It’s Not Minimialism; It’s Gratitude

Saturday, September 15th, 2012

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all of the things we have chosen not to buy in our new house. I’ve started posts in my head about the benefits, funny things like how I’ve learned how to reheat food in an oven for the first time at 32 years old. But it isn’t the creative problem solving that encourages me not to make purchases that I once considered routine. It’s not a fear of clutter or a desire to reduce cleaning time. It’s not even about my rebellious inclination to question everything.

Instead of buying a new set of dishes, we decided to use my Nana's china every day.

My acts of minimalism – or frugality, as the case may be – are about cultivating a life of gratitude.

I decided not to buy a microwave when we moved into our new place. It was actually not the microwave I feared as much as the microwave cart or table that we would need to hold it – a piece of furniture that would provide empty storage and additional counter space that needed to be made not empty. When I’d signed the lease on our tiny kitchen, a room with only one drawer, I’d just assumed we would be buying that extra storage space, but then I unpacked our stuff and everything fit.

“Let’s just see if we can manage with what we have,” I said.

And we have managed just fine. More than fine. With the exception of wishing on occasion that I could eat Thai leftovers RIGHT NOW instead of 15 minutes from now, I haven’t suffered at all because of our lack of microwave or extra kitchen furnishings.

By not making that compulsory purchase, we learned we had more than enough.

Jared and I have had fun hunting through thrift stores and estate sales the last few weeks. I think he has Craigslist bookmarked on his iPad. It is fun to see what trash you can turn into treasure and what space you can fill for pennies. But, I have also tried to be careful during our expeditions to only pick up things I’d already decided I wanted before I left the house and to stick with my monthly budget (something that is easy to do because we only use cash.) Jared gets frustrated by these restrictions sometimes.

“It is such a good deal!”

“But we don’t need two more couches.”

“Man, I can’t believe I am out of money. Those jeans are awesome!”

“But you were completely happy before you saw those jeans – and remember all the great stuff you bought with that money you no longer have?”

He is just as committed to living within a budget as I am, but he still wishes the budget was bigger. I tried to explain to him this morning why I didn’t while he was gushing over the new iPhone 5.

“I love my phone,” I said. I have an iPhone 4S, so this is not a difficult statement to make. “I loved it two days ago before the iPhone 5 came out, and I love it still.”

Like I told my husband, not buying the latest and newest isn’t about saving money or working towards sainthood, it’s about remembering to appreciate what I already have. It’s about not letting outside forces create a hole in my life where there wasn’t one before.

And, for me, living within our budget is about living with integrity. It means dealing with the consequences of the principles I professed when I created my budget. It means saying “yes, I am willing to live my values even when it is uncomfortable or annoying. Even if those jeans are on sale.”

Of course, I can play these gratitude games with myself because I am blessed. Going with or without is a luxury I can choose. Learning to live with an iPhone 4s or a 3 bedroom/2 bath duplex without a microwave should not in anyway be construed as a sacrifice.

And that is what I want to never forget.

I already have so much. I have the means to acquire more. I have what I need and what I want, and I can easily provide my children with both. What a gift! What a rare, precious gift in a world where so many people make do – and sometimes don’t – with so much less.

What a tragedy it would be to forget to be grateful in the face of all I already have.

Simply put, buying less forces me to hold onto gratitude and remember just how much I have already been given.

Plus, I’m saving up for a trip to New York in December. :)

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  1. daniel says:

    The only thing I’d do differently is buy mismatching dishes at the thrift store. We have a microwave, but every once in a while I like to remind myself how to reheat leftovers “the old fashioned way”. I’m going to have to get a new phone soon out of necessity (3 year old Droid, battery life of a fruit fly).

    Sometimes you do need a little bit of wiggle room in your thrift store visits. It may not be directly on your list, but if it is something you need and would use every day, and is a great deal, at least have the conversation about whether or not to deviate off the list.

    It’s an interesting journey – reading your blog of several years, the period before you all even decided to pack up (lots of up and downs) then there’s the time after you decided to travel around the country, the build up and then the travel, and now this. Makes me smile on the inside.
    daniel’s most recent post: Lewis & Clark Interpretative Center (And Fort)

  2. moorni says:

    Beautiful post. I read and enjoy your writing. This one really hit home and game me the words to help explain to my daughter that even though she may have enough money to buy another such and such which she already has but that I want us to learn to appreciate what we have, what can we do to make your other such and such more used and appreciated. But its not just for my kids it a reminder for myself too. Thanks.

  3. Becca says:

    Yes, we are learning to do the same. I have been worried about not contributing financially to our house. We got a call from work yesterday, and I have another shared leave check waiting for me. I said “yeah, I can contribute groceries!!” crys said I contribute every day just by being here.

    It’s just a matter for all of us to learn that we can do this on one salary, and still be relatively comfortable.

  4. Carly says:

    Love love love! Your battles with consumerism strengthen mine. :) Best
    Carly’s most recent post: Big Productive Weekend, Pt 2 (Bed Project)

  5. Nicole P. says:

    I love this. It really is a struggle to deal with the onslaught of stuff we think we need. It really is just one more thing to take care of, clean, and maintain.
    Nicole P.’s most recent post: One year ago

  6. Dee says:

    I absolutely agree with you – and inspired by you I got rid of my microwave 3 weeks ago.

    Now I can’t figure out how to heat up my wheat bag :-D

  7. Carol says:

    You heat up leftovers in your oven? Is this as cost effective as if you were able to get a freecycled or cheap microwave? I’m not being snarky, just wondering about the energy it requires to heat the whole oven vs a few minutes in the microwave.
    I hate buying stuff just because it’s the newest thing out there, myself.
    I prefer found goodies and recycled/repurposed, too.
    If only my teenager agreed… :-)

    P.S. I envy your one drawer, my kitchen has none.

    • Miss Britt says:

      Honestly, I have no idea! I never even considered the energy efficiency of an oven vs. a microwave.

    • i use my cooktop and my tiny toaster oven to do leftovers. or i eat em cold because i love, love, love most food as cold leftovers. but i also don’t get turning on the oven to reheat something that could be done on top of the stove (which most stuff actually can). turning on the oven to me means cranking on the ac again, so i avoid the oven from april through most of november.
      hello haha narf’s most recent post: Adventure in Tahn

  8. When we moved to New York in 2008, we left a house with a microwave built in. It was always our intention to buy one, but we kept forgetting, and now it’s four years later and not having one is second nature.

  9. momma says:

    So impressed.

  10. the muskrat says:

    It’s a good attitude to have…I had it in our old house, but now every time there’s extra money, I want to fix something in our home! I’m not a fan.
    the muskrat’s most recent post: muskrat does dallas

  11. Kent says:

    Having no microwave teaches you a lot… including patience. I don’t know if I could handle it as well as you are.

    Saving for NYC = fun!

  12. [...] We moved to Pittsburgh and I began the business of making a home. I remembered how much happiness beauty had once brought me. I loosened my grip a little on the idea of Minimalism. [...]

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