Minimizing my minimalism 

Since starting this journey I’m learning a lot. My most recent revelation is that I do not want to live my life according to a term.  I am a member of a few groups defining themselves as “Minimalists” and have found lots of interesting people and useful information. But I have come to believe that many are living within this set of quotation marks who seem almost afraid that they won’t be true to the title if they don’t quite fit the mold.

Let’s go back a bit further. 

I’ve been a Christian for many, many years. More than half my life. For a long time I tried to make sure that I fit the term. I used all the right jargon. Made sure I called everyone brother or sister, said amen a lot. You know what I mean.  After many years, saying and doing all the right things almost seemed more important than the goal. The Bible is my handbook, the written source of all I know about God. But just reading it and carrying it doesn’t create a personal relationship with Christ. I have that now.  But it isn’t because I fit the mold. It’s because of the relationship that I have developed with Jesus over the years. Like marriage, the commitment takes a second but the relationship can take a lifetime.

Not my house

Back to the present 

I took a dream job on a ship where I would have very little space for stuff. I planned to be gone for 6 months and it didn’t make sense to keep paying for an apartment and utilities and so I left it all behind. The monetary value of my possessions was less than the cost of keeping them in storage for 6 months. At first I tried selling things. I did sell a few items but the clock was ticking and I had to be on a plane by a specific day. After distributing the most sentimental items to my kids I had to figure out what to do with everything else. I’ll admit it was difficult. There was nothing that I could not eventually use again in the future. But my plan was to be at sea for a couple of years. Little did I suspect that this would change and instead I’d be back in less than 3 months. You can go back and read about that another time.

And so, minimalism, was thrust upon me. But I embraced it. I took it to the utmost degree. One day I dragged my old sofa outside and not having a truck, hacked away at it with a hammer until I could haul it away in tiny pieces in the trunk of my small car. I removed every item from upstairs and brought it downstairs. The clock was ticking faster. If someone came in to buy a chair, they left with a bunch of other stuff as well. A hoarder would have been devastated by my wonton disbursement of all that I’d  accumulated. 

Not my house

I was by no means a packrat. Before the kids grew up and before my wife passed away, we had already downsized to move from our house into an apartment. But that is another story.

My goal was to only have what would fit and could be stored in my car, which would stay in storage at a family member’s home.

I met that goal. 

Now here I am just a few months later with much less than most minimalists. What is not in my car is in the room where I am staying. I recently went on a road trip up north and literally had all that I own with me. 

Not my house

As minimal as I have become,  I am avoiding the definition. I’ll admit that when I first started I embraced it wholeheartedly. I watched the videoes, joined the groups and took pride in this new identity. I made sure my Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and other profiles all specifically identified me as a “minimalist” with extra large quotation marks!

I suddenly realized that I was doing the same thing I had previously done with Christianity. I was making sure I had the fish symbol on my car, went to every service, was on several church boards, etc. It was not until after I’d lost my wife that I realized that seeking God was the goal, not just talking the talk. 

Not my house

The same is true of what we are calling minimalism. I seek a simple, happy,  uncluttered lifestyle. I’m getting pretty darn close. It’s a bit late in life but sometimes you must lose a lot to figure out what is important. There is still a lot of tweaking to be done.  Ultimately,  satisfaction will not come to me be because I only have a chair and a tv and one piece of art on the wall. It won’t because I have less clothes than everyone else. It will be due to finally figuring out who I am and what I want my life to look like. With God’s grace I am going to get there.
Comments, questions and subscribers to this blog are appreciated. 

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A word about Christmas, Minimalism and Gifts. 

The time is coming. It’s not even Thanksgiving and stores are full of trees and decorations for sale. We have not even had the opportunity to be thankful for what we have before getting ready to make a list of what we want.

For many, the spiritual aspect of Christmas is all but gone. No, it isn’t Giftmas. What once was a sacred occasion is nothing more than a time for stores to make as much profit as possible.

Now that I’ve ventured into the world of minimalism I’m getting to see a whole new side of Christmas that had really not been so much of an issue for me. But for many, it’s a big deal. And not just Christmas. It’s about birthdays, anniversaries and any other holiday, religious or not, where gifts are involved.

As minimalists desperately try to purge unwanted possessions, many dread situations where they are in danger of receiving unwelcome clutter in the form of a gift.

