Real Life Minimalists: Ashley

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, we have a wonderful story from Ashley, who tells us how she discovered and embraced her inner minimalist.

Ashley writes:

I suppose I discovered that I had been something of a minimalist all along one day at the Apple Store. Grimacing as I note that my phone automatically capitalizes the store name, imbuing an element of respect that I do not emulate, I reflect back on the day that I had wanted to “check into that whole phone upgrading thing.”

My boyfriend and I drove the forty minutes to a mall big enough to support an Apple Store. In our locality, distance is often measured in time, due to the reality of nothing besides the Dollar General being in close proximity to our town.

(Side note: I had to manually capitalize Dollar General. Perhaps another subconscious reminder that the wealthy program us to recognize their concepts of respect and status?)

We walked into the melee, he more confidently than I, observing the unsatiated hordes pawing at tethered devices and ogling watches through the clear glass display cases. A young man tapped our names into a device to wait for attention, a second noted our concerns, and (much later) a third came to offer assistance.

He inquired as to our phone services as though judging us in accordance with an unseen ranking chart, asked about features that sparked interest, all the while noting that we both were somewhat taken aback and lagging in response times. On the Apple clock, it seems as though a moment of thought cannot be afforded the customer.

After the first wave of an overwhelming desire to flee subsided, I animated instantaneously. No, I am not on social media. No, I do not intend to start. No, I don’t download the apps for every store I visit in the hopes of easing my shopping experience.

If it could give a Star Wars type hologram voicemail I’d be interested, however. The gentleman was not amused.

Within five minutes, he had an estimate of which device would best suit our needs. They were approximately 1000.00 and 800.00, respectively.

I asked the question that had been already cast aside twice. “How am I billed? If I am not upgrading through my carrier, what happens?”

He happily jumped to his most eagerly anticipated part of his spiel; that is, he proudly discussed the company’s liaison with a third party bank that offers lines of credit to their customers. “Where is it? I want to go to there.”

“Miss,” he patronizingly sighed with a slight glance upward as though begging for patience, “it isn’t a brick and mortar bank, per se. You can’t simply walk in, as you stated. It’s just the wave of the future.”

“Would this go on my credit report?”

The gentleman stopped, mouth slightly agape, stammering that he had not had that question before. Four microphone relays later, the answer is yes.

I walked out. My boyfriend, who up to that point wasn’t especially eager to upgrade simply because he is “cheap,” asked me what happened.

I will not go into debt for a phone. I will not jeopardize the future of my credit report over a device that is outdated almost as quickly as it lands in my hands. And, God willing, I will manage my affairs well enough that I won’t have to worry about my credit report at all.

Up to that moment, he had known that I was inclined to donate things regularly and shop very little. He often laughed that he would be the next thing carted off to a charitable cause. It was this day that we both realized that this structure of belief, my worldview, ran far deeper than a few garbage bags of clothing. I had been the person who had failed to upgrade the television I was given in 1991 until 2013, both because she had become part of the family and because I was out adventuring too much to watch it regularly anyway. I had been the person who could give generously and regularly and find ways to not just make do, but make the best of it.

Recently, at the request of a close associate, we went to look at a large house. It would be a quick sell and we would stand to gain instant equity from the transaction. I went along, with an open mind, but within the first few moments he was thanking the seller for their time. I had just whispered to ask why there were two kitchen sinks. Honest question–I grew up humbly and had never seen this.

“I didn’t realize until I saw you standing in the middle of that ridiculously giant kitchen that we are both minimalists now. Let’s just stick with what we need.”

I never thought minimalism would have a contagious effect, but it has found us both certain that we can downsize our belongings to fit in the house he already owns, save a great deal, and embrace a future wherein we chase our dreams rather than dodging those bills.

{If you’d like to learn more about minimalist living, please consider reading my book, The Joy of Less, A Minimalist Living Guide, or joining my email list.}

20 comments to Real Life Minimalists: Ashley

  • Really interesting story. I guess the sales guy was not expecting what was coming from you Ashley. You see, people tend to live on autopilot. They have spiels and they are trained to deal with people. The only problem is that people are not the same. And our needs are not what they think they are. It is tough trying to live outside the norms of our society. And it is normal to not be welcomed when they feel that you are just too different.

  • Ennie

    Proper names are capitalised: it’s not subconscious programming, it’s just how English works (and you seem to be annoyed both when your phone does it and when it fails to).

    I don’t own a smartphone, but I do know not to go to an Apple store if I want a cheap one.
    Unless I want to feel smugly superior to all the “unsatiated hordes”.

