The downside of a minimalist lifestyle

Words of caution: some minimalist out there may feel slightly insulted by my words, maybe hopefully just annoyed. It isn’t my intention. In fact I do realize I may be distorting the very concept of minimalism by reducing it to the notion of “owning less vs owning more”… Yes, I’m doing this, I think. I’m sorry.

I do admire minimalists who have managed to apply the concept to all areas of their lives. I don’t know any personally, but from what I’m reading around, some are next level minimalist masters! However, when looking at minimalist lists of things to do, you must have noticed that most are focussed on decluttering, owning less & mostly provide advises on how to achieve this.

Again, my goal here isn’t to annoy anyone. I’m simply sharing some of my thoughts on the topic. Recent events got me thinking that maybe it’s worth owning a bit more. That maybe some “just in case” items are worth keeping…

Maybe being a minimalist sucks a bit after all

Where is this coming from…

I was raised in a house with a garden where most trees produced fruits and where my dad grew vegetables. There was also a garage full of tools and stuff that looked to me, at the time, as mostly useless and borderline junk.

What was however mesmerizing to me as a little girl, was the attic of the house. An attic filled with wonders!

The old sewing machine that I played with to create dresses for my dolls was one of them. As you know I renewed my love for old sewing machines a while back now!

There were also all sorts of ‘treasures’ in this attic. Some are still there actually, waiting to be rediscovered. This, at the time, included my dad’s bikes, which was tucked away in boxes. There were also boxes of comics which my older brother had collected. Books & toys that we had forgotten about. More ‘garage style’ tools that looked like antiques, including scrap metal bits and pieces. There were also old clothes that I was allowed to play with & transform into princess dresses, that was cool!

Time passed and I stopped going into this attic. All these things started to look to me like a big pile of junk as well. Things to get read off as soon as possible.

Then I moved out of my parents place and started living into tiny apartments where there was no way to have so much stuff. I moved around a lot. I started questioning very early why my parents had accumulated so much junk. This was beyond my comprehension. The simple fact that you can is no excuse.

Fast forward a few years, and as we started working on my dad’s bike, I realised slowly that all these tools in the garage were very useful. Obviously!

What about the junk in the attic? Well every time we needed a metal rod to do this or that, every time we needed a metal plate or any other metal bit, my dad would go up and come back with something that would work for the job ahead.

Was it possible that all these things that looked like junk were actually organized and useful?

For my dad, I’m pretty certain that most of these things are there “just in case”. And I will never be an advocate for such huge quantity of things stored “just in case”. I refuse to be. But…

Fast forward again and here we are, half of the World at least, in confinement… Wait, what doesn’t it have to do with the attic’s junk?

Well I’m at home and I’ve been wanted to sew masks because you know, it seems unclear if it’s better or worst to wear them or not. But at last, I realized I had no fabric to sew them.

It seems that 100% cotton blend are recommended to sew masks. Heavy cotton t-shirts are good for that. However after a successful no year buy challenge, I can tell you that I have no cotton t-shirt to spare!

Luckily, I realized that my partner had prepared a bag of shirts to donate. Shirts that he can’t wear anymore for his work but where the fabric is mostly still in a decent condition. Shirts that are now going to become masks!

Yeah! You can expect to see my masks soon! 😉

So all of this, got me to wonder if being a minimalist sucks a bit?

Maybe being a minimalist sucks a bit after all!?!

OK, first technically I’ve told you before I don’t really like to call myself a minimalist anyway. I prefer to talk about simple living.

On the other side (complete other side!), I don’t want to join the wagon of hoarders, preparedness devotees or survivalist & preppers. Although based on this article on what a survivalist is, I may actually sound / be a bit like one?! I googled this and found this article, but then I looked at the rest of the website and no, no, no!!

OK, we got this out of the way.

Now… let’s see why being a minimalist may suck a bit after all.

The 2 examples I gave you above, namely my dad’s ability to always find the right tool or things from his pile of ‘junk’ and my lack of fabric to sew masks, sparked some thoughts about the downside of owning less.

Motorcycle apron - 1950's leg warmer
One of my dad’s treasure: his leg warmer or apron from the 1950’s.
Digged out from the attic!

