Every Monday I post Real Life Minimalists, a profile of one of my readers in their own words. If you’d like to participate, click here for details.
Today, I’m happy to feature Vappu from Cat’s Meow. An unfortunate situation recently reduced her possessions to a single bag; but as a long-time minimalist, she’s handling it with grace. She blogs about minimalism with kids at www.lifeshouldbethecatsmeow.blogspot.com.
I’m what you would call a natural/born minimalist. Even as a kid I fancied being able to carry everything I own in a bag with me. As a student living alone, my apartment was spartan, and I have to admit I actually got rid of something I had to later replace. (It was a strainer – I forgot that I don’t necessarily need it for pasta, rice is difficult to drain without a strainer.) I had a more cluttered period when I moved in with my husband. He was not yet aware of the benefits of minimalism, and I had a difficult time adjusting to the fact that I could not control the stuff in our home and I couldn’t make it “perfect”. Cleaning days made me mad because I got frustrated that it never got the way I wanted anyway, so why bother?
After I came across the classic book “Clear your clutter with Feng Shui” by Karen Kingston, and even thought I don’t practice Feng Shui, things just clicked and my feelings were validated and finally made sense to me. My husband read the book also, interested by the reaction in me, and it had the same effect on him! That was really the start for us, even though there have been times when our home was filled to the brim it seems, like when I was in art school an painting five meter paintings in our living room, or when I learned to spin yarn and our living room was turned into craft studio for a few months!
Then we had a daughter three and half years ago. I stayed at home so much that I really had to feel calm and serene there. The only sensible thing to me was clear the home to the bare minimum. Our home was a one bedroom, 600 square foot apartment. I turned it sparse, airy, spacious and kid-safe so that she could explore freely, and best of all, it was now easy to clean and maintain. We co-slept and her toys had a designated area in the living room.
Fast forward to this spring. We lost everything we own, to a bad mold issue in our apartment. (So bad I was vomiting and nauseous for months and the doctors couldn’t find a reason.. my daughter had nosebleeds and a bad cough.. you get the picture.)We tried to save our stuff by washing in hot water etc. but in the end the only things we could keep were a couple of my favorite baking bowls and metal chairs to keep outside in the porch. It may sound hard to believe, but the stuff from our moldy apartment was so contaminated with mold toxins that it made me vomit too.
As we were already minimalist, we only had two van-fulls of stuff between the three of us. We moved to my childhood home which we are renting now from my dad. We own a grocery bag’s worth of stuff each. I have 15 pieces of clothing including shoes. I don’t ever want to buy anything expensive ever again. That used to be my thing – buy less but buy the best. Sure I will still prefer handmade and fair trade and organic – but mostly I will try to go without, and certainly not buy any luxury items. It can all be gone in a minute, and the money can be so much better spent on charity, good food, and savings to live an independent life with freedom to choose what you want to do and where you want to live. I actually really prefer not to own much of anything. This house is fully furnished and equipped, we will put some of the excess in storage because it’s not ours to donate, but otherwise we will not make much changes.
This feels like a final lesson in minimalism for me – I now really think that ownership is burdensome and that we should not own anything that we will grieve losing. And that we really do not own anything anyway, it’s all just on loan.