I sort of backed into minimalism as a means to happiness. Before hitting the road last summer, we sold most of our possessions in order to raise money for our trip and eliminate the need to pay for storage while we traveled. In the process, I discovered and frequently espoused the benefits of owning less stuff. Now we’re getting settled into a new, less mobile home, and I’m finding it harder to keep living my values.
A few weeks ago, I showed Jared the Pinterest boards I’d created with design ideas for our future home. I had been pinning new couches and color palettes as eagerly as I’d subscribed to minimalist blogs a few months earlier.
“What are you doing?” Jared asked, not so much out of curiosity but with more than a hint of disbelief.
“We’re going to have a new home to decorate again!”
“So you’re going to buy a bunch of stuff to replace everything we got rid of?”
“Well, we have to… I mean.. I’m not going to replace everything…”
It turns out I have no idea how to do minimalism in a typical home, and, once again, extremism proves to be easier than real life.
Jared wants to fill our rental with Goodwill and Craigslist finds. His focus is on making do and spending as little as possible. I want to invest only in things we love, focusing on versatility and aesthetics at the best price possible.
Jared reminds me that buying secondhand items has less of an impact on the environment. Conservation is important to both of us, especially after visiting Costa Rica, and we want to model a respect of nature for our kids. Our common values also include putting experiences over things, spending money and time consciously, and getting the heck out of the house as often as possible.
And I know this, man.
But, as Emma so aptly told me from the balcony of a luxury resort in Turks and Caicos, “it’s just easier to be happy when I’m surrounded by beautiful things.” The kid has a point.
I loved our Florida house. I loved the paint colors we’d chosen and every piece of furniture. I felt accomplished and like a “real grown up” because of the home I’d created there. While I no longer want my maturity or feelings of self worth to be defined by a house, I do miss the sense of home I had there.
The RV never felt like home. My family became my home base, a transition that I’m grateful for and wish to maintain, but a part of me has been longing for a nest, a sense of place. It’s been over a year since I spent a Sunday afternoon or a Friday night lounging on a couch. I miss that. I want that.
But do I need a brand new leather couch with clean lines and smartly hidden storage in order to comfortably lounge?
And yet, contemplating the comfort of home quickly gives way to filling up a home. One moment fantasizing about the familiar and I fall head first into consumerism and tradition. I spent a year hiking away from that mental rut and could, in one week, surround myself so completely with trappings that one would never know I lived in an RV for a year.
I think that’s what Jared is afraid of and what he is warning me against. His life has changed more than any of ours in the last year, and so I suspect he has the most to lose by a return to the way things were. (Ironically, it’s for this same reason that I’m warning him against working too much.)
I turned to Joshua Becker, author of Becoming Minimalist, for some advice on how to create a home from scratch without overdoing it. He pointed me to a recent HuffPo article by Francine Jay – Less Is More: 15 Pieces of Furniture You May Not Really Need.
I bought the new couch anyway.
I have not, however, purchased a coffee table yet. I’ve also held off on dressers, end tables, bookshelves, an entertainment center, and a frame for my bed.
I did buy a vintage 50s-era kitchen table with a salmon-colored top and totally cool upholstered chairs. I’m using a sheet of packing foam for a kitchen rug on purpose, but I love the crap out of that table and chairs set.
I’m trying to focus on the basics and ask myself why before I bring anything into our home. I’m also indulging in things that inspire a smile when I look at them. I’m trying to create a home with integrity while nailing down the difference between what I value and what I think I should value.
I’m working on balance, in other words, something that is not nearly as simple as fanaticism.
The results, so far, are mixed.