Am I A Minimalist, Really?

Post: by Kelly Murphy

Am I a minimalist, really

Well, I thought I was.  I had been sorting through stuff  over the last three or four years. And don’t we all have different views of what a minimalist is and what a minimalist does?  

As I’ve said before, my mission toward becoming minimalistic has been gradual, and began just by simply purging unused teaching stuff, and clothing. 

My childhood home looked “lived in” or cluttered, since Mom and Dad were both very ‘innovative repurposers’. We had lots of stuff around, and while this was due to necessity, it provided me lots of time spent dusting, cleaning, organizing, and straightening. Most of which I found annoying.  We saved mostly everything, and were very minimalist and thrifty with our resources, but as for getting rid of “unneeded stuff-not so much…because, well ..we needed everything. 

 This type upbringing, can affect a person one of three ways… live the same way,-keep everything, or go in the opposite direction-get rid of everything, or like me… adopt a combination of both.   Over the past five years, visiting my mom has always left me with a fervor to go back home and purge my belongings, so that when I am gone, that aspect of my leaving, my possessions, won’t complicate their feelings of my loss. While I try not to think about those aspects of having to deal with her possessions upon her departure I know it’s inevitable.

 Anyway,  when I returned to our Memphis home, and began to purge, I started to experience that feeling of space, and I liked it!
Sometimes, it was just when I dusted and cleared of my desk, other times it was when I ditched half of the clothes from my closet I never wore. Once, it was when I went through my kitchen container cabinet and threw out 10 Cool Whip containers I’d used for leftovers. I’d have been happy to recycle them,  but they are #5s, which my local recycling center didn’t take.    And sometimes it was just by disposing of my daughter’s school papers, keeping only the highlights, and not every single piece.  It felt good. Now, I am not saying go rent a dumpster and get rid of everything-unless you want to do that… I am just saying for me-gradual was the way it worked best.

But now…after returning to my mother’s home,

  • (due to being recently separated,
  • and now being sued for divorce,
  • left with zero cash flow, (except for the less than state-required child support received by the father)
  • after 14 years of being a stay@home mom (while totally renovating our recently sold home-exterior and interior),
  • and caring for a family member when an unexpected illness occurred
  •  and seeking employment in the teaching field (this sometimes occurs for those who choose to become unpaid, full-time mothers and wives,)….

I realized that at least in some ways….can only strive to be the minimalist my mother is.

Let me preface these following comments by saying that my mom,  like most people in their  late 70’s,

~draws social security
~and like many, of that age, is on a squeaky tight income.
~She, like many of that era, is a believer in thriftiness,
~and now has some medical challenges. So she has her reasons for trying to conserve energy. (She is in the hospital, as I write, so I’d appreciate any healing and happy thoughts and prayers you send her way!)
To many of that era, and especially to my mom,

Minimalism is….

  • Filling a cup with water while brushing her teeth, rather than drinking from her hand while rinsing and spitting. You won’t see her letting the water run while brushing, like  I sometimes do. Nope. Actually, she probably rinses her mouth out with the same water with which she rinses her toothbrush but I don’t know that for a fact. (She is all about gray water usage.)
  • Suggesting we do the same, and providing a repurposed ice cream bucket for us to put in the sink if we choose not to do the same, to save that water for watering her two huge turnips she has potted in her bay window.
  • Opening the windows, and tying back the window coverings during daylight, rather than turning on an overhead light.
  • Checking on us to  see that we have taken her suggestion of tying back the window coverings, during daylight, rather than turning on an overhead light.
  • Fervently suggesting we shower without lights, since there is a window in the bathroom-or on a cloudy day, suggesting we use only one light.
  • Checking to see if we are showering without lights, since there is a bathroom window, and assisting my daughter or me by turning off the lights during a shower, especially on a sunny day. (She is into solar power.)
  • Cooking in the dark, even on cloudy days, since the kitchen has a window. (No dimmer switch needed in this house.)
  • Always using a dish pan when washing dishes. (She’s very hands-on), and believes human hands are the best way to wash dishes, and does not want a dishwasher.
  • Keeping a flashlight on a stool by her hall closet, to see inside because it’s dark, instead of turning on the hall light.
  • Always having a dish pan in the sink, so that anytime water is running, for any reason, hand washing, rinsing, etc., it will all be contained in the dish pan for reuse for plants or washing dishes. (She really loves gray water usage).
  • Only using paper towels when it is an absolute necessity. (‘necessity’ to her being only poop). Note: Puck, or greasy stuff are  not neccesity, because, (and I quote) “for that a dishcloth can be used, and rinsed out in the water saved in the dish pan.”  Sorry if you already knew that.  True story..About twelve years ago a store here in Harrison (AR) was going out of business, and Mom read in the newspaper they had Bounty paper towels on clearance for 99 cents.  I remember that my daughter, was still young enought to be in a  toddler seat, and that we were up for a visit from Memphis.  Mom gave me $12 and waited in the car, while I went in to buy as many rolls as the $12 could buy.  It worked out to about 15 rolls…   Fast forward to last week when I was looking in her upper cabinets for something and there were those paper towels I’d purchased for her. I know they are the same rolls I purchased because I asked.  In 12 years she has only used 9 rolls. Now, that, is minimalism.
  • Toilet flushing is not as necessary every time. Do you get my drift? Oh, and you don’t have to have the light on when you use the toilet because (and I quote) “Don’t you know by now, where everything is?” And really…what can you say to that?
  • Doing laundry only when everything you own, (even minimalists like my daughter and me), is dirty.    So much so, that we have to sit around in our pjs because we own nothing else clean. And if you want to wash your sheets you’d better write down when you did it last to prove they need it!
  • Showering is preferred ONLY when doing really stinky work has occurred outside. And often we try to go swimming on those really hot days. So, using her logic, why take a shower, if you are going swimming at the river, or the pool, since the chlorine is a disinfectant, and  the river is nature.

All this to say, in her own way, my mother is more of a minimalist than I, but I am trying to be better at consuming fewer resources.

So, try this yourself this week and see how you do…

  • Turn off the lights if you leave a room
  • Don’t let the water run when you brush your teeth.
  • Shower with one less, or no light on. Don’t shower everyday and spot bathe on days you know you will be getting sweaty, and don’t have other commitments.
  • Keep track of how often you wash your sheets. P.S. If you make your bed daily, you won’t have to wash them as often.
  • Try using a dish pan when you hand wash dishes. You will see, in a tangible way, how much water you use.
  • Laundry can be done less often. When you do it, use cold water, not hot. Or, wear those jeans one more time. Try airing them outdoors for a few hours to freshen.
  • Flush your toilet only when essential. You can probably figure this one out.
  • Enjoy showering by candlelight! I miss that, and I love nice-smelling candles, but candles can’t be used when oxygen is in use in a home.

My refresher course in minimalism, by living with my mom, has reminded me that others around the world don’t think this is the least bit unusual, and we in America could be much more conservative in our consumption. And are very blessed!

Thanks for reading, and if you like what you read please retweet or share with others.

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