One day, I did an impossible, unthinkable thing. I went to Target and bought…nothing.
It was one of those rare trips where I was kid-free and it should have been a joyous Target experience filled with the thrill of finding everything I ever wanted covered in red clearance stickers and loading up on seasonally appropriate dish towels. I walked up and down each aisle and picked up thing after thing that I knew I should want…but I just didn’t. I couldn’t. It was the oddest feeling. I returned my cart and walked out, paranoid that someone in the back was zooming in on me through the security cameras, and I braced myself for some kind of alarm to go off as the doors slid open. “That woman is leaving without spending the required $150 minimum! ALERT! ALERT! Did she not see the seasonally appropriate dish towels!? This has never happened before! Somebody call corporate!”
I sat in my car with my forehead on the steering wheel. My heart was pounding as I slowly thought it through. Nothing in there was worth it. Nothing was worth the heavy feeling of being responsible for yet another thing, because that’s what happens every single time you buy something new.
You become responsible for it.
Where to put it. How to use it. Time to clean it. Time to put it away. (Over and over and over.) Gotta upgrade it. Want a new version of it. Need to get rid of the old it. Sell it? Donate it? Trash it? Recycle it?
“The things you own, end up owning you.”
Amen. Thank you Tyler Durden.
The first rule of minimalism is…you do not buy shit you do not need. The second rule of minimalism is…YOU DO NOT BUY SHIT YOU DO NOT NEED.
The third rule of minimalism is…just kidding. There is no third rule, nor is there really a first rule or a second rule because here’s the thing about minimalism that a lot of people get wrong: there is no one right way to do it and it’s not something you do once and then never do again (spoiler alert, you’re going to fuck it up and have to make changes along the way) (and that’s OK! They don’t kick you out of the Minimalist Club because you lost your head for a minute in the middle of the Costco). While the stereotype of minimalism is having stark white walls and empty rooms that contain only one obscenely overpriced piece of furniture which is not only uncomfortable to sit on, but also masquerading as modern art…I have yet to find any real life minimalist who lives like this.
Minimalism is truly what you make it and define it to be for you and your family.
I’m still finding the right way to do this for us, but here’s where our definition of minimalism kicks in. For us, minimalism is having the right amount and no more. It’s the right amount of physical stuff. It’s the right amount of commitments. It’s the right amount of time together and time apart. It’s carefully deciding what I want to add to my already lengthy list of responsibilities. What is important enough to compete for my already limited time, energy, and attention?
What is important enough for me to choose it over my kids? Over my husband? Over the people and experiences I *want* to fill my life with?
Now it might not seem like seasonal dish towels will be all that time, energy, and attention consuming…but consider this:
The average American household has 300,000 items. How much time, energy, and attention are devoted to each of those 300,000 things?
Individually? Not much. Cumulatively? Holy shit. What else could you be doing with your time, energy, and attention if you didn’t have to be responsible for literally 300,000 things?
Then there’s this:
That’s 10 minutes a day searching for lost items because we just have too much stuff to keep up with, so tack that onto whatever number you want to come up with for how long it takes you to care for your 300,000 things.
It’s too much to be responsible for, especially when the things that really matter are being neglected in the pursuit of more stuff.
That day in Target strung together feelings and dreams and hopes that were years in the making. It wasn’t a magical moment of a life suddenly transformed by minimalism, but it was a new beginning.
Next week, I’m going to invite you to see what exactly we are saying goodbye to in order to say hello to bus life…stay tuned.