I got an e-mail from a reader a few weeks ago about minimalist living. I replied to her and we chatted a bit, but I wanted to share it with the rest of you in case other people have a similar question.
I think it represents frustration many people feel. So with her permission I am going to share with you the e-mail and respond.
Here is the e-mail:
I have been doing a lot of reading about minimalism lately, and I absolutely LOVE the sounds of it, and the benefits experienced. The 2 main things that I love about what people who are living minimalist lives talk about are (1) the money you can save and (2) the personal growth and new appreciation for the things that really matter (ex. finding a career that really suits you and fulfills you).
There is one BIG question that keeps coming up for me though… What if you already don’t have your own home (because you can’t afford it), but still want to cut back enough to save money and do the things you want?
I love the thought of de-cluttering your life, and focusing more on the things that matter, but I feel as though I just can’t make it happen financially (move into my own place, have a source of income that allows this, and get away from my 9-5 desk job that doesn’t pay enough). I know that’s a loaded question! But I am dying to find a solution.
There is a stereotype of minimalists that includes a cute little house or an all white interior condo. It says they don’t have to work a real job but are able to work on creative projects undisturbed. Someone who has paid off all their debts, doesn’t have money worries, and has extra money for travel or super high quality stuff for their little house.
Sounds nice doesn’t it?
This is probably the way many minimalists wish they lived 🙂
There are minimalists who live in cute little houses or condos, and there are minimalists who can 100% support themselves on work they love, and there are probably minimalists that make good money doing it. But these are the minority more than the majority.
Minimalism is about wanting less, needing less, and being content with less. It is human nature to compare and wish for something better and it isn’t wrong to have lifestyle goals, but wanting a better life needs to be a motivator in your life and not a roadblock.
The short answer to this question is – No, you don’t need to own your own home. Many minimalists don’t, they either rent or travel, or find another creative living arrangement. Really minimalism is a mind and choices thing more than it is a money thing.
Life is about making choices. Where much of society is driven by money and/or an amount of material possessions, choosing to be minimalist means you are choosing to be driven by something else – passion, purpose, priorities, or freedom. Making this change is not easy and it means changing habits and probably sacrificing for it.
Choosing to live minimalist is not something you have to save up to do, and it is not something you reach.
It is not a number of material possessions you have or any other external measure. Living minimalist is the change in your mind that has many (though different for different people) external evidences.
Honestly, not owning your own home is probably an advantage. I have spoken to many people who feel trapped in a big home they don’t want to pay for or take care of. A house is a financial, location, and often a lifestyle trap.
Many minimalists have jobs to pay for food and somewhere to live. They work on personal growth or other job prospects in their spare time or are just happy to let work be a tool and focus on living and enjoying life when they aren’t at work. Many do not make a lot of money but are finding contentment in things that don’t cost.
I am a minimalist and have considered myself one for a few years now. We became minimalist when we decided to change our life. We still had a house full of things and needed to work a lot to pay the bills, but we decided to start working our way out of it.
Through the last few years we have made several other changes but our decision to live this way has not changed, it has just adapted to what we can do at the time. Financially it has seen us make less and less money but we have been happier with our lives. We don’t have enough money to travel, write, and take pictures all the time (like we would love to do someday) but we focus on making the most of these areas of our life.
Currently we are living in China and are teaching English to pay the bills here. Though it took us a while to get here, it is not difficult to move to another country and experience it if you are willing to work while you are here. Teaching English jobs are everywhere, and if you have another profession you may have other opportunities. Our lives, time and financially, have not changed much since we left America. We still work to pay the bills but focus our energies on our kids, learning and exploring, serving God, and enjoying life in the present.
I would argue that (usually) a minimalist life doesn’t cost anything. If you have lifestyle goals that include a house, or the ability to take time off work, then saving money will be important. But neither is a pre-requisite to being minimalist.
The only time when a minimalist life may become too expensive is if you are in debt. Debt is the enemy of freedom… it sucks… and should be avoided or gotten out of as soon as possible. Debt can trap you in a lifestyle you don’t want to sustain. You can still make choices and work to get out of it, but it is the hardest to overcome.
Dream, grow, live, simplify, and serve however best fits with your situation. Look for ways to change where can, but make the best of the place ‘on the path’ you are at.
Thanks for reading!