Sunday, 28 June 2015

Sensible Simplicity

Minimalism is a trend currently, and by that I don’t mean I am dismissing it or saying it won't last.  In that case it would be a fad.  Minimalism is a trend that purports to improve your life, lighten your burden literally, free you up to be happy.  I would imagine there are some people out there with an ever expanding library of books on how to do minimalism right. I imagine this books might be shelved next to books on the previous trend, organisation.  Once we were told how to organise and store things, and sold assorted storage containers.  Millions of people parked their cars in the driveway because their garages were filled with carefully stored possessions in lidded plastic totes.  I know someone who can barely move around her home because of her possessions, and is arguably afflicted with a hoarding problem, but it's all organised carefully into containers and labelled.

Some, as I do, feel more comfortable surrounded by things which have meaning to us.  We might call ourselves maximalists.  The girls who come twice a month to clean call me The Lady With The Eclectic Home. They walk around exclaiming over this cool thing or that cool thing as though it were a museum of sorts. "Where did you get this?"  They ask.  I suppose my home is  a personal shrine of me-ness.  My home is an expression of who I am and nobody walks in the door and says, oh a minimalist lives here.

Five years ago I moved out of the home I had lived in for eighteen years, leaving a marriage of 23 years.  Among the many differences that had grown between my husband and myself was how much we accumulated, what types of things we accumulated and where we put it.  I believe that if a relationship is otherwise healthy and happy, there would be a greater tolerance for such differences, but for me this difference was becoming unbearable.  My husband could tolerate much more disarray than I could. So many of our things did not have a home, and if they did they often weren't kept there.  Storing things neatly and properly was not a priority for him so time and money could not be invested in making a closet or some shelving.  Things did not get thrown out if they were potentially useful or had sentimental value.  We had an overflowing crawl space and a home nearly impossible to keep tidy.  A brand new double garage was built in the last three years of our marriage and it was promptly filled up with stuff.  One side of it was filled with old wood siding that might be useful some day.  I  felt buried under material things just as I felt buried in the marriage.  Our ways were different, and yet I am not a minimalist.  I am also very fond of cupboards.

Moving out was a good way to purge, and I made careful decisions about what I took with me, deliberately not taking the 50% of our possessions I was entitled to, in part because I was moving to a home less than half the size.  Although I have a few regrets about that, I try not to be emotionally attached to material things.  As I set up my new home, I found that I needed a certain volume of material items around me to feel comfortable.  I like candles, plants and books and attractive textiles, decorative pieces or items that are both useful and decorative, and am not a fan of much bare wall space.  I am a seeker of cosiness more than space.   I only knew how to set up a home for a family, not for a single person.  I could not let go of the idea that I needed dinner service for ten, enough wine glasses in case I have a party.  I am equipped to serve Christmas dinner on a regular basis and to cook and bake for a family of four or more daily.  Perhaps I imagined a step family in my future, or I imagine grandchildren.  Either way it is a bit ridiculous but I have to admit I really like my dishes and like looking at them.  This is not a sin and it does not hold me back from living the life I want to live.  I do have more possessions than I need, but they are not in my way, spiritually, emotionally or physically.

Minimalism is sold to us as the mentally healthy way to live.  It is sold to us as the  ideal life, free and unencumbered. It is a spiral movement in many ways but more than one person has found a way to comodify it.  I believe minimalism, or simplicity should really be a very personal thing, very tailored to the individual and perhaps it needs a new name or needs to be separated from a sister movement that is more about living with what you need.  Need is something to be personally defined, but it is also relative to culture and wealth.  Unless you live below the poverty line or are homeless, you probably have more than you need to survive and there is no need to be shamed for that.  What I am interested in personally, is reducing mindless  consumption and accumulation.  What I wish to work on paring down is mostly invisible to anyone who comes into my home.  It is not my chosen lifestyle nor within my means to be a wanderer.  Given this, I am quite content with a home that anchors me.

Re-evaluating sometimes, reducing, unneeded and unwanted possessions and focusing on less consumption can all be goals without having to embrace minimalism, or they can be part of of how you define your own personal minimalism.  Less is a relative term.


Voluntary Simplicity...
It should be noted that voluntary simplicity does not, however, mean living in poverty, becoming an ascetic monk, or indiscriminately renouncing all the advantages of science and technology. It does not involve regressing to a primitive state or becoming a self-righteous puritan. And it is not some escapist fad reserved for saints, hippies, or eccentric outsiders. Rather, advocates of simplicity suggest that by examining afresh our relationships with money, material possessions, the planet, ourselves and each other, ‘the simple life’ of voluntary simplicity is about discovering the freedom and contentment that comes with knowing how much consumption is truly ‘enough.’[11] Arguably, this is a theme that has something to say to everyone, especially those in consumer cultures today who are every day bombarded with thousands of cultural and institutional messages insisting that ‘more is always better.’ Voluntary simplicity is a philosophy of living that advocates a counter-cultural position based on notions of sufficiency and simplicity.[12]

 -quote found on the website The Simplicity Collective

Suggested Reading for a gentle and sensible approach:


  1. For some, the idea of minimal living comes quite naturally. For others, it can be an idea of living when you feel overwhelmed. I find myself leaning more toward minimalism as I do become quite anxious when I'm around clutter. I find this to be true in my mind as well. I like to keep things simple, near, get the point. My outer world is a great reflection of my inner world.

