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Life Happens: Minimalism, being happy with less

Iíve recently become aware of a growing social shift in our country. Usually, I am clueless when it comes to major paradigm shifts and other changes in the American scene. But this time, I became intrigued and wanted to know all about this new way of thinking. This new movement is known as minimalism, and more people than ever before are embracing it.

Minimalism is the exact opposite of our current consumer-driven, possession- obsessed, gotta-have-the-newest-and-best mentality. Minimalism is very close to the way things used to be ,back when my grandmother was raising her children, 75 years ago.

People made do with what they had. They didnít spend money on things they didnít need. They had a better perspective on what was really necessary, mostly because they didnít have disposable cash. Possessions were passed down from mother to daughter, father to son and from sibling to sibling.

Somehow, as incomes rose and items became cheaper with mass production, people started to buy more things. The push was for bigger and better, newer and brighter. Instead of using things up and wearing them out, we started stashing all our extra junk in all the nooks and crannies of our houses. Sometimes, people felt they had to buy bigger houses in order to have even more possessions.

So, here we are in the 21st century, swamped with clutter. Or at least thatís the way Iíve been feeling, lately. Iím coming to the realization that I donít need any more stuff. Iíve got everything I need to survive, many times over.

I always thought I was economical and almost puritanical, in my devotion to my grandmotherís thrifty philosophies. But even so, Iíve got a house crammed to the gills with who knows what, and two closets filled with clothes that Iíve been accumulating since 1983. I probably, realistically, wear the same three outfits most of the time and the rest of it just sits there mocking, my materialism.

Minimalism embraces using what weíve already got, rather than what we think we need to have. There are minimalist extremists who are paring down their lives to the bare bones and reducing their footprint on the planet, as much as humanly possible. There are women who have reduced their wardrobes to only 33 items and that includes socks, shoes and jewelry. There are men who bike to work, so that they donít need cars.

Iíve come to embrace this movement as an ongoing project, rather than a complete lifestyle makeover.

I started by getting rid of the things that I never use, that have outlived their usefulness or that I have no idea why I bought, in the first place. Iíve made many trips to the Goodwill trailer at Tops, and even more to the used clothing shed in the church parking lot on Main Street in Hamburg. Iíve dumped boxes of used books in the used book bin in the Hamburg Shopping Plaza parking lot.

And Iím not done. Iíve completely stopped shopping, except for food, of course. The act of donating several black garbage bags of stuff does squelch the urge to go buy more paraphernalia that Iíll never use.

Getting my two closets condensed into one was a major feat that took a couple of weeks. I had no idea I had so many ridiculous duplicate purchases. How many tank tops does one person need? How many jackets? How many pairs of jeans? Itís embarrassing how many black sweaters I own. People probably think Iíve been wearing the same sweater for the last 20 years, so I might as well just keep one and wear it all the time.

As I continue to make my trips to the various donation drop spots, I can feel the atmosphere of my house becoming more expansive. Thereís more air. Thereís room to spread out. I can live in the present, instead of being all tied up in the past. There is comfort in knowing that, at this moment, I donít need another thing. If this is what minimalism can do, then Iím all for it.
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2013-12-28 | 13:23:02
Only clutter
While I applaud the ideas in this article, the writer is actually talking about reducing clutter. She does not claim to embrace minimalism herself by cancelling the cable tv service, tossing the smart phones, becoming a one car family, downsizing her own house, or other evidence of a simple lifestyle. Of course we all have reasons (excuses) that we need these conveniences. But lets call it reducing clutter rather than minimalism, and be happy with that.