A Tribute to the Path

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When we were without Internet access, a friend of mine tagged me in a Facebook post, sharing this article. When I was finally able to take a look at it, I wasn’t sure how to respond.

First off, I thought, this is silly.  I have no need to defend the choices I’ve made.  Would I be happier if I just said “forget it,” moved into a house, and bought all the things we do without (you know, like an oven or private shower)?  Of course not!  Not at this point.

So that’s my choice.  And there is no need to defend it at all.  But my friend shared the article with me because she was curious about my choices, not because she wanted to start a debate.  In that spirit, I had so many thoughts about the article (and no, I did not disagree with all of the points they made!), that I thought I would write a blog post in response.  I thought I might address every point they brought up, and give my thoughts on it.

But first, I thought I would pick some of my friends’ brains and find out their thoughts on the article.  What followed was a great discussion, neither a debate nor an echo chamber.  And this ever-so-slightly snarky response from a long-time blogging friend of mine.

I thought of the discussion on and off throughout my day and realized how fortunate I am to have friends who challenge me, yet in such a gentle way.  My friend who shared the article reminded me to think for myself rather than blindly following a doctrine.  My friend who wrote the blog post reminded me to balance my time and notice the life happening around me.

Which led me to think about minimalism–as well as the other choices I have made.  And thinking of that led me to change my approach in this response.

Minimalism does not need any further debate, defense or explanation.  There is no need for me to re-hash what has already been written.  Everyone makes great points, but they are all missing one concept.

And that it the concept of the path.

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Life, and all that it entails–be it minimalism, materialism, sustainable living, spirituality/religious beliefs, thoughts and assumptions–is a journey.  Whatever paths we choose are just that, paths.  We need to be willing to follow the curves and bends in the path, and to choose when it forks.

For me, minimalism was a path that I traversed.  Yes, there was a time when I was a little too obsessed with physical decluttering.  There was a time when I purged possessions obsessively, to the point where my *stuff* got all the attention.  There was a time when I looked down on those who chose to have more possessions.  There was a time when I took things to a crazy level, so that I could say I belonged to this group.

Notice that I didn’t say that I’m ashamed to admit any of that.

Because, for me, it was all necessary.  It was all a part of the process–it was my path.  I began my journey into minimalism, because I wanted less stress.  I wanted to stop worrying and living in fear.  I wanted to feel like I was living correctly, like I was doing the right thing.  And, so desperately, I wanted to belong to something.

Minimalism gave me none of those things, directly.  But it was the path that led me to all of that and more.

Through my writing about minimalism, I became connected to a community who challenged me to question the way we were “supposed” to live, and led me to realize that my potential was more than I could have imagined.  Through questioning the possessions we are “supposed” to have, I began questioning the entire script for life we were supposed to follow.

As I began to question the script, I began to question all the assumptions I had been holding, about life.  I saw that the world open to me, and that I could create any life that I could imagine.  But I also saw that peace and the end to fear, worry, and stress could come from nowhere except within myself.  I could see that there is no “wrong” way to do life, and that it isn’t a test.  Kindness doesn’t come from a philosophy on possessions; it comes from increasing understanding–of ourselves, and our place in the world and in life.

As far as belonging, I came to see that we are the only ones holding ourselves back from belonging to all humanity.

I no longer count my possessions.  I live in a small space and do without a lot.  I am still happier living with less.

But the real reward of minimalism has been the path that it has led me along.  Rather than being the quick answer, it has led me to a life of looking deeper and working toward finding the real answers.

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Texas Women Bloggers

14 thoughts on “A Tribute to the Path

  1. Yes, I loved Dan’s response to you. 😉 The rules, counting your belongings, empty rooms and talk of sleeping on a mat on the floor were things I rejected and therefore rejected minimalism. I headed out on my own path and look where I ended up, lol.

