creator’s love.
Since we moved into this tiny house on wheels, I have given away, consigned, and trashed more clothes and shoes than I care to think about. It’s embarrassing, it’s shameful, it’s rather obscene. I have given away knicknacks, tchotchkies, thingamabobs, doohickies, and things. I miss none of them. Sunshine has given away tchotchkies, sold furniture, and thrown away things we can’t even figure out why he owned them. He misses none of them.
Now, none of this is to say that we don’t buy new things. It’s just that, today, when we bring something new into the house, something old must leave. There just isn’t room for new things, so we think very hard about how much we need or want a thing, how will it add value or enrich our lives, and what we are willing to give up to get it. We no longer mindlessly shop. We no longer feel compelled to buy shit we don’t want with money we’d rather spend on experiences to impress people we can’t fucking stand anyway.
These days, cleaning the house doesn’t take long at all. It’s less than 250 square feet. When I open my closet door, I’m not staring at an overstuffed hellhole crying about how I have nothing to wear. I’m not spending hours organizing, storing, and cleaning my stuff. These days, I get to spend my time walking around the lake with my little doggy, hanging out with those few people I CAN stand, and traveling to pretty places that remind me of the beauty my creator has given to us to enjoy.
The other upsides to having so much less stuff? I have BETTER stuff. I have stuff that I use again and again and again. The clothes I have are all clothes that I love, that make me feel fabulous, that serve my life as it is now (and not the life I thought I wished I had). I am not drowning in debt. I have more time to take care of myself, and less need of self-care because I am not overwhelmed with all the things I am supposed to do and all the things I am supposed to own.
I am not my fucking kakhis.