Sep 252011

Trying to explain minimalism to the average consumerist is like talking to this guy…


In one ear, out the other, nothing in between to stop it. Not that I am insulting the intelligence of my cat, although she is a bit dense as felines go, but when I am talking to friends or relatives and tell them I have become minimalist in my lifestyle it just doesn’t seem to register. A typical conversation may run like this:

“So, I got rid of my car and all my crap and I’m living out of a pack back now.”

“Um, that’s nice. Did you see that show on tv the other night?”

“Noooo, I got rid of my tv and everything.”

“‘mkay, but it was a great show. I recorded it. The next time you drive up you can watch it.”

“Um, no car? No tv? What part of this ain’t you gettin’.”…my guess, pretty much all of it.

Trying to explain a minimalist lifestyle to someone with a consumerist mindset is about damn near impossible. Some people just simply cannot fathom living a life without a pant load of material things. Even if you don’t own a house you simply must own a car, furniture, lots of clothes, and always be ready to buy more if it is a good deal. Don’t matter if you need it or not.
Trying to explain minimalism to my family is an even bigger obstacle. In particular my older relatives. But I can see where they are coming from. Growing up in a large family during the Great Depression and World War 2 meant minimalism was not a choice. Rationing, shortages, low or no wages, it was the norm back then. Imagine sitting down at the dinner table with 8 other brothers and sisters. You were either fast when the food came by or you went hungry. My grandmother fed a family that size on a railroad fireman’s wages. She could take a bag of flour and a bag of sugar and feed everyone for a month. My father used to tell me how he and his two brothers each got one pair of shoes and one pair of jeans for Xmas and that lasted for the entire year. Times were tough back then and we take for granted all that is available to us now. Which is probably why my parents and their siblings tended to over compensate with the consumerism when times got good and they were all making money. Even today, I could eat for a month on the amount of food my mother keeps in her kitchen. None of it goes to waste, but there sure is a lot of it. So yes, I can understand where they are coming from when I say I am a minimalist. They equate minimalism with being poor, needy, and starving. (Which I am but that is of my own doing.). The point they are missing is what minimalism is and isn’t.
Minimalism is doing away with the consumer mentality that material things are essential to a full and happy life. They aren’t. Material things may enhance your life but as to how much fulfillment and happiness they bring, not so much. Minimalism is not so much eschewing the creature comforts that we prize so highly as it is focusing on only the essentials that a person needs so that they may have the freedom to focus on living and fulfilling their life’s dreams. (Don’t under estimate the freedom thing).
Let me give a simple example. Based on the average consumer standards and as set forth in the barrage of advertising we get thrown at us everyday, here is a list of things I do not have:

Real estate…no house, no condo, no land.
Vehicle…just a bicycle now.
Furniture…the current apartment has a few sticks, did buy a mattress.
Appliances…apartment had a microwave, toaster oven, fridge.
Dishes…ok I did go to the dollar store and picked up a plate, bowl, glass.
Tv…got the iPad.
Game console…iPad.
Toys…no boat, motorcycle, atv, etc.
Lawn equipment…no real estate, no need.
Excessive wardrobe…just the clothes I need.
And a thousand other little things that fill up the average home.

If I had to have all that crap listed above, there is no way in hell I could have afforded to make the move to the Keys. Something I had been working towards for years.

Now here are a few other things I don’t have…

Mortgages….rent is fine. The housing crash pretty much killed real-estate investment.
Property taxes…paid in the rent. I ain’t the one who has to deal with it.
Utilities…electric pd in the rent. All I owe is for wifi.
Car insurance.
Oil, maintenance.
Car loans.
Keeping a house clean and repaired.
Lawn maintenance…no cutting grass, raking leaves, shoveling snow. No spending weekends and free time maintaining property and possessions.
No stress…what if there is a fire, or storm? What if I get robbed? What if property values drop? What if I get a speeding ticket?…No Stress.

Are you getting the idea that less is more? Look, I’m not trying to be all high and mighty here and say my lifestyle is better than yours. But if you are reading this blog then you obviously have some interest in minimalism and how it might affect your life. There are no rules here. You can have as much minimalism as you want. You can go full blown like I have and just dump everything or simply clean out that desk drawer that has been accumulating stuff for the last few years. It is all up to you. But don’t ever judge or condemn somebody who has taken a minimalist attitude towards life. If you are interested and know somebody who has minimalized, sit down and talk with them. Ask them why they went this route and if they are happy with the choice. Search the inter webs and see what other blogs are saying. There are links to a bunch of them on the sidebar of this here blog.
Minimalism is not for everyone. For some people their homes, their possessions are the most important to them. If it is what makes them happy then more power to them. As for me, I am quite happy with the my results. Are you kidding? Living in Key West. No stress. No needs other than the basics of life, (and a little bit of income). What’s not to like? But then, that is me. The Fritter. Living the good and simple life of a minimalist. Try it sometime, you might like it.

Capt. Fritter

That cat really is dumb. But luv her all the same.

  3 Responses to “‘splainin’ Minimalism to the average consumerist…”

  1. ditto.
    altho i did buy… make that.. i rent my house from the
    (spit over your left shoulder) bank.
    and i do own a car. here everything is so spread out you
    have to. plus… their idea of a bike friendly city is to put up
    a sign that says “share the road.” there have been 5 hit & runs
    just this year alone. not exactly key west.
    but other than that… i’m with you.
    no knicky knackys… no superfluous clothes.. or otherwise
    suffocating STUFF.
    keep spreading the word captain!
    tammy j

  2. ps. i love that kitty face. shame on you.