While I am no expert of etiquette and relatively new to minimalism I will offer my opinion, right or wrong, for you to consider and glean from it any portion you deem useful. What I have to say is not only for minimalists.

The conversation that arises is how to let others know that you don’t want any gifts or at least none that you won’t appreciate. Why let others waste money, time and effort on something that you don’t want? This is not an unreasonable mentality but there is much to think about on both sides.

For many, Christmas, birthdays and such are times for giving and many enjoy giving. And so picking out gifts for loved ones is a great pleasure. As the potential receiver you can’t take that away from them. It’s not your responsibility or place to tell others how to spend their money.

At the same time, gifters have some opportunities here. Since the last time they went shopping they have had an entire year to learn about what loved ones value and what their lifestyle is. Hopefully, as a gifter you know enough about your loved ones to show that not only did you take the time to shop, but you also took the time to learn about that person. Shopping for a minimalist can be hard work and frustrating because they seem to want nothing. Often whatever you get them might be regifted, exchanged or returned. Worse yet, it might get tossed in the trash. That is why, having a whole year is plenty of time to figure out when a gift card is a much better gift than a cheese slicer.

I am not a fan of Christmas lists. They are self indulgent and teach kids to think of themselves. It creates an air of expectation and entitlement. Parents have a whole year to learn what their kids like and don’t like. They shouldn’t need a list.

As receivers of gifts, no one, minimalists included, should fear the undesired gift. It is not your responsibility to make sure that your loved one is spending his or her money wisely. If they have not learned enough about you to know the best gift for you, take whatever it is, be grateful you were thought of and say a sincere thank you. So what if you end up giving it away, it didn’t cost you anything. So what if you didn’t get what you wanted. Go out and buy it yourself. You are entitled to nothing. You didn’t earn it, it didn’t cost you anything. A gift is just that, a gift. The giver has no obligation to give it or to make sure it will be appreciated. Receive it in the spirit it was given and say that you.

So stop worrying about getting the word out that you don’t want or need anything or that you have a list that others should adhere to. The world will not end because you got something you don’t want. Your life will not be ruined.

Merry Christmas

Travel trailers, tiny houses and such

Although I’m still not in the market yet, I spend a lot of time looking at sites and videos about everything from apartments to tiny houses to light weight travel trailers.  My desire to travel keeps me from being willing to settle on something fixed. An apartment is probably not going to suit me until I’m too old to travel.

I have lived in rental apartments and also in my own house, so I can appreciate the idea of owning what I live in. That is why I am still so interested in a travel trailer. Because I’ve shed myself of nothing but the bare minimum of stuff, I don’t need much room.  So as I do my research I tend to seek out the smallest trailers available. 

Even though these are really cool looking and easy enough to pull, since it is going to be my house, it must have all I need and  especially all I want.  Even though I’ve become very minimal in my needs, I have no desire to track down places to shower or use the bathroom. By attaching solar panels I can have a supply of electricity and these rigs mostly have a way to keep water onboard for showers. 

I’ve ruled out the wetbath as a way to have both an onboard toilet and shower. There is something icky about combining these two. 

Without getting anything too big, there seems to be plenty of trailers with a separate toilet and shower, some that even include a sink although not having one in the bathroom would not be a deal breaker. Since the kitchen would have one, I would not be opposed to shaving or brushing my teeth there. A floor plan like the one below would be okay. 

As I look around at these I find that a lot of space is taken up with a queen size bed. I’ve become accustomed to only a twin so more than that would be wasted on me. Another thing I’ve found is that a lot of space is taken up with dining booths.

I am pretty sure I could get by with something about half this size or even just a tray to eat on. I don’t see any reason to be equipped for company in a travel trailer.  The queen bed and the table for four very much contradicts the space provided for clothes. I would rather have a smaller bed, a smaller dining area but more space for clothes. A little more floor space wouldn’t hurt either.

All this makes me wonder if I would be better off purchasing an older trailer and modifying it. The problem with this is that I don’t tend to be very gifted in this area and could tear things up. I could end up worse off than how I started. I’d also have to borrow or rent tools an equipment and have a place to do the conversion and stay until it’s done. 

I’m also looking at tiny houses that are supposed to be meant for someone on the move. The problem I see with these is that they don’t appear to be very aerodynamic. They look too much like a traditional house from the exterior. Why can’t someone come up with a hybrid? Perhaps they already have. If so please point me in the right direction as I would definitely like to see some.