Sometimes the hardest part isn’t deciding what to get rid of. My challenges with simple living minimalism mostly stem from acquiring things. It’s often an issue of not having too much stuff, but having the wrong stuff. I make due with what I’ve got, and it’s not always because I can’t afford the better, more efficient, or more compact thing.
As an example, for 5 years I worked at a kitchen table. Nothing wrong with that; I still work in the kitchen. The problem was that the table we had wasn’t suitable for use as a desk. It was an Ikea NORDEN (not sponsored) gateleg table. There was no way to sit comfortably for long period of time, because there’s always a crossbar under your feet. I kept banging my knee into the drawers, which were oddly-shaped and thus useless for office supplies. But because we’d spent €199 on the thing, I felt obligated.
Katie finally got fed up with my complaints, spent €25 on a simple table, and sold the old one for €100. Now I’m comfortable and happy, and realize that I could have fixed the problem years ago. The value of the thing is never what what you paid for it.
The Pressure of Consumer Society
In the United States, I spent a lot of time feeling bad about myself. Even when I was working as a writer, living in a nice apartment, leading a pleasant life, advertising and social pressure made me feel less than. Although I was happy to be free from the financial burden of a car (and the terror of New Mexico drivers), I had to put up with questions and remarks because I walked or rode the bus everywhere. There was a stigma to not owning a car. There’s an overall stigma to not having stuff, as if possessions are a measure of your worth as a human being.
Everything you do in the United States is based on your credit score. Your ability to get a basic bank account, rent an apartment, get a job, is based on that one metric. Everything else about you is run through that filter. Even if you make good money, are highly educated, and can prove that you’re dependable, you will be judged by your credit score. How can you fix your credit score? Buy more stuff!
It Doesn’t Have to Be That Way
Moving to Finland opened my eyes to a lot of things. Not every flat surface is plastered with advertising, for a start. People all dress pretty much the same, because ostentatious displays of wealth are looked down upon. There’s not a lot of jockeying for social status, at least not based on material possessions. Everyone walks, bikes, and uses public transportation. The rise of streaming services means I don’t watch broadcast television, so I don’t see TV commercials. Because everyone here is paid via direct deposit and pays their bills online, anyone can get a basic bank account.
It’s taken a lot of the pressure off. I can live however I choose to live, and not feel judged for it. There’s no need to be defensive. I don’t feel like I have to buy things I don’t want, with money I don’t have, to impress people I don’t even like. In the United States, even when I got all of the stuff I still felt awful, because there was always more stuff. While I struggle less, my biggest challenges with simple living minimalism still come down to worrying about what other people will think.
My Biggest Challenges with Simple Living Minimalism
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