Living deliberately, by design, thoughtfully. I’ve been attracted to minimalism for some time. I toy with downsizing even more than I’ve already accomplished, simply as a way to spend time doing the things I want to do. Truthfully I possess many things. I am blessed beyond measure. But I’m starting to want to pare down again, cut out waste, and use minimizing as a way to focus on what adds value to my life.

I typically look at what I own by keeping a mental tab of how useful it is, and when the last time I used it happen to be. I went through all our dishes and pitched coffee mugs, kitchen utensils, and water bottles that just take up space.

Ring Tailed Lemur at Cincinnati Zoo
Ring Tailed Lemur at Cincinnati Zoo

There is nothing more valuable than a useful skill, and you can’t buy a skill, you have to earn it. Some people think today’s culture of consumerism and materialism is derived from establishing status, which is true in some ways. However, I believe it’s because things help establish our identity.

Minimalism is about finding joy and value in your possessions, not being miserly. A friend of mine won’t spend $60 on a video game because he thinks it’s a waste. The games he does own he’s played dozens of times, sinking hundreds of hours into it. He finds joy in that, and there’s nothing wrong with it. Why not buy the game if you’d enjoy it so much?

The key though to accepting minimalism as the default is being very strategic in your purchasing decisions. A colleague relayed advice he’d received from his father about buying quality items. He said “we aren’t rich enough to buy cheap things.” I agree with that sentiment wholly. I buy and take care of things. I clean them and maintain them. I keep them in order. My grandfather did this, and kept a dishwasher for forty years. He just fixed it when it broke.

Given that everything you need to fix something is a YouTube video and click away, there’s no reason to pitch things once they break. There’s also no reason to replace things once the market introduces a newer and better version of it. For example, my push mower would be better served if it were a riding lawnmower. But, I have a small yard and I need the exercise. I’ve fixed it a few times already and know how to fix it again. It’s been reliable for me. It lives here now.

Something that really bothered me after my grandmother passing was cleaning out her house when we put it up for sale. It was a tiny home, but the basement was full of items that were mildewed from a leaky foundation. All of it had to be pitched and there was so much of it. I filled up and rented three big dumpsters. It was insane. She always did tell me that you typically carried more things into a house than you carry out, which is the case, at least until you die.

I hope when I pass that my sons look through my possessions and find value in it. I hope there aren’t too many dumpsters out front. I do suspect that many of my things will have tremendous wear and tear, but they will still work and have a use.

As an aside, two men are making a life’s work out of minimalism. Here is a trailer to the movie I watched recently. The best quote in it is “love people and use things, because the opposite never works.”