Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pets: Part of the Minimalist Lifestyle?

Sometimes people wonder where pets fit in in the minimalist lifestyle.

My answer: Just like they do in a non-minimalist's life.

Minimalism isn't getting rid of stuff just to get rid of stuff (although, if you're seeking out the ML, chances are good you DO need to get rid of the excess). It's about clearing the space to make room for the things that are most important to you. My four cats are extremely important to me, and part of my motivation for chucking a lot of my possessions was to make more room in my 550 sq ft apartment for them to run around, play, and generally enjoy our home. They are my priority, which is why I was utterly baffled by what I found on one blog.

One minimalist featured on another blog actually gave away her two cats because they weren't "convenient for the lifestyle" that she wanted.

Granted, she found them good homes, rather than dumping them in the street, but the bottom line is that she treated her cats like inanimate objects, dumping them off on someone else when she no longer wanted them.

And boy, oh boy, was there ever some backlash to that post. The vast majority of posters were outraged at this person. A few defended her choice, saying "Well, she found them a good home!"

Personally, I was aghast that she could ever give up her pets. Pets are not for convenience. Pets are a long-term commitment, and if you aren't prepared to care for them their whole lives, you shouldn't have any in the first place.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Pursuing Your Passions.

One common refrain I read on virtually every minimalist blog is that if you adopt a minimalist perspective and lifestyle, you have time to pursue your passions.

But how do you figure out what your passions ARE?

A New Home is a New Beginning.

A friend of mine and her boyfriend recently bought a house. It's a beautiful 19th-century Victorian home. She already has plans of how she wants to decorate it.

I am beyond thrilled for her. There's nothing quite like the first time you unlock the door, walk in, and know that this beautiful home is YOURS.

Speaking as a homeowner, my advice to her was:

1) Don't buy things you don't LOVE. Furniture (or anything else) that you merely "like" doesn't deserve your hard-earned dough.

2) Don't buy furniture just to have somewhere to sit/eat/put your clean clothes away/etc. Some people (myself included) fall into the trap of buying furniture for "just for now" while waiting for the piece they love to appear. Sit on your old college furniture or the floor if you have to. But don't sell yourself or your wallet short.

I've bought a few pieces that were "just okay" or "fine". I hardly used them, they collected dust, crowded my beautiful living space, and eventually were broken and tossed or were given away. Thankfullly, my stuff came from the thrift store, so it wasn't expensive, but I still don't like to think of the wasted effort and money spent on all of it.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Things as Symbols

About three days ago, I looked at my sofa, and I realized:

It was torn to shreds (particularly on the arms -- the result of kitty claws).

It was dirty.

It was broken.

It was, quite simply, a mess.

And tt symbolized everything wrong in my life.

So I tore it apart.

It's in six pieces, in front of my apartment. Tomorrow a friend and his brother are going to come and help me move all the pieces to the dumpster.

Then I will be free to start anew.

In its place is a multi-colored rug and a coffee table I use as a dinner table/computer desk for my laptop. I can sit and watch the sky and the people in the courtyard, and gain inspiration from the outdoors as I type.

It refreshes me.

Out with the old and being open to the new really does a heart and mind good.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

The Oppression of Success...I mean, Excess

Most of us spend our lives - especially in our 20's and 30's - pursuing success of the professional, fiscal, and/or relationship variety. We want to get that flashy job, that gold credit card that means we make a lot of money, or that relationship with the perfect partner.

Along the way, we usually pick up the "signs" of our "success": the status car, big house, most current electronic gadget, expensive clothes, and other things that we've been conditioned to believe proclaim to the world: "Look at me! I'm successful!"

But we accumulate too much, and suddenly the things that said "Success!" have become a stifling heap of excess. We become oppressed by the things that promised to make us happy.

We've overspent our income, maxed out our credit cards, all in the name of making an impression that doesn't last on strangers, people who don't matter to us (and those who do, don't care about that superficial stuff anyway - or they shouldn't).

It's not too late, though. It ain't over until it's over, it ain't over until the fat lady sings, etc, so on and so forth. We can change. We can learn to identify happiness, contentment, self-awareness, inner peace, devotion to developing our spiritual selves, contributing our time and effort to volunteering in our communities, etc, with success. To me, contentment, inner peace, and having ample time to devote to nurturing my spiritual self are important aspects in my minimalist journey.

When I'm surrounded by chaos and disorganization in my home, it's reflected in my life. I feel like there aren't enough hours in the day. I dread going to work, partially because I know what I'll be coming home to (a mess). I'm tired, stressed, and generally unhappy.

By contrast, when my home is clean, with everything in its place, I'm relaxed. My home is a soothing refuge from the world, a place where I can sleep and read and play with my cats. It helps me cope with the stresses of the outside world, and things that might be overwhelming me (right now) wouldn't be so bad when my living space isn't also overwhelming.

Even if you make the big bucks, don't let people, advertisements, magazines, the TV or movies, or any other outside influence tell you that you "Must Buy Now!" to show your success off to the world.

Happiness lies in wanting what you have, not having everything you want.