Joshua at Becoming Minimalist wrote a great blog post about sharing the untold stories. That is much of what I do here on Rethinking the Dream. I share the stories you won’t hear from most people that are living them. The stories of downsizing, minimalism, and decluttering. These are not things the cool kids are doing. The cool kids are buying new cars and bigger houses.
I got fed up with that lifestyle and competing with friends, family, and coworkers. My wife, my daughter, and I made some changes in our life to better align with the parts of life that feel more important. Things like adventures and travels, and more time for family activities.
(Note: This post was written a few months ago before my wife surprised me with the desire to buy a house. The house buying saga derailed this post for a while, but I feel there are some important messages here and I want to share it now.)
There are, however, untold stories in these untold stories. There are things I have chosen not to share because they don’t necessarily align with our greater goals, or because they don’t necessarily seem that important. In some cases I feel some disappointment in myself that I am not living minimalist in all aspects of my life. I believe that minimalism allows some flexibility, but it’s still hard to admit those shortcomings.
Today I am coming clean on a few things. I have four untold stories that will surprise some and horrify others. Hopefully this will serve to inspire those of you that feel you may not be completely living up to your own minimalist principles. I believe you can be minimal in some areas and not in others, and that it’s completely ok to do so.
How Many Cars does a Minimalist Need?
My first untold story involves transportation. We own three cars. I know many minimalists talk about going down to a single car, or going car-free. In our case, a car-free or even a single car would greatly hamper our freedom, as public transportation just isn’t a good alternative in Orlando.
Our three car situation started about a year ago. After owning my wife’s car for seven years, I decided it was time for my her to have a newer car. It was purely want driven, we had no need for a new car. She had been driving a a 1999 Lexus GS400 that we bought in 2007. We like to buy used luxury cars, as we find it’s the best mix of value and niceties.
Last year, we bought a 2007 Lexus GS350, which is the newer model of her old car. We broke one of our self imposed rules, and financed the car instead of paying cash. That makes this purchase a twofer in terms of our minimalist values – buying a car when we didn’t really need one, and financing instead of paying cash.
Actually, it’s a threefer, because we kept the old car instead of selling it. I’ve been driving my Jeep with the doors, windows, and top removed. It’s super fun to drive it that way — like mega super fun. The Jeep is parked in the apartment parking garage when not in use (now in our attached garage) , so it’s out of the weather and I can keep the doors and top off. The problem is, if I drive it to work, I have to put the doors and top on if we’re expecting rain, which is almost every day in the summer. The third car remedies this, as I can drive the car to work and keep the Jeep for the days it doesn’t rain, and for after work and weekend driving.
If I were solely operating from a logical perspective, I would sell the Jeep since it requires more maintenance and always seems to be needing something. But, it’s more fun to drive and sometimes emotion trumps logic.
This is totally not minimalist, totally not necessary, and yet, it’s totally working for me because of the fun factor.
Simple vs. Environmental
My second untold story involves our dinnerware. We use paper plates and bowls. We started doing this a number of years ago. My wife and I both hate washing dishes, and plates/bowls are the worst. There is always some food left over on them that needs to be scraped away and pre washed before they go in the dishwasher.
We remedied that by switching to paper plates. Now, when the meal is complete, we toss the plate in the trash. Easy peasy.
This is in no way environmentally friendly but it is totally simple. It’s one of those areas where Environmental and Simple can clash (although simple could also include not having to buy paper plates and washing real plates instead.) In any case, it’s something that has simplified our life during meal time.
We eat out a lot. Neither my wife nor I like to cook. I can’t stand it. It takes too much time, requires too much shopping, and results in too much cleanup. I also hate left overs.
When we downsized, we freed up some money in the budget to eat out more frequently. We aim for somewhat healthy meals at places like Chipotle, Tijuana Flats, or sit-down restaurants. We also keep the cost down and the portions small by splitting a dish. We also typically drink water (have you seen how much sodas cost at restaurants?)
(This has changed since we bought the house. We have been eating more meals at home due to budget constraints as we are more focused on fixing up the house. Plus we are no longer in walking distance to restaurants, so it’s less convenient now as well.)
We have some debt. We worked hard to get out of debt before we bought our first house. Most of the time in our house we were debt free. Towards the end of our time as homeowners we ended up with more expenses than paycheck, and credit cards floated the difference. After downsizing to an apartment, we started making some progress on paying them down and I ended up needing some dental work that I had been putting off. (There’s always something, right?)
How can we justify eating out and owning a third car when we have debt? We can’t. There is no way to justify the financial aspect of this at all. We could put more money towards credit card debt each month and cut back in other areas. Unfortunately, that area would likely be the fun stuff, and that goes against everything I talked about my post about Childhood Memories.
We are slowly paying down the debt while not incurring new debt. I’m paying finance charges, knowingly, for a time while we spend our time living life and doing fun things. Yes, it’s somewhat irresponsible; yes, it costs me more money in finance charges; yes, it will cost more in the long run. No, it’s not getting in the way of creating memories with our daughter.
There is no way to justify any of these untold stories. We’re moving along in life the best we can, and I can’t justify our shortcomings. We do great in some areas and not so great in others. We have room to improve. That’s all part of this adventure we call life.
Being Human might just mean “room to improve.” (tweet that)
I don’t know anyone who doesn’t have room to improve in some aspect of their life.
Time, once again, seems to be a limiting factor. We can’t improve everything all at once, we have to pick and choose. For a time I focused on self improvement, on being a better person. Then I focused on crafting our life to remove the unnecessary and focus on the values that seemed more important. I’m still a work in progress on both fronts.
I think that practicing minimalism, whether perfectly or imperfectly, makes room for us to enjoy our lives. You don’t have to be the perfect minimalist. Use minimalism as a tool. Use it where it makes sense. Use it to make room for the thing you enjoy and value. Maybe even use it so you can enjoy your secret guilty pleasures.
Overall, I feel I’m in a better place than I was 10 years ago. I like the values that come with minimalism. I feel better about my life and the direction it’s headed.
Do you have any untold stories you’d like to share? Do you feel like you are better now than you were 10 years ago?