By an interesting twist of fate - or, more aptly said, because I took advantage of my summer vacation to visit my mother, who lives 1500 km away - I ended up spending a few days in a house that, at first glance, is the epitome of anti-minimalism.
Not counting the mud room, workshop, attic, loft, basement and garage, my mother's house is over 5000 square feet, with ceilings 11 feet high and windows taller than me, and boasts 6 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, formal living and dining rooms, 2 sun rooms, 1 library/music room, a sauna, a large kitchen with walk-in pantry, 4 fireplaces + 1 cast iron stove, 2 stairways (one of which leads to what was originally the servants' quarters), many alcoves, built-in bookshelves, tons of storage space, and lots of architectural wonders. I'm not even mentioning the spacious decks and garden (and wooded area).
Two people live in there, namely, my mother and her partner.
Without being overwhelmingly cluttered per se, the house is also filled with massive furniture, antiques, works of art, paintings big and small, mirrors, sculptures, figurines, fine books, porcelains and crystals, beautiful rugs, all gathered during numerous travels around the world. When my mother's good friend called the house "a museum", she was at least partly right. (As for me, I am seriously considering writing a story based on the fascinating building, its contents and its surroundings.)
Surely, this looks and sounds like a life of luxury, and in some ways, it is. Past the first impression, however, there are many ways in which the two inhabitants of that house embrace at least some aspects of minimalism, perhaps not in terms of dollars spent and objects owned, but definitely in terms of healthy, environmentally-friendly choices.
- They bought an already existing house and piece of land, as opposed to building on a new lot.
- They upgraded it with energy efficient roof, windows, heating/cooling system, lighting, etc.
- They both work from home, so the house doubles as an office for the two of them. Consequently, they do not commute, they only need one vehicle, and don't use it daily. They also do not need work clothes.
- They rarely go "to town", avoiding most consumerist temptations.
- They are very mindful of electricity use and water use, don't watch TV, and dry their clothes on the line.
- They cook from scratch 95% of the time, using almost exclusively organic fruit and vegetables from their garden, and organic eggs and meat from small local producers.
- They make their own bread, yogurt, preserves, and canned goods. They don't buy packaged foods, prepared meals or bottled water.
- They compost, reuse and recycle everything (including seeds from the previous years).
- They use natural cleaning products.
- They play an active role in local matters, advocating for environmentally-friendly practices throughout the community.
- They both quit demanding and high-paying careers (one in finance, one as a physician) to refocus on something they actually love to do and requires less hours per week, albeit being significantly less lucrative.
All in all, it might still not qualify as a frugal life, but some conscious choices are made. Minimalism has many faces: you can live in small quarters and own few things. You can aim for self-subsistance and the smallest footprint possible. You can be mindful of what you do with your money and time. Minimalism is also a process: you start where you are, and you make your way toward simplicity.
Where are you at, simplicity wise? Where do you want to get?
WEEK 27 IN REVIEW
Observations and cogitations
Being on vacation has been the ultimate test for consumption. Especially when strolling through big cities in which wonderful stores filled with wonderful things abound, and in which people dress and drive with style. Most of us will probably never be able to afford the Maserati I saw, but we might still want to indulge in quality clothes, objects, food and drinks - at least occasionally. Doing so would be okay... especially if it's a treat, and as long as it's done mindfully. It all comes down to the concept of choice: what am I going to obtain from the purchase of goods and services? Is it worth my money and, if it's an object, is it worth the space it will take in my house and the dust it might gather? Is it worth the environmental impact?
This year, instead of walking in stores thinking "If I see something I like and/or a good bargain, I will buy it", I kept in mind the things we really needed, such as new shoes for the kids, a few specific items of clothing for us, and a new air mattress for camping. Those are the only things we bought. We saw many other beautiful objects, but instead of acquiring them, we simply admired them in passing. It was a nice opportunity to explain to the kids that "just because you like something and can afford it, doesn't mean you should get it".
Your turn to share about your struggles and victories of the week! What did you resist? Did you donate or get rid of anything? Did you face any challenge? Please comment below! And...
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