Minimalism Should Always Be a Choice

This week on his blog Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker brings up a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately – how the coronavirus will impact minimalism. If you have a bit of time, which you probably do right now, I’d encourage you to read it.

We are 8 years into our minimalist journey and it is very much still that – a journey. We have gone through all the usual minimalist stages – decluttering, downsizing, reassessing our finances, re-evaluating how we spend out time, etc. and still every year, we find some new way to simplify our life. Minimalism is something that we strive toward…on purpose.

Long ago, Angie and I came up with our personal definition of minimalism. It looks something like this…

We like to think that minimalism is about incorporating simplicity into your everyday life, about learning to live within your means and finding enjoyment in experiences, rather than in acquiring stuff. But most importantly, it’s about understanding yourself and what makes you happy.

I think most minimalists and aspiring minimalists feel this is a fair definition. So, bearing that in mind, let me get to the point.

In his post, Joshua Becker talks about how the economic fallout from this crisis may force people into minimalism. He and I both agree – that is not the way things should be. And that has got me thinking – if someone is forced into minimalism, is it really minimalism?

I’m inclined to think not.

This worldwide crisis has caused life to slow down and in many ways, that’s not a bad thing. We all could use a little break from the chaos that has become our lives of late – a chance to enjoy our homes, our families, our passions, and not worry about keeping up with the Joneses (because they can’t shop right now either). If out of this mess, a handful of folks start to think about what’s really important in their lives and move toward minimalism or voluntary simplicity, then that’s awesome! We welcome you to the tribe!

But when we’re talking about forced minimalism, we aren’t really talking about the people who can afford to take this time for quiet contemplation, are we? We’re talking about the many, many others who find themselves out of work, struggling to put food on the table because stocking up just wasn’t a financial option, and wondering if and how the rent will get paid this month. So yes, this crisis is forcing people into being more frugal, more careful with their resources, more minimal, if you will, but not in the way you’d want anyone to get there. Involuntary simplicity is stressful and doesn’t often lead to anything that resembles a better life.

I would love, love, love to live in a world where people buy only what they need, work only when they want to, and spend all their free time nurturing themselves, their relationships, and their communities. But in order for that – or any other version of the simple life to work – it has to be voluntary.

I do hope that this crisis is a call to those of us who have the privilege to choose a more minimal life to be a resource and an inspiration to others. Share your story. Share your tips. Share your thoughts, your fears, and your ideas. Now is the time to support and guide one another – especially those who are facing tough times – because that’s what we’re really talking about here. A crisis can’t force someone into minimalism but it can force them into debt or despair, and that’s not a road I want any of us to have to take to arrive at a simpler life.


What brought you to minimalism? What benefit does it bring to your life? Do you have an inspiring story to share with others? Just write a post and send me the link at minimalistsnextdoor@gmail.com. I’ll share the link to your story in our post next Wednesday (4/8/20).

The Sprouts Are Taking Over!

Okay, not really but it is kind of fun to look around our apartment and see things sprouting in almost every windowsill and on top of our dresser.

We are now under a “safer at home” directive in our county, which means that all non-essential businesses have been asked to close for at least 7 days. My Target gig sent out a memo saying that we were still being allowed to service our stores but could opt out without any repercussions if we did not feel safe going into them. Right now, I feel okay about it; however, my sister was sent by her employer to be tested yesterday. She works in a grocery store and they have reason to believe she may have been exposed (and she is exhibiting symptoms similar to bronchitis). The doctor advised her to stay home for 4 days while she awaits the test results. Right now, she’s in good spirits, just relaxing and watching Netflix. (In case you’re wondering, my sister lives an hour and a half away and we have not seen her since February 10th – so we’re good here.)

In a lot of ways, we aren’t really feeling the impact of having to stay home. We pretty much stay home anyway. But we are missing our niece and nephew. They are too little to understand what’s going on and just want Meme and Monkey (that’s what our niece calls Angie) to take them to the playground.

Why does she call Angie Monkey?? Because it was the first word Angie taught her so she has always associated the name with Angie. And also because Angie LOVES monkeys (and bananas). Plus, it probably didn’t help that we (the adults) all liked it so much that we started calling her Monkey too – just maybe not in public. 🙂

In the meantime, we’ve been building a playground of sorts in the backyard – a playground for plants that is. A few weeks ago, we built a raised bed next to our blackberry bushes and garlic. Over the weekend, we finished the space (or at least finished what we can right now).

A lot of the materials for this project were sourced from the creek. You see, last fall, Angie and I decided to clean up the creek that runs behind my mom’s house. The creek does not belong to us but we do have to look at it (and we figured that the factory that now owns the property probably cared less about it than we do) so we adopted it. We pulled out all sorts of trash, cut branches and barbed wire, and removed a lot of old cattle panels that had fallen across the creek bed and were collecting trash. We saved the cattle panels to use as trellises and we started removing some of the rocks to allow the water to flow better. The result – we now have a tiny waterfall!!

Our newly cleaned up creek.

We used the rocks as a border for our new garden area and filled in the walkways with mulch that we bought in “busted bags” for half price at Lowe’s. When the garlic is harvested in June, we plan to mulch the rest of the space and add a couple of tubs for growing potatoes. The area with the small trellis is for our peas.

If all goes well weather-wise tomorrow, we’re going to put our cool weather crops in the raised bed – onions, radishes, kale, and spinach.

Have you started your seeds or garden projects yet? How are you adjusting to staying home (if you are also under a safer at home advisory)?