    And give the salespeople a break: they’re on a low wage and dealing with hordes, apparently. If you don’t want the sales talk just tell them you’re only looking.

    But yes, I’ve no idea why anyone would want or need two sinks.

  • Well, you have just brightened up my Monday morning Ashley. I loved the comment about “unsatiated hordes pawing at tethered devices”. Brilliant! I am glad you saw the sales spiel for what was – an attempt to “shame” you into spending large amounts of money you don’t have on something you don’t particularly want or need. My husband often tries to talk me into having a smartphone but I have a little flip phone which suits my needs. Besides, as I often point out to him, if he has one, why do I need one as well? I would rather spend my money on other things. I like the sound of your boyfriend – he sounds like a keeper! Good luck to both of you. I hope the contagion spreads!

  • lisa

    Ashley – you are a very gifted writer. I truly
    enjoyed your post.

  • Amy

    Wow! I loved this post! I also don’t have a social media account or smart phone…I don’t even have a cell phone. When I tell people this they look at me like I’m crazy and cannot possibly live in today’s world. Ashley is right, though, they depreciate as soon as you buy them. And really??!! $1000.00 for a phone? That would buy a lot of weekends away hiking in the majestic Adirondack Mountains! (One of my very favorite activities!)

    Like Frances, I recognize that the salesman has a job to do. His enthusiasm undoubtedly ensnares many susceptible consumers before they even know it! Kudos to Ashley and her boyfriend for being able to walk away!

  • Diane

    One of my favorite posts–love this one!!

  • Cindy

    YAY, Ashley!! I commend you on listening to that still small voice within you instead of the loud voices and expectations of those trying to entangle us in the consumerism web. I can tell you, from experience, that living in a small, right-sized home will be a wonderful decision. You will be free to live your life without being entangled in situations that are so difficult to exit.

  • Tina

    I try never to buy anything new.
    My clothes,jewelry,books,and hobby
    materials are mainly second hand.
    However my husband and I have I
    phones but no laptops or printers
    because we live next to a huge
    public library if we need to print
    something.

  • SHERRI

    This is my favorite post so far on this site. You write very well, and I loved your story. It is all so true!

  • Deanna

    Good job on resisting the Apple brand. I don’t get why a phone has to cost as much a good laptop does. I can’t believe that can go on your credit report because I had never heard of that ever.

    I have a smartphone because as a young adult it suits my lifestyle for travel and work needs. I don’t need the newest one just one that works well.

  • e

    My favorite post so far.
    Thank you!

  • Barbara

    Wow, just wow. I agree that you write well, Ashley. But I would caution you to dial it back a bit on the judgement. I am intrigued by the concept of minimalism, and read this blog as a way to explore options. I could make a list of things about me that you would probably approve of. But, no…I might have been observed inside an Apple Store, which makes me part of an “unsatiated horde that paws and ogles at tethered devices.” Really? I will limit comment on the cynicism and “smug superiority” (thank you, Ennie!) that seems increasingly prevalent in our society.

    • Tania

      Agreed. You can be a minimalist and still find an apple product helpful (technology has many productive uses, not just social media). I like sarcastic humor but this came off as superior. Minimalism is not a competition.

    • Deann

      I think minimalism is about finding the thing YOU find meaniful and beautiful and focusing on those things; while not judging other people’s choices. For some of us a smart phone isn’t a gross purchase but something that adds extreme value. I have a wonderful minimalist friend who does have a treasured, edited book collection. Books are something I’ve purged but I’ve held on to special art pieces that provide great meaning. Neither of us would question the other’s minnimilist cred or put each other down as a mindless horde at the art fair or bookstore.

      I’m glad you found what’s important to you, but I’d caution you not to become sanctimonious and mean when considering what other people value.

  • Susan

    Beautifully written.
    Interesting that you are being judged for being judgemental.
    Ah, irony.
    Loved your post.

  • Grace

    Wow! I found the tone of this offensive.

  • Didn’t find this post well-written at all. Over-written. I’ll make sure I don’t do any shopping in your presence, Ashley. Even though I’m a minimalist, I might be judged for being human. Miss Minimalist, may I suggest you vet your posters a bit more carefully?

  • We have been married 45 years and still use the same stainless steel flatware my grandparents gave us and the dishes and pots and pans we got for gifts. I was talking to my SIL who’s been married over 50 years and has some of her gifts. We know a couple who asked for $350 per place setting china for a wedding gift. They are now divorced and the china is long gone. Recently, I looked on a gift registry and the towels are $50 each. My daughter and I are getting one for a shower gift. We picked a towel because they don’t break.

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