I recently downloaded and read “The Art of Being Minimalist – How to Stop Consuming and Start Living,” an e-book written and published by Everett Bogue. Everett tells a wonderful story of downsizing his life to the point of being rid of all clutter, both physical and mental, and being able to do what he wants with his life, including supporting himself financially through his artistic endeavors. He not only tells a wonderful story with tips and ideas based on what he’s accomplished, he’s also a wonderful photographer and artist, which add to the beauty of his book.
Having left corporate America and the fast pace of a downtown law office, I can relate to many of Everett’s stories and ideas. I no longer own clothes that cost a month’s salary, but I also don’t spend $1000 a month commuting to work.
What a lot of people now are calling “minimalism,” is basically just a return to ideas used by our relatives from past years. We have spent the past few decades rushing around trying to live out this dream we have for how our lives should be, when most of us (at least I used to be) are so out of touch with how our lives really are. Our grandparents and great-grandparents had it right all along.
A big joke in my family is how far my mother can stretch a dollar. I come from an upper middle class background, but my mother was not extravagant. When we were younger, she made all our clothes, and I cannot remember a time where we went out to eat or had takeout food. Sometimes I think my fascination with stopping in at diners on road trips is due to all the family vacations we spent during my childhood eating at rest stops. Days before a vacation, my mother prepared meals and snacks, packing two large ice chests full of food and drinks for the road. When lunchtime arrived, we didn’t drive through McDonalds. We stopped in a park or rest area and had sandwiches and fried chicken, prepared by my mother before leaving home.
I remember going to the zoo as a child and eating the sack lunch my mother had packed for us, watching while all the kids ate pizza and burgers from the various vendors. The funny part was that while I was envying the junk food the other kids were enjoying, mothers were asking