Recently Crystal and I have started to reexamine (yes, again) our needs -vs- wants and pare down our lifestyle. We have decided that what we want is what we want and not what is dictated to us by clever marketing campaigns or society at large. The case is made even more clear in today’s post.
Editor’s Note: the following post was written by Dusti Arab of minimalistadventures.
What advertisers want us to believe: Bigger Stuff + Bigger House + Bigger Car = Bigger Happiness.
What people are finding to be true: Less Stuff + Smaller House = Freedom = True Happiness.
While there are more variables involved in this equation, this is the basic gist of why people are turning to minimalist living in response to our consumer culture. For many people, it is also a direct response to the conditions they were put in due to the Great Recession. Tiny homes are also a response to the recession, as well as the McMansion fad. Tiny homes reject the ideals associated with McMansions in favor of taking a very visible step towards sustainability and environmental stewardship. I would argue minimalist living and tiny homes are like peas in a pod when it comes to loving the planet, embracing simplicity, and striving for true happiness.
Minimalism and tiny homes have some definite similarities, like step one is downsizing your stuff. Downsizing your stuff is the first step to achieving freedom. Let me explain. Stuff holds you down. It is what keeps you in the status quo, trapped in your home with all of your stuff the media has convinced you was necessary to live. If you have a tiny home, it can only hold so much stuff, even if you pack it to the ceiling. Now, I’m not sure why anyone would want to live in that sort of clutter, so when you embrace a tiny home lifestyle, you also appreciate that to live comfortably you will need to have less things; you may even acknowledge you actually need less things.
Another thing they have in common is minimalists and tiny home owners both purposefully live with less to achieve simplicity and happiness. I feel this is an important distinction to make. They live purposefully. They live actively with simplicity in mind as the means to gain happiness. This active participation in how their life functions day to day gives them a peace of mind and an appreciation for it beyond what any object could possibly add to it. The idea that you don’t need to have masses of possessions to maintain your happiness is counterintuitive to what much of what society believes as true.
Similarly, tiny home owners and minimalists have in common the media, which doesn’t want you to do either of these things. I say the media because it is that thing communicating to us what it is we “need.” The media exists for two reasons. The first reason is they market products to us, products designed in order to make us happier or better than the people around us. Second, the media is there to market a stream of thought. They tell us you need stuff to be happy. You need to compete to be happy. Guess what? It’s not true! The media doesn’t want you to think for yourself, because it means you’ve stepped off the machine and aren’t consuming. Since this is inherently bad for their paychecks, they will never advocate this kind of lifestyle.
Not everything about minimalism or tiny living is fun or easy, however. They are both stigmatized. By not being in the status quo and choosing to be different, you are putting yourself in a place where you will be ridiculed. I have been made fun of, teased, accused of glorifying poverty, called crazy, told my daughter will suffer the same, and informed that I can’t possibly be happy with my life as it is. I’m here to say that none of those things are true. In fact, I have never been happier. I have a wonderful partner who loves me very much, a daughter who is happy and healthy and extraordinarily well behaved, and less than 100 things that don’t own me. How many people can say that about their lives? I would argue most minimalists would. Thus, I would also conclude most tiny home owners would as well.
So, how shall we then live? Well, I would ask a few questions to see if this lifestyle may be for you.
1. Are you happy?
Take a second to really think about that question. No knee-jerk responses. You may have achieved a life you thought you wanted, but what if now you feel totally oppressed by your home, the stuff in it, and maybe some of the people in your life? Do you feel trapped? Are you sacrificing too much of yourself for others? Take a hard look at your life and consider if everything in it is contributing to your happiness, which leads me to my next question…
2. Do you have tons of extra stuff in your house you don’t need?
This is probably part of the problem. We’ll figure out how to fix it in a moment, but consider why you have so many things. Do you use them all everyday? The answer is usually no. Why did you buy them in the first place? It could have been for a hobby you no longer do, a former need you no longer have, or a multitude of other things, but chances are that part of you thought you needed it.
I don’t mean this in a condescending way; what I mean is that you’re being bombarded with advertising messages constantly, telling you what you need to be happier, prettier, or more popular. This is where the illusion of the Joneses comes into play. With media regularly targeting specific items to your insecurities, usually ones created by the media, it becomes easy to think that maybe buying this expensive, new item will actually live up to those benefits. I have something awful to tell you, though. We are being lied to. These lies keep us in our place on the work-spend treadmill, speaking of which…
3. Do you hate your job?
You’re not the only one. Working for other people has this funny way of being terribly unsatisfying for many of us. On the other hand, it is much easier to work for someone else. So much less responsibility involved. But, if you really hate your job and can’t quit yet, there are ways to make it less awful like working less. Working less is great. However, that does mean you need to downsize the amount of money you spend. Check out (link) for tips.
4. Do you want out?
There is a way. Here’s how to do it.
Seriously. If you can do those three things, you will see some amazing changes in your life. Build a tiny home, or buy one if that’s not your thing. Or don’t. Travel the world. Follow your dreams. Put it towards what you love doing. Just do something that matters, and you will be well on your way to living your adventure.
Because, after all, life is an adventure. Simply live it.
Dusti Arab is a student, mom, and writer of Minimalist Adventures. She can be contacted at Dusti Arab