Those 2 random examples can be seen as follow:

  • My dad isn’t a minimalist and he can keep on with his life in confinement. He has everything he needs. From food in his garden, in his freezer and in home made cans. Tools in his garage to work on whatever he wants including fixing things that might break. Bits and pieces of whatever he may need for his projects.

  • I’m a ‘minimalist’ and have a mostly clutter free space. However, I have very little food stored, barely any tools and no bits and pieces to work on anything. I can draw because I bought some extra paper before the confinement started. That’s about it! Big thanks to my partner for having sorted his shirts but most importantly for taking so long to donate them! (don’t tell him!)

One of the basic moto of minimalist lifestyle is that if you don’t use it, you should donate it or else. And if you really need it later, you can always buy a new one later.

Apart from the financial strain this can create & apart from the environmental impact of such attitude, we’ve all come to suddenly realize that the “you can always buy a new one later” might not actually work!

Have you tried to go shopping recently? Have you tried to order something online?

OK OK, this confinement isn’t for ever. We are living through an extraordinary time. But if you don’t use this time to think, to question your life, your choices, your beliefs… than what good does it do?! Apart from saving lives obviously.

So being a minimalist during this confinement maybe isn’t the best!

I’m not the only one who is starting to rethink this.

Non minimalist people are getting games out their garages & attics, games that they haven’t played with for years. They are dusting off their guitares, their exercise equipments, their multi fonction kitchen appliance… Some are being extra creative and are building things or renovating their homes with their tools & the spare buckets of paint they digged out.

Meanwhile minimalist people are praising their ability to clean their minimalistic homes and may be looking at their minimalist kitchen wishing they had not given their bread making robot. (psss, you don’t need a robot to make bread!) They may be watching Netflix a bit too much too.

So yeah, I’m exaggerating because we are all stressed out about this pandemic and its consequences, but hopefully you see my point.

Hand made bread
bread I made with my little hands! 😉

So what’s the best solution?

Well, unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to this. Quite frankly, it’s up to you to find your own path, to find what’s right for you.

However, I believe balance is key.

Balance between storing food for 6 months and an empty fridge shouldn’t be that hard to find. Balance between being a hoarder and being a minimalist shouldn’t be hard to find either.

I still think that my dad is a bit of a hoarder. At least he used to be. He has enough pipes in the attic to redo the whole house water system. So I do not want to be like this, ever. Even if he sees his piles as treasures.

But I do want to be more prepared when the next pandemic comes… or else.

I’ve been dreaming of owning my own house. Preferably an A frame / modern wood cabin style. 😉 With solar panels! And a fresh water source nearby, at least to water my small but efficient semi underground greenhouse.

At one point in life, my partner and I had a house with a garden and it turned out to be a nightmare to maintain. Gardening isn’t for everyone but I do feel more prepared for it now.

I do want a garage as well! With tools! I have to keep maintain my bike in good shape. But to be fair, tools are only useful if you know how to use them and if you don’t kill yourself using them! So it won’t be a crazy garage, mostly basic stuff.

And I also want to expand my skills set. I’ve been meaning to take foraging classes for a while now for example. Expand my knowledge of mushrooms too because I love mushrooms! Maybe I’ll continue to learn mechanics as well…

My goals isn’t to become 100% self-reliant, just more resilient. My goal is to be able to continue living a comfortable / normal life without stressing out about the future. I can’t complain, my life has been pretty normal during these 4 weeks of confinement but it’s not the norm I want in the future. Ok hard to explain right now. Will be able to do that later hopefully.

If you’re goal is self reliance I recommend you to follow this website https://practicalselfreliance.com. It’s very instructive. It also taught me that I don’t have what it takes to do the same!

So here you have it: Find your balance. Find what you can do and what you can’t, to ensure a comfortable future, for yourself and your family. And maybe do considering storing a few extra things that match your skills and needs.

At the very least, maybe rethink your views on minimalism or adapt them to the dire future we are heading toward. It isn’t going peachy but you can still prepare, make the most of your confinement to learn new skills, set goals, stay focused and simplify your life!

Stay safe!

Downside of a minimalist lifestyle - confinement issues