today’s post is the third consecutive wednesday post published via in-flight wifi on an obscenely early flight. the things we put ourselves through for a buck…
the movement to live simply is all around us. minimalism. tiny houses. the push to reject consumerism. the urban homesteading movement. slow food.
we love the growth in consciousness that this movement represents – the rejection of the superficial, the overprocessed, the unnecessary. we think we will all be better off the less we buy, the more we make ourselves, the more we eat real food, especially if we produce some of it at home. and we love that the movement seems to be gathering steam every day.
we are big proponents of simple living, but we have no plans to get rid of all of our stuff, or to move into a radically smaller home. to us, living simply doesn’t have to mean downsizing your life, it just means right-sizing your life, and not using more resources than you need. of course, if your definition of simple living means carrying the minimalist mantle, then good on you. we’re positive that’s the right path for a lot of people. just not for us. something we’ve noticed as a trend among those who love minimalism is deliberately choosing less choice. we especially see a mindset of being comfortable excluding certain activities or hobbies in the interest of simpler living. and that just doesn’t work for us. while we’ve defended the movement toward owning less and renting more (we love spotify, for example, and car sharing in cities, and don’t know what we’d do without rug doctor rentals), we also want the ability to be spontaneous. to hop on a mountain bike one morning because it seems like a good day for that, without having to go rent said mountain bike. to decide to do some home improvement projects without having to go to the hardware store or rent basic equipment. and comfort – that’s huge for us, too. we’ll get to that.
yes, we’re talking about owning stuff, including stuff we don’t use every day. but this isn’t a defense of consumerism. just like most financial independence advocates out there, and especially like most environmentally inclined people, we think that the current mode of consumerism is a financial tragedy at the individual level, and an environmental and human rights tragedy on a global scale. we are rapidly depleting our planet of resources in the rush to produce more crap just as we are rapidly bankrupting ourselves and forcing ourselves into jobs we hate to buy crap we don’t need (thank you, tyler durden).
the key for us is consciousness. being conscious and deliberate to buy only the things that add quality to your life and allow you to live your own values. making thoughtful decisions when you do buy things, including buying secondhand whenever possible – both a frugal choice, and a better one for the planet. it’s also not a defense of owning a bloated home with 1000 square feet per person and the excessive heating and cooling required to make such a palace liveable. again, right-sizing. we very well may downsize our home at some point in the future, but it’s hard to imagine us ever moving into a tiny house, or something remotely that small.
as with most things, we’ve thought a lot about this topic, and here’s why our version of simple living looks a little more maximalist, and a little less minimalist:
we like to make things
visit us during the summer, and you’ll likely find us about to can something, in the midst of a big canning batch, or making labels for our recently canned bounty. since moving to the mountains, we can’t grow our own food (too short a growing season, and too much shade from our big trees), but we go nuts at the farmers market and make a lot of things that we can for the fall and winter – jam and conserves, salsa, pasta sauce, pesto, and preserved fruits and vegetables. and then there’s what you’ll find in our medicine cabinets – we make most of that, too: lip balms, creams and lotions, face and body scrubs, headache and cold balms, deodorant, toothpaste, all of our home cleaning products, the list goes on. we don’t can food or make toiletries to save money, we do it because we like knowing exactly what we put in and on our bodies, and because there’s joy in making things with our hands. and making this stuff requires gear – a big water bath canning pot, a pressure canner, lots of jars, and the various oils, herbs and containers needed for the beauty products. that’s not to mention the craft supplies that let us make gifts for people instead of always buying them – a subject for another post.
