It’s a cliché to say that we are living in a world where commercialization has reached a stage in which our principal object in life seems to be to be a consumer.
However, there is a growing trend for people to choose a minimalist lifestyle. This is done especially by younger and strangely perhaps, much older people. For example, around a quarter of a million retired Americans live permanently in RV’s. The Tiny House movement is currently just about the biggest trend in modern living.
People are growing tired of McMansion style life. The huge financial commitment of a lifestyle which is based on every more, ever bigger, ever “better” takes its toll on relationships and health, especially mental health.
Jake and Sarah’s minimalist lifestyle
We talked to a young couple, Jake and Sarah, who have adopted a consciously minimalist lifestyle. Our aim was to find out what it meant for them.
“We both work from home,” explains Jake. “I’m a writer and editor and Sarah runs on line customer service for a specialist food company. We have a five-acre smallholding which we both work on. Sarah takes care of the goats and the chickens, I look after the pigs and the vegetables. So we produce a lot of our own food.”
“We could earn more if we had more conventional jobs, but the toll on our lives just wouldn’t be worthwhile. We built our own home; well, we renovated what was basically a shack on our land. Some people would say it’s still pretty much a shack!”
The “shack” is a neat, plain thirty by twenty-foot cabin, with everything in one room, and a bathroom tacked on to the side. A low wall divides the bedroom area from the rest of the space, and there’s a small but highly functional kitchen at the end. The couple do a lot of canning and preserving, and make their own cheese. There are no pictures on the walls, no ornaments, but shelves and shelves of books.
“Books are the only thing that we indulge in really,” says Sarah. “If we were perfect minimalists we’d probably just use our Kindles, but we love to have books around us, and although we live an intentionally simple lifestyle, we aren’t trying to prove anything or make unbreakable rules.”
“We did decide on no pictures or ornaments, which I thought would be a wrench, as I’ve always loved to collect things. But we enjoy the clean space, and of course, housework is kept at a minimum that way.”
Necessary and Basic Electronics
The cabin is not austere, having big squashy armchairs, great views of the Virginia countryside from the windows, and a wood burning stove for the winter. Solar panels produce the power. There is no a/c, or even fans – the home was built to capture every breath of breeze. Many of the things people regard as the middle class norm are absent. There is no big screen TV – instead they have a small portable DVD player with a 9” screen, which they watch in the evenings curled up on the sofa.
“Satellite and cable are just an unwanted distraction. Playing our own DVDs means we select just what we want to watch – no ads, no huge dominating screen in the room,” comments Sarah.
They don’t have a Netflix subscription. Although both Jake and Sarah have high end laptops which they use for work, and internet access.
“Our cell phones are out of the ark – the oldest ones we can get which will still work. The idea of texting and communicating all day long is just horrible for us. We do spend a bit of time on Facebook we use Skype for business and for talking to family around the country,” explains Sarah.
Their fashion sense
Clothes are not a big item in Jake and Sarah’s budget. “The goats and chickens absolutely don’t care what I wear, just so long as I come bearing food!” says Sarah. “We buy everything except underwear from thrift stores, and we keep the amount of clothes we have to a minimum. We look for good fabrics which will wear well and be practical, and we wear our clothes until they are no longer wearable. I do have one dress up outfit for the occasional meeting, and I have no hesitation to wear the same thing meeting after meeting. The idea that you must always look different, show off a new set of clothes, is actually slightly shameful as far as I am concerned.”
Means of transport
As the couple live a long way from the nearest feed store, a truck is a necessity. But they bought the cheapest and most solid one they could find. It was one which Jake could maintain. “I love our ancient F250, even though it’s a bit of a gas guzzler. We can’t imagine spending thousands of dollars on a new vehicle, it just doesn’t make sense.”
“We’ve modeled much of our life on the Amish way, but without the legalism.” says Jake, “We try to tread lightly on the earth, and we donate a lot of our income to an inner city self-help project. Our motto is, ‘Live simply, so that others may simply live’.”