|Great-Great Grandfather Overlock – 1930’s photo
Florence (Garland) Elston Photo Collection
I have been struggling with how I view the minimalism, frugalism, suvivalism, simple living or self-sufficiency definitions for a while now.
None the definitions that are put out there for these forms of living within our means lifestyles or the blogs that I have been reading associated with those choices, seem to be completely or solely the direction that I/we appear to be heading.
There are parts of each of those “isms”, “ist” or “ity” movements or lifestyles (along with some others) that seem to be the general direction that we are going, as we downsize our lives to fit both our lowered income and what we view as important in our lives.
We enjoy living in today’s world with its advantages of electricity, indoor plumbing, gas powered tools, automobiles, the Internet and the other modern conveniences that we often take for granted, yet are part of our daily life. At the same time we are choosing to not buy or consume things of questionable value. Who needs the 40th shirt, pair of pants, shoes, a TV for every room, 100th new book, brand new vehicle, the newest software, newest electronic gadget or an Internet course on this or that.
Usually, what we have works quite well (and if we use some common sense much of the rest doesn’t really matter). Even if it isn’t the newest style or the “fastest” whatever. If something stops working, do we throw it out and get something new, or do we take a look at it and attempt to repair what we have (or heaven forbid replace the battery)? All too often in the past, I have chosen the disposable route, in order to get the latest and greatest or just gotten the newest and put the old in the drawer to be thrown away at some later date. Today I am doing just the opposite, trying to figure out what is wrong with a given item, seeing if I can or if I can it repaired and then and only then replace it if we actually need to.
Minimalism appeals to me, because it calls for you to get rid of “stuff” and “things” you don’t need now. I don’t really get attached to “stuff”, but there is stuff and then there is stuff.
Minimalism is a process that takes time, while you can get rid of everything pretty quickly if you want to or if it happens as a result of a fire, natural disaster or some other catastrophe, but generally you need the time to figure out what is necessary vs what is nice to have. There are “things” that you have emotional attachments to, that are hard to get rid of and there are other things that you may not need today or next week that if you follow the true minimalist path need to go away. What happens when you have done that and you might just need that “stuff” down the road a bit.
The problem I have is that once you get rid of something, you may or may not be able to find what you need down the road either at a price you can afford or are just not available. An example are clothes that are in good shape, which I can put in storage and then as I wear out the stuff I am wearing now, I can simply bring in other things that are in good shape to wear without burning a hole in my budget.
I know this “just in case” inventory of stuff is anathema to the true minimalist, but it is amazing how often that I get rid of something that I do need it later and can’t find it. So I will never be a “true” minimalist – I have too much “just in case” stuff.
Simple Living and Self-Sufficiency
This sounded an awful lot like the direction we were headed, when we first started looking at my leaving teaching. We already were doing some/many of the the things that seem go along with this choice: canning, making jellies, having a garden (my wife is great at those things – me I am Harold the Destroyer), using less gas powered tools (not giving up on all of them yet – too convenient), foraging for some food, doing a little bit of hunting and a bunch of other things.
Personally, I am not big into critter husbandry i.e. keeping your own critters for the milk, meat or manure. We have thought about raising some pigs, goats, chickens, etc., but when the time came to kill them for their meat, it would be difficult for me. Maybe I am too soft-hearted, but after naming something and spending time watching it grow, I have a hard time killing and eating that critter – it is just who I am right now. I don’t mind hunting and killing game, or even going to a neighbors and killing a critter, but killing something I raised – well I would have to have a different mindset – that I don’t have today.
So portions of this type of lifestyle we are doing and do appeal to us, but in today’s world, other parts I don’t have to do for a while longer.
This is actually a part of self-sufficiency, emergency preparedness and just being ready for the unexpected. No I am not the gun-toting militia survivalist type, who believes that the end of society as we know it is coming and getting ready for it.
However, with my background in emergency preparedness, I do know that bad things can and do happen quickly. Due to the weather (ice storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, etc.) or man-made disasters (nuclear accidents, oil spills or even extended periods without electricity or gasoline). I want and believe that I need to be able to survive without waiting for handouts, going without whatever or having to leave my home. When food, water, shelter, security can and should be taken care if at all possible right at home.
I do not have a bunker in my back yard and a years supply of K-rations, but the song by Hank Williams Jr. “A Country Boy Can Survive” kind of sticks in my mind. I am not a what people consider a redneck, but I am from a small town in Maine, and my Dad and Grandfather both taught me a lot about a lot of things that don’t have damn thing to do with computers or technology and a lot about how to survive without all this technology, in a flat world.
I just have to take a few steps back to re-fresh my memory, which over the course of the next few years I plan to do.
Getting the biggest bang for your buck. Spending money consciously instead of spending it “spur of the moment” or buying things you really don’t need or want, but have been influenced by other sources that it is something you really should have. Being frugal involves instead of replacing something and going to get something new, you check out why something is not working, attempt to repair it and if it still doesn’t work then replace it.
This doesn’t mean that you go out and buy something simply based on the cost, as most of us know, that quite often you get exactly what you pay for. Often cheaper is not cheaper in the long run and being frugal means that you factor that into account when making a purchase.
Being frugal is not being cheap, but it is being fully conscious of how, when and where you spend your money.
The reality is that
I have a feeling that we will be very frugal, until we discover how things actually work out for us, will be more significant than the other “isms” for quite a while. Yes I will take pieces from minimalism, simple living, self-sufficiency, survivalism, and other “isms” as we downsize our lifestyle to meet our current income levels and how we want to live.
As I said in my Minimalism, Frugalism, etc. are Just Labels post my personal label is that we are downsizing and slowing down. This appears to be the direction that we are headed and I have a feeling that is also the direction that this blog’s focus is starting to take.
As the song says a country boy can survive and we will quite nicely I believe.