What Minimalists Want
Minimalism is often talked about in a way that makes you feel like you will magically not want anything ever again. Like there are 5 simple steps to declutter your life and in doing so vanquish all desires and overcome all those years of capitalism and consumerism that are entrenched in our society.
I hate to break it to you but this simply is not so. The reality is we need to find ways to navigate minimalism and consumerism side by side.
So in this post I am going to be honest, and instead of telling you how Minimalism has magically taken away all of my desires for more or better or new, I'm going to share a few practical tips on how to approach these desires as a minimalist.
Blatant adverts you can learn to see through and disregard. I have learnt to talk myself out of thinking I need these things I am being sold. For example, facebook might think because I liked that post with a sofa in it that one time, I now need this really pretty sofa someone else is trying to sell. But little does facebook know I’m sat on a really comfy sofa that I like and have no need or desire to change anytime soon. So whilst I might look at the pretty sofa and think how lovely it might look in my home, it only takes a quick reality check to bypass that advert.
Comparison and Social Media
It’s the less blatant stuff that I struggle with. It’s visiting a friend’s house and admiring something lovely in their home, and starting to wonder if I too need what they have. Is their house nicer than mine because of that “thing”? is it cleaner, tidier, happier even, because of that “thing”? It’s these more subtle games that materialism plays with us that are harder to fight.
“Comparison is the thief of Joy.” I love that quote and it is apt for a number of situations, but it works really well when you find yourself coveting what someone else has.
Social media has made this an even harder one to fight. Because in reality if I am visiting someone’s home there is a good chance I know a fair amount about that person, so maybe I can make myself feel better about not having a house that big/tidy/well styled because I may well know how much they had to pay to get that, how much maybe they are still paying and working to have that, or maybe I know that they have a cleaner, or that they frantically tidy for the fifteen minutes before guests arrive, and it doesn’t always look like that.
But when you are only ever presented with the picture perfect stuff people keep for social media it can get hard to distinguish reality from what is essentially a curated sneak peek of someones life.
As someone who enjoys using visual platforms like Instagram to share a little of my life, I think it can be easier for me to see through some of the photos on there of people’s homes and their lives. But even I can get caught up sometimes and find myself wanting that perfect Instagram house, with wisteria growing up my walls, and a perfect coloured door to match. (Instagrammers you know what I’m talking about!) Or I find myself upset that we can’t afford to travel every other week, like it can sometimes feel other people online are doing.
It is so important when I feel these thoughts starting to creep in that I take a step back and remind myself of not only the reality of these curated lives, but to remind myself what it is I actually want for myself and my family.
Truth be told we have a lovely house, it actually has a very Instagrammable door, but I’ve only ever photographed it a couple of times because a) I don’t want my neighbours thinking I’m crazy and b) I don’t actually want my front door all over the internet, it’s kind of weird.
The reality of wisteria growing up the walls would no doubt result in an expensive bill with a landscaper as I have zero interest in gardening.
As for the travel, we do more now than we ever have and for that I am thankful. That is in large part due to minimalism meaning we have more funds for adventure as we aren’t buying as much stuff, but I have unquenchable wanderlust and I’m not a millionaire. We make time for what we can afford and the bucket list keeps growing for the rest. Plus I have 3 children, if we traveled as much as some of these Instagrammers seem to do, they would be exhausted and their school would probably have something to say about it all too.
Oftentimes the things I find myself getting caught up wanting, are things I will simply never be able to afford. And I have made my peace with that. The reality is that the cost of these lives I often covet is one I am not willing to pay. I don’t want to spend my one life working every minute I can, trying to earn enough money to pay for a life I can’t afford, and a life, that when you strip it back to it’s bare bones, isn’t really one that I want. There are so many more worthwhile things we could do with our time and money if we aren’t busy chasing after things that don’t really matter.
When you break down the reality of your situation and think about the actual reality behind someone else’s I find it is easier to deal with jealousy or comparisons.
Since embracing Minimalism we have actually stopped going to the shops much at all. We used to regularly visit local retail parks on rainy weekends when we needed to get out the house. We could usually come up with something we needed or if we couldn’t we’d still somehow end up finding something to buy. Homeware shops were always a weakness of mine, and I still swoon over blankets and have to tear myself away and remind myself I have more than enough!
However, now that my approach to making purchases has changed so much it really is no longer enjoyable for me to spend too much time in the shops. I never loved it that much anyway so it doesn’t feel like we’ve lost anything. Plus we have so much more time and money!
On the rare occasions we do go shopping, or if I find myself doing online shopping, I have a number of questions I ask myself before making any purchases that I find help me.
Do I really need this?
Where exactly in my home will this live?
How much time/money will be required for maintaining/cleaning this?
Do we have the money for this purchase? (There aren’t many things that are worth getting into debt for!)
Do I have enough of this already?
Do I already have something similar to this?
If so does it actually need replacing or will it still do the job? (As a family we are trying to limit the amount of waste we create and be more responsible about our environmental impact, so it’s really important to me that I’m not buying new things when the old or current model will suffice.)
In the early days of my minimalist journey it was much easier for me to abide by these ideals and since I was constantly decluttering and getting rid of more, it felt a lot more acute and more of a conscious everyday decision I was making. So new purchases were rare and very well thought out.
Because of this very mindful approach to new purchases and what was being brought into our home, I find now, nearly 5 years as a minimalist, that when I want to have a good old purge I can’t really find anything to get rid of.
The reality of this has meant minimalism is very much in the background of my life now, which is in part why I need to keep reminding myself of all the things i’ve mentioned here, and asking myself those questions repeatedly because the desiring more doesn’t ever seem to completely go away, but I do have the tools now to manage those desires and ensure they don’t get in the way of what I really want.
And what I really want, is a life lived to the fullest. Not with the most amount of possessions or clothes or holidays, but a life full of family and friends and love and happiness and adventure. And last time I checked none of that can be bought in a store or sold to me in an advert, or found in the perfect Instagram feed. And that is what I will keep reminding myself of every time those desires creep back in.