The best, and also most cliche way I can describe our minimalistic agenda is, freedom.
When I drive past wealthy neighborhoods with big, beautiful, historic houses I don’t impatiently wonder when we’ll be able to live in a house like that. I don’t desire that anymore, though I certainly used to. In turn, Clay and I don’t feel pressure to work harder so we can make more money to supplement those (unrealistic/unnecessary) dreams. Making more money isn’t our objective anymore, and this is huge. It was kind of an unspoken tension that we didn’t realize was there until we decided to eliminate the excess.
I try to cut the tension by nodding enthusiastically when people tell us they want a big house, expensive things, lots of clothes, or a new car. I over do the enthusiasm because I don’t want anyone to feel like we are judging them. Our new worldview does not put us on a pedestal.
There is nothing inherently wrong with things. Possessions aren’t the problem. Wanting possessions isn’t the problem either. Compulsory consumption is the problem. Attachment is the problem. Unknowingly allowing our things to control and fulfill voids are the problem.
Our previous lease was up so we just got a brand new car and it’s got all the bells and whistles: touch screen, back up assist, sirius radio, leather seats, all wheel drive. Every time I get in it I feel like I’m on vacation! It’s hard not to get attached to the luxury because the cars I drove before this were total beaters. Circa 2010 I drove a 1988 Mercury Topaz that was given to me for FREE! I’m pretty sure the floor was rotting out and I vaguely remember there being mold. It was so gross.
This brand new car does not own me. It does not fulfill me. I need to remind myself of this or I will start to care too much about it. “Should we take it for a car wash weekly? No eating inside!” At the end of the day, it’s just a car. It’s just a phone. It’s just a house. They’re just clothes. We can’t let our things own or define us. We shouldn’t, because the alternative is so much better.
The same lack of desire I have when I drive past McMansions is the same lack of interest I have when I’m shopping at West Elm or Target (I know, blasphemy!). Shopping just isn’t really that fun anymore (double blasphemy!). Does that mean I’ll never shop again, no. We will still need new shoes, and shampoo, and dishcloths, etc. The difference is I’m not going to shop for fun. I’m not just going to buy something because it’s nice and on sale and kinds of fits, or buy a decoration just because it would look nice in my house and go with the overall “look” I’m trying to achieve. If I do decide we need or want something it’s going to be intentional. We have to love it 110%.
It’s a slippery slope, and I’m not saying that Clay and I aren’t vulnerable. We are constantly trying to hold ourselves accountable. We still have so. much. stuff. Though, we are getting better at recognizing it and detaching ourselves from it all. Spiritually, for us, settling in and making a comfortable life isn’t why we’re here. We try to take the phrase “you can’t take it with you” seriously.
It’s a hard habit to kick, even when you send out a big announcement vowing to live with a more minimalistic approach. But the freedom is worth the work. We aren’t fully there yet, but we’re getting close enough to see the benefits of living a life with less. So call this freedom a cliche, I don’t care, whatever it is, it’s working.