Our weekly staff meeting was about to start but the chatter had yet to die down. The topic – tiny houses. “I can’t even turn on HGTV anymore on Fridays,” Kathy said. “It’s all tiny houses and I just don’t get it.” I smiled to myself, that smile of knowing oh-so-well just what Kathy didn’t get. Living in a tiny home is an exercise in minimalism and minimalism is a hard concept for a lot of folks to grasp. It is after all, the antithesis of the American Dream. Instead of bigger and more, you have to embrace smaller and less. To confirm my thoughts, Kathy added in an exasperated voice (as if the mere thought of tiny houses might drive her to drink), “Just where would I put all my stuff?”
Tiny house or no tiny house, minimalism is not without its own rewards. We’ve found that being a minimalist has given us:
More freedom. For a long time I bought into the American Dream. I owned a house. I had a good corporate job with benefits and a career ladder. I had cars with car payments and toys with toy payments. And the whole time I felt trapped. I couldn’t play with the toys because I was too busy keeping them up. Today, we rent an apartment. We own one car. Our toys are bicycles, kayaks, and Kindles. We’ve lived in 3 states in 5 years; traveled to 6 countries and 13 states. We’ve had big adventures and small ones, but the best part of having freedom is knowing that we own every day of our lives and we can decide at any time how we want to spend them.
Less stress. Admittedly, last summer’s misadventure was one of the most stressful experiences we’ve had in recent years. That aside, having fewer responsibilities makes for a far less stressful environment. Getting rid of debt got rid of our money stress. Committing to live life on our own terms alleviated the stress of keeping up with the neighbors, as did deciding to buy only what we needed. There are still stressors in our lives but we approach them differently now, knowing that nearly everything in life is temporary and usually pales in comparison to the goals and dreams we have set for ourselves.
Greater resourcefulness. It is super easy these days to run to the store and buy whatever you need. It’s more difficult to figure out how to fill a need with what you already have. Minimalism forces you to think through problems to find creative solutions rather than buy more stuff. I think the few months we spent in the RV, fixing everything from wiring to rotted flooring, helped us reconnect with our “can do” spirit.
Increased clarity. Clearing mental clutter is equally as important as clearing physical clutter. When there’s space in the mind, an amazing thing happens – ideas begin to flow, goals and dreams take shape, and imagination blooms. I see it happening with us every day. Decisions come easier because we have a clear defining line.
Gratitude. It’s hard to be thankful when you’re not satisfied with your life or when you’re pulled in a dozen different directions by stressful obligations. Like clarity, gratitude increases when you cut the clutter. I might not always like what the day brings my way but I’m always grateful for the day itself. Lately, I also find myself being more grateful for things I once took for granted – time with my family, a good night’s sleep, and having plenty to eat.