Minimalism vs. Self-Sufficiency


I've always admired those people who can fit all of their worldly possessions in a backpack. Or maybe their car. This seems to allow them the freedom to go where they are called to go without a lot of hassle or time spent managing "stuff." Because ultimately, that's what we do with all this stuff isn't it? We buy it so that we can sort it and store it. Then we reorganize it and label it and put it into boxes. Then we realize we don't really need it or we'd rather put something else in its place, so we sell it or throw it away.

So many times I have thought that getting rid of stuff would leave me feeling lighter. More free. And for the most part, this is true. Every time I do a big purge and take several boxes to the consignment store or to Goodwill I do feel like my life is less encumbered. There is less stuff that I'm responsible for managing.

But, there's a balance to the question of "what to keep and what to throw away" that I'm seeking. My quest to make do with less runs parallel to my quest to be more self-sufficient and to consume less. That goal, I have found, does require the acquisition of a certain amount of stuff. Being frugal and planning for the future means taking advantage of opportunities that present themselves in the hope that doing so will prevent you from having to buy something new or spending more money down the road. It's picking up the dresser that you don't currently need from the curb because you know that you're planning on having a baby someday and it would be nice to have a place for the clothes that you know you will eventually get. It's buying five bottles of pancake syrup when it's on sale because you know that you will eventually use it all. It's saving all of your fabric scraps because you know that when you get enough, you can eventually make a quilt.

Being self-sufficient also requires having some things. If I want to cook my meals from scratch instead of purchasing ready-made food, I have to have the tools that allow me to do so. If I want to make clothes or toys or other things for my family, I have to have a certain amount of stuff in order to be able to do that. I'm not sure where the line lies between "too much" and "just enough" stuff. I do know that the folks who can fit everything they own in a backpack end up taking advantage of the stuff that other people (or society as a whole) does have. They really still use as much stuff as the rest of us, they've just outsourced its care and management. 

What's worth keeping and what should be sent out the door (or prevented coming in the door in the first place)? I really don't know. It's a balance that I'm constantly weighing.

13 comments:

  1. I'll look forward to hearing what others think/suggest. For me, I'm coming to the point where I see that we have accumulated with a "squirrel-it-away-for-the-day-when" mentality, but live with a "that-day-will-never-come" attitude. So, we keep and keep and keep, but never actually use, refinish, recycle, etc. that which we imagined coming in so handy in the first place. Very frustrating. Yes, it takes a huge effort to live both simply and self-sufficiently...wishing you the best!

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  2. I think it's all about stages. When I was first married we moved across country with everything we owned in the back seat of our car. Over the years I have filled a 5 bedroom home with people and 'things' to take care of them. Now my children are growing up and moving out and I am ready to send all this stuff with them. I don't want to care for it, it takes up too much of my time. I have found that we can get by with less than we think...now if I can just convince my husband!xx

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  3. I find it hard to balance too- I find having a large garage space helps and also once we were done having children it was easy to 'let go' of SO much baby stuff- now I enjoy seeing my nieces and nephews use and wear hand me downs.

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  4. yes, it is a challenge. i was in the basement with my husband recently and asked him if we could finally get rid of his weight bench which i bought for him over twenty years ago and that he has NEVER used... and the answer was, "no... keep it"! i'm in the same stage as tracey: trying to sort thru stuff and getting my kids to take what they want and then disposing of the rest, either by selling on eBay or selling in a consignment store. it is an on-going thing!

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  5. It's interesting that you post this now, because I'm in the process of organizing our "stuff." I spend so much precious time looking for things. I'm being very intentional about living by the moto "everything has a place and every thing in its place." This means going through piles and giving everything a home and letting my family know where that home is so they can help to live more simply as well!

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  6. I am in a constant state of giving away. We have a bag being picked up tomorrow morning, in fact. Also, I am in a stage of not acquiring so much (with the exception of books--my downfall!!) so I too the past year to sort through, organize, and discard. I find that if I am organized, I am better able to reduce, reuse, recycle (as you said) because I have a mental inventory of what we have. A total indulgence but SO much fun=label maker!

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  7. We have moved frequently in our marriage early on and each time was an opportunity to purge the unwanted belongings. The last time we moved is 2005....I am good at going through clothes and donating but everything else seems to be stuffed into a closet. I try to stay on top of my number of belongings.

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  8. That is a battle I am constantly going through as well. We don't buy much, but yet, it seems as though we constantly need to clean out of garage (which we use as storage). That is actually on my list of things to-do this week. Uggg.

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  9. i am so with you on this!!! i cannot for the life of me figure out how i would fit my canners into my backpack, know what i'm sayin'? :) i do think you are right, there is an outsourcing of "stuff" that has to happen at some point. if i want to be reducing the inputs i need coming into my life (i am thinking with a permaculture mindset lately) then there do need to be a couple of things in place, and some balance has to be struck. keeping the fabric scraps and bulk goods around for the time being. ;)

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  10. Yes, of course. I'm agree on your point. Your information is too much useful for people in order to fulfill their requirements. Keep up posting more.

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  11. Oh, gosh, I have had this EXACT post in my head for a while now! (Now I don't have to write it, because you've captured, really, exactly, my very same thoughts and feelings on the subject!) Needless to say, I still don't have an answer.

    Also, I've been meaning to tell you (but have spent most of the summer lurking due to time constraints) that we made your Zuppa Tuscana and it was SOOOO good! A hit with all members of the family (and the 3-year-old has been pretty picky lately!). Thanks for sharing!

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  12. Right there with you in the quest for balance! Three years ago, everything I owned did fit into a backpack but now I find myself with closets and storage bins full of stuff. I noticed a big change when my son was born--I suddenly had a new nesting mama urge--and it hasn't gone away! I find myself hesitant to throw out anything, thinking it could be used for hypothetical baby #2 (or 3, or 4...) I'm trying to be more mindful about letting go and hopefully finding a balance between minimalist and hoarder.

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  13. @themakinglife: So glad you liked the Zuppa, Sara! It's hard to go wrong with bacon, right? :)

    Such wonderful thoughts here. Glad to know I'm not the only one struggling with the push and pull of having enough to be prepared for the future (whatever that means) and living a life of less clutter. Keep on keeping on.

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