we love hobbies that require gear
we’d never be accused of having a minimalist garage. in it, you’ll find multiple pairs of skis for each of us (resort, powder, backcountry), mountain and road bikes, car camping gear, backpacking gear, climbing gear, plus an upright freezer for the bounty we don’t can. we absolutely believe you can enjoy the outdoors without needing a lot of gear – it’s free to talk a walk, after all – but we like having choices, because there are so many incredible ways to experience this big beautiful world we live in. our love of choice and spontaneity inclines us to be prepared for a range of possible adventures, and choose how to tackle them – on foot, on a bike, on hands and feet, on skis. this will only be more true when we retire. we are beyond excited to wake up each day and ask ourselves, “what do we feel like doing today?” we don’t want to be limited to hiking or basic biking, or to have to visit a rental shop and shell out cash before we can embark on that day’s adventure.
we like to handle our business
keeping all of that gear in top shape is an ongoing process. paying other people to tune our skis or bikes, or keep our yard trimmed up (we live in wildfire country – defensible space is an ongoing job!), or shovel our snow is both a wasteful expenditure and a hurtful notion to our souls. we recognize that we may never be fully self-sufficient, but we certainly like to handle our own business, and take care of what we own. (also, full disclosure – we do currently pay for snow plowing, while we’re still working, but this will change once we quit!) again, it’s that whole notion of taking pleasure in doing or making something. knowing how to fix things when they’re broken, rather than sending them to the landfill and buying another cheap widget. and we plan to level up in this regard when we retire – learning how to do more of our own car servicing and taking on more of the home maintenance projects that we’ve had to outsource to this point, mostly because of time constraints of our jobs. we always want to be able to fix things ourselves, but again, this requires a certain set of tools and equipment, and we feel better having them on hand.
we crave a home base
we’ve considered going full-time nomad or living in an rv, and as much as we love adventure, we feel a powerful desire to have a home base. we’ve traveled more by our mid-30s than most folks will travel in their lives, albeit mostly for work, and we’re always comforted by the notion of going home. not having a home to go back to feels sad to us, though we admire others who can thrive in a rootless existence. (going full-time nomad would allow us to retire now, a fact that has not escaped our notice.)
it’s worth saying. we don’t want to get rid of all the stuff that has memories attached, which we’re pretty sure means we’ll never be able to join the minimalist club. we’ve done a good job of letting go of a lot of stuff, especially when we helped both of our parents move. but memories aren’t always enough – sometimes we want to put our hands on the physical objects that represent some other moment in our lives. as long as our home is never crammed with sentimental but otherwise useless junk, we’re okay with holding on to certain things.
we’re lazy couch loungers
more embarrassing truth. we’ve seen so many beautiful homes with these petite, upright little love seats, or the tiny sofas featured in tiny homes, and we think, “wow, that space is lovely, but we’d never be able to do it.” when we lived in the big city, we had a stylish couch that was cool as hell, but which was terrible for lounging. and it looked pretty in pictures, but we hated it. one of the draws of our current house was the big family room which let us get a big, deep sectional sofa that we can both lay down on. as active as we like to be, we’re also the ones who will always lay down instead of sit up, if given the option. we know this about ourselves, and know we’ll never be happy in a home that doesn’t give us room for a big, comfy, loungy couch to spread our lazy ass bodies out on.
we’re still part analog
we’re a kindle and ipad household, and we devour ebooks from the library like nobody’s business. but we love our real books too. we often find ourselves going back to books we read years ago to reread them, or find a passage we love. we hang onto magazines and love flipping through them (though we’ve mostly switched to electronic subscriptions to avoid wasting paper – but we’ve kept many old issues). the thought of getting rid of books that we’ve already read feels nearly sacrilegious to us, as does the idea of not buying any new books every again (or new used books – same thing). we spend so much of our time staring at screens now, and we want a lot less of that in retirement. that means hanging onto books, hanging onto magazines, enjoying physical art on our walls. it means not getting rid of our coffee table books, or our old notebooks, or our collection of stationary that we don’t use as often as we should. in our ever-more-digital world, we feel compelled to hang onto some pieces of the remaining physical word. reading words and pictures on real paper helps keep us grounded too.
how about you? are you finding yourself more inclined toward minimalism? a more maximalist approach to simple living like us? or full-on maximalism, even? (no judgment!) we’d love to hear where you guys are on this.