Katie pointed out an article on HuffPost, about a couple that had to move in with the wife’s parents. The point of the article was, presumably, how rough things are out in the world today. The number of younger people moving back in with their parents was cited. But Katie was incensed. While there was a not to how grateful they were that the retired parents could take them in, the root cause of the situation is what made my wife furious. It got me thinking about tempering minimalism with gratitude, or maybe the other way around.
This couple wasn’t blindsided by a sour economy. No one was unexpectedly laid off. They didn’t lose their apartment because of lost income, or the landlord jacking up the rent. Their situation was 100% the result of their own actions. The author of the article might try to argue that it wasn’t, but let’s look at the facts.
The husband was close to graduating with a Ph.D. They assumed that meant job offers would be pouring in. Based on that assumption, they did not renew the lease on the apartment they could currently afford. She describes it as “crumbling”, but it was a roof over their heads with a door that locks. Even though neither of them had anything lined up, she gave notice at her place of employment. They had no savings to fall back on. Then he got no job offers, the lease ran out, she left her job, and they didn’t have anywhere to go or the means to go there.
Tempering Minimalism with Gratitude
I think that the heart of genuine gratitude begins with acknowledging that the universe owes you nothing. Anything good, anything of value, that you manage to acquire should be cherished. Tempering minimalism with gratitude means appreciating what you have, rather than fretting over what you don’t. Sometimes that requires you to give thanks for things you don’t want, but still desperately need. Like, you know, the crappy apartment or the job you absolutely hate.
That doesn’t mean you should hold onto things “just in case”. It does mean that maybe you shouldn’t put the old bed out on the curb and sleep on the floor if you don’t have to. Maybe wait until you get the new bed. Don’t quit the job you hate unless you have some savings that allow you to take a risk, or already have another jo lined up. Don’t decide you’re not renewing the lease until you know you have another place to live.
There are people who end up in these situations, not by their own choices. We have little control over our lives already. Why relinquish the agency we do have not to take a risk on a solid plan, but to hopes, dreams, and wishes? I don’t think the couple in the article would have made the choices they did if they had considered all of the possible consequences, and held any genuine gratitude for what they had rather than longing for what they didn’t.