    1. Thanks, Glenda. There is a level and a way of life that is right for everyone and we will all be different. I find that as minimalism is a bit of an internet obsession right now, there is a tendency to promote the view that minimalism is next to godliness. What your minimalism looks like might not be what someone else's looks like and that should be just fine. :-) xoxo

  2. voluntary simplicity!!!!
    yes! thank you shawna for this!
    we - hubs and i - try to live with most minimal consumption possible. (is this right english???) we love it "gemütlich" (cosy) and we love good food and quality clothing - and yet we can have all this with and because of less consumption!!!!
    (and decluttering - esp. for gemütlich)
    baking my own bread only with pure flour, salt, water and yeast sounds like a rural simple lifestyle and old school - but with the unhealthy ingredients in bought bread it´s luxury. same for home sewing, painting walls with chalk&pigments, going for hikes and camping in our own country instead of jetsetting around world........
    from outside it looks like decisions of poor people - but we are rich - rich of wonderful experiences and time! and health!
    hug you!

    1. You want to say 'the most minimal consumption possible" so you are very close to the correct English. :-)
      I grew up with homemade food, my grandmother and mother baked their own bread and I did too when I left home. To me it was better bread, not something to do because of poverty. It has been a difficult adjustment for me actually to cope with an illness where I am so exhausted food preparation is difficult, because I am accustomed to making everything from fresh (or frozen) ingredients and with a gluten intolerance and intolerance to a few other ingredients, ready made food is rarely an option for me. I often eat very simply. Scrambled eggs, some fruit and yogurt, a piece of cheese and an apple are typical staples for me.
      Your life looks very rich too me, in exactly the way you feel it is. I would live a very similar life to yours if I could, but I am finding the path to making my own a happy and rich one. xoxoxo

    2. i´m sure you find your path!!! this blog proofs it! :-))))

  3. Thoughtful!

    I'm not at all neat and organized - I'm artistic, spontaneous, fountain of ideas and passion for life. There is no way my home could or even wanted be organized, let alone minimal. I do believe that the outer world is a reflection of the inner world. Mine is whimsical and full of all sorts of stuff that live organically with each other, mixing and matching as they please. It can change, I suppose - anything can change. I do respect people's need and willingness to get their life simpler... but it does not begin with the outside world, it is always from within. Less neurosis, less worries - that's what actually would be more helpful. Trust life more, trust yourself, get out of your head down to your heart, be more organic. The nature is not especially tidy...

    I'm the same way with dishes as you are, by the way. :) I think I could host a party for 15 or 20 people easily. :)))

  4. While I have purged my closet to contain only the things that work best for me, my home is cluttered with history, memories and sentiment. I often wonder what true decor minimalists do with all the little things they are given as gifts that just don't fit into their style. I just couldn't throw out things like that just because they don't fit in. I'd find a place for them to fit in! ;) Also, if it's a book I loved I may give it away but always buy another to keep in our library, even if the shelves are full.

  5. When things spin out of control around me, I regiment my environment, spare, sparse, few rough edges. I control what I can. BUT, there is an ebb and flow to this way of being. I've also seen too many power struggles about wills and that has somewhat deadened my attachment to things as well.

    1. My family, extended family included, is small and none of us have much of monetary value so I have not witnessed much of that sort of thing. I think it is useful to avoid being too attached to material things because we are always at risk of losing them, but that attachment to things and the things themselves are different. If I lost everything I own there would certainly be some regret and sadness, but I would just start again, rebuilding to re-create my comfort zone. There is no other option if one prefers not to wallow in misery. In the meantime, I wallow in books. xo

  6. I am one of the least minimalist people in the world maybe....In our 5 years of living in our previous apartment with the pork-chop (aka boyfriend) we accumulated so much crap and stuff as if we were 20 people...So when we moved out, just like you, I intentionally left 50% of everything behind (despite my boyfriend's protests). And not because I wanted a new minimalist home, but because I was too lazy to pack this shit up :D
    Seriously though, I love this post, we are often told what lifestyle is right for us and minimalist is one of them. But while we are told that, we keep being bombarded with commercials on what to buy and what to get so we can be happier, whether it's a car or a freaking kite-thing. I am perfectly aware that I have too much stuff and I only need food, a roof and water to survive, but hell, I like stuff, I enjoy having them, but I wouldn't shed a tear if I loose them (well, maybe for certain shoes and clothes, *cough cough*) but that's that! :D
    Greta post Shawna, made me think once again! Bless you!

  7. I can look at pictures of minimalist spaces and find them soothing - I do enjoy de-cluttering, but whenever I've known someone who lives that way I find it a bit uncomfortable to be in a space like that, so I don't think it's for me. Scandi chic is quite big in Britain I think but I find it sort of soulless. I find my things from home comforting, especially being a stranger in a strange land. When I visit my Mom I enjoy the familiarity of the things that I have known my whole life (not that there are many of them, she moves a lot and by most standards we do not have a lot of nostalgic items). Maybe it is because I have moved so many times in my life that I enjoy having things to remind me of where I used to be, I don't know. I do have occasional nightmares where I have to pack and the clothes just keep accumulating, so maybe I do have too many clothes though! ;-) x

    1. We are very much alike. I too find the Scandi-chic soulless. It can look lovely in photos but I couldn't live like that. My parents moved from my childhood home into another home when I was around thirty. I thought I was going to find this difficult, to no longer be able to be in that childhood home. Very quickly I saw that they took home with them. It was the environment they created and a big part of that were treasures that had been around my whole life. I think even more than a minimalist design that still contains authentically loved and meaningful pieces, I dislike homes that are decorated almost entirely with coordinating pieces from one or two stores. xoxo


I love visitors and I love comments. I will try my best to respond to everyone! Thanks for stopping by.