    Whenever I hear certain words it sets me off to be defiant. Should have, Must, Supposed to. Who says and what makes them the authority? I don’t like being controlled and know you don’t either so let’s toss those rigid phrases and words from our vocabulary and just LIVE.

    • It’s funny, because there are things that some of my blogging friends can say to me, that other people don’t “get”. 😉 Today, I tried to explain to a friend that y’all are some of my best friends, and that’s why you can speak candidly (and why Dan’s post made me smile and wasn’t mean!). Even though I still have met none of you IRL! 😦

      I hear you on regrets. Still working through that, but I hear you.

  2. This is a great post, Bethany! I’m trying to figure out where I want the path of minimalism to take me right now. I’ve been obsessed with getting rid of stuff, and this needs to change. For me, minimalism makes life with two children easier, saves us money since we are a one-income family, and allows me to focus on the things I want to have in my life. Like you, minimalism helped me to realize that I had the power to create the life I want (or we, my husband and I, want.) And I agree with Lois completely on the use of the should, musts and supposed tos in our vocabulary. I have spent the majority of my life doing things I thought I should or was supposed to do and this has caused me a lot of strife. Minimalism helped me to challenge those “shoulds” and instead focus on what I actually want out of life. I still prefer to live with a lot less possessions than most and I like to challenge myself to see what I can actually live contentedly without. But now it’s time for me to change my focus and use minimalism as a tool to helping me craft the life I want to live.

    • So nice to see you here, Sandy! 🙂 It really is freeing to realize that the things most people do and choose might work perfectly for most people, but we do have a choice. Your life is whatever you make of it–so have fun with the process!

  3. Many years ago I took a leave from my profession and went to the Caribbean to work on a tall ship. All I had was a carry on. No car. No keys. No cell phone (yes, really). Not much of anything. It was transformational in many ways and put me on a new path. Eventually I returned to my profession and a house with things but whenever I start getting too invested in things I remember that time and realize how little one needs on a ship and by extension, in life. Just recently I realized I have “stuff creep” again so I’m looking at it to see what’s just enough.

      • I’d agree with that. How long that may take will, I’m sure be different for everyone. 15 years ago, my job was going through a phase that required a lot of travel, so I spent a lot of time living out of a suitcase in a hotel room. That was a help. Reading the travel suggestions at onebag.com was a help in those days, as well. Going camping now and then was a reminder of what you really need to get along.

  4. So if I had to summarize your post in a pithy poster aphorism, it’d be something like:

    Minimalism isn’t a goal; it’s a tool to acheive a goal ?

    My goal is still to gain flexibility in my life. After camping, I’m not sure that I’d enjoy living on a boat indefinitely, but I can certainly see _how_ I would do it. And that’s a gain in flexibility.

    Or, in a less uplifting way, I enjoy a variety of games. I’ve come to the conclusion that I really only play a handful of them, so having more than that doesn’t add anything to my enjoyment, but does make storage difficult.

    • Yup, you got my point exactly. 🙂

      Games are tricky. We’ve found that as we’ve downsized, we’ve had more time for enjoying leisure activities like that. But we’ve found that we will play one game a lot, then get sick of it and never play it again! I wish they checked out board and card games at the library.

      • Not to get sidetracked into a discussion of games, but you might see if your library can scrounge up a copy of Wayne Schmittberger’s New Rules for Classic Games (or splurge on a used copy online), which has a bunch of variants of games that use a common set of components (chess/checker set, cards, etc.). Access to a game library would be really handy, though. I wonder if your local public library could be persuaded to solicit donations for something like that.

        Depending on the range of your tastes, roleplaying games (e.g. Dungeons&Dragons) can be run with a very compact set up (say a book, a notebook, and a handful of dice).

        • I’ve heard of that book, actually. We’ve thought about trying it. 😉

          Never played D & D, but it does sound like fun. We like Magic, Pokemon (don’t knock it until you’ve tried it!!!), and of course some board games. Mancala is one we keep coming back to. And, of course, Mexican Train Dominoes for parties.

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