is you or ain’t you?

So in my weekly readings of various blogs on minimalism and simple living, I found my way to the blog, Smart Living 365 and while I haven’t explored it fully (though I plan to!), I was drawn there regarding a post the author made which attempted to give a basic definition for what Minimalism is and then gave a small, provocative quiz on what makes one a Minimalist. I thought she hit some very poignant points about the tendency to look at it as a fad, or to use it as window dressing over a still consumer-based lifestyle. Unfortunately, that’s something I fear I do to an extent. However, as she said, “you have to start somewhere!” Still, I had some trepidation on taking her quiz, fearing I would basically flunk horribly. I felt that way since for me, at this stage I am still slowly learning to let go of some things. I’m also still pretty mired in the wants of consumerism. This is the beginning of my journey though, so I am willing to cut myself some slack as I make little steps forward.

I was pretty surprised by my own responses, they were, honestly, better than I though I’d have. I’m paraphrasing the questions here and talking about my own responses, but I’d encourage you to go check them out for yourself and think about your own answers here.

#1 asks what you would do if you won a lot of money, would you drop minimalism like a hot potato and spend spend spend? Well I have sometimes run through fantasies of “if I won the lotto” although I don’t play. I always see myself as upgrading what I have, but not going for more/bigger. I would for instance, trade in and get a newer, nicer model of my current car. But we’re talking a Honda Fit here, (don’t judge, you can put an alpaca in one of them, despite how compact they are, how cool is THAT?) But it’s an AWESOME little car with great milage and my bike fits in it. I would just like a newer one. I’d also replace the cracked white tile in the foyer of my little townhouse, with nicer tile, and the stained white formica counter tops with nice Corian-type solid surface. Several things like that. I don’t think I’d want to live anywhere bigger, I love where I am, but I would make it nicer. Is that minimalist or not? Minimalists tend to go for quality over quantity so upgrading/replacing is not the same as getting more, bigger better. However, is it the make due with what you have ethos that many minimalists adhere to? No.

Question Mark

is i or ain’t i?

#2 regards the question of doing a job you dislike if the money is good enough. I already know the answer to this is a definite NO for me. I am actually working towards a goal of working less, and focusing just on what I love to do work-wise, so that I have more time and less stress. It’s taken some time to realize a few things about me and what I do best and don’t do well, and I’ll talk more about this whole subject in a future post. But for now, I can safely say working more hours at a job that made me unhappy to have more money to buy stuff, is definitely something where I can say absolutely, the answer would be no. Of course one guy on her blog had a great answer of yes, but only for a few months to save up the money then he’d quit, LOL!

#3 Asks about if you would move into a huge mansion if you got it for free. That’s again an easy answer. Same thing if I won an expensive new car (I actually was in a contest once where that was a prize, so I’ve contemplated this). I would sell that sucker and use the money to upgrade my little townhouse or buy a newer version of my current car, make some donations and save the rest. I used to think I wanted this big house, and then we got it, and honestly I loved it, but we had huge sections closed off just piled with junk, and a lovely guest suite that was rarely if ever used. I hated cleaning it, it took a whole weekend, and there were all the bills for the mortgage and to heat and cool and upkeep it. What I’ve come to realize was that most of what I loved about it was how I made it feel like a home (ok and maybe I loved the pool/spa and my gas fireplace too). I’m in a place now that is a fraction of that house’s size, that I own outright, and although I’ve had to adapt to some things, I love it too. I just wish you were allowed to let your dogs swim in the community pool! LOL!

#4 Asks if you are truly doing it for altruistic reasons or are you only a “minimalist” because you have to/think it’s cool. I’ll be very honest here, a LOT of why I am doing this is for myself. It’s a process I hope will be similar to my path in Buddhism. I got into this to help my suffering, to find healthy ways to manage my anxieties. The outer chaos in my life is effecting my inner state, without a doubt. I also feel it stymies my creativity and causes a lot of my procrastination. So really this is about me right now. But with both minimizing and Buddhism I think if you walk this path with intention, you start to naturally become more compassionate and more focused on things that matter, it’s kind of the nature of both of them to an extent. Buddhism, perhaps more so, but I see over and over in blogs how as people got rid of the junk in their lives and worked on freeing themselves of consumerist thought and spending more time following passions and being with family/friends that they seem to gravitate to a more compassionate mindset and sustainability attitude. I’ve already seen some changes in myself over the years since I started meditating and practicing, I hope to see more. But for now, I need to find some equanimity. I think as I do, that will open up more space for others as there is less of the needy “me” filling that space up.

#5 is how you would handle being with someone who was not interested in this, would you drop your minimalist ways for them. Having lived with a “collector” in the past before I started this minimizing thing, I know this would all be a lot harder if I had someone like that in my life. I think, although this was meant to be a litmus question on how serious you are about Minimalist living (would you adhere to this? Is it really a core value for you? Or not?) I think in any situation like that in life, there is always room for compromise and a middle ground. I will say though, I am still a “baby” with this, could I get derailed right now if I fell for a guy who loved excess and took me along with him? Maybe for a while, but I think I’d come back to this because I know for a FACT stuff is not what makes us truly happy. I do still derive a lot of pleasure from nice things though, so I could see that effecting my path. I do think I’d still walk it. For now, I have the freedom and luxury to do this exactly how I wish and answer to no one. I have a financial stability that allows me to mold a work situation that fits me best, I have no children to be responsible for and a skill and profession that allows me a lot of flexibility. Many do not, and I acknowledge that and am grateful for what I do have. I do also know, wether a new love or a medical problem or a job loss, change is always a moment away, and I would hope I have reached a point where this is a core value to me. Not as much the fetish of having less stuff, but and understanding that stuff is not the real answer.

So what about you? Did you take Smart Living 365’s quiz? Did you see her list of 8 components of a minimalist? What did you think?