In today’s economy, it’s important to live within your means. So many people were hard hit in the 2008 recession and are still recovering, and the need for a budget is paramount in a society where so many have lost so much.
One simple way that my family saves money is by practicing minimalist habits. Minimalism is basically learning what it is that you really need, and learning to live without all the rest. It’s living a more intentional lifestyle, with clarity and purpose, with time to do the things you really enjoy, time to spend with family, and less time worrying about stuff and the work you have to do in order to get/maintain all that stuff.
Some people think minimalism is all about living in a barren white room with a blanket on the floor and less than 100 items, and some people have taken it to that extreme. It works for them, and that’s fine. Some people have simply gone through their belongings (and their life), and pared down. Minimalism can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re being honest with yourself about what you need/want and what you’re willing to do in order to maintain that level. Minimalism is about being deliberate, intentional, about taking the time to think about “things” and what they represent.
I was raised by parents who were raised by parents who lived through the Depression. It was passed on through the generations that you save everything, make do and mend, and stock up when there was a sale. This is basically good advice. However, my mother took it to the extreme, and at age 22, I found myself a young housewife with enough stuff stockpiled for three houses.
For several years I tried juggling all the stuff that had been passed on to me, as well as the normal accumulation that comes from being married with kids. By the time I was 26, I had so much stuff that every closet, bookshelf, under-the-bed-space, and drawer was overflowing, and I also had two attic rooms full of things I was keeping “just in case”. I felt smothered. I couldn’t find anything, I couldn’t keep track of what I had, and I eventually realized that it was actually costing me more to keep all of that stuff. It was a financial drain because I had to have a home big enough to store everything. It was an emotional drain because just thinking about trying to sort/organize/go through everything was simply overwhelming, and having it piled in every corner felt as though it was piled on my shoulders.
I finally had enough. I started going through drawers and closets. I started by getting rid of any duplicates. I had three blenders, two toasters, and three crock pots! It wasn’t hard to find good homes, although I did have to listen to my mother telling me that I’d “be sorry if my one and only appliance broke down”. I kept on downsizing my piles, having yard sales, making donations, and finally, tossing that which I hadn’t been able to get rid of any other way.
It took three years. I didn’t get rid of everything, but I had purged about 85% of what I’d owned. While removing so much clutter, I learned what items I used regularly, what items I needed to keep, and also what things meant a lot to me and what I wanted to keep. At this time, I still hadn’t heard of minimalism as a lifestyle. All I knew was that living with less worked for me. It meant that the items I had were things I truly used and/or loved, and that with less stuff, not only did I begin to appreciate what I had, I also learned to appreciate how much less work and finance it took to maintain that lifestyle.
My family was able to move from a large house to a smaller one. Our rent and utility costs dropped dramatically. We were able to keep track of our belongings, which meant that we didn’t spend extra money buying new things “because we forgot”. New purchases were thought out before buying. We started asking ourselves if we truly needed it, or if there was something we already owned that could do the same job. In many cases, we didn’t purchase that new item, saving us money. With living a more intentional life, we were able to focus on other activities, like eating well, exercising, and making new friends, instead of rushing out to buy the latest new electronic gadget. Our kids learned the fun of a family board game night, instead of sitting in front of an expensive video game system.
During the economic downturn of 2008, my husband and I lost our jobs. As it was, things were very hard for us, and we are even now still recovering. However, without learning to live a more minimalist lifestyle, if we’d still been living at the level that we had before we downsized, there is no way we would have gotten through these harsh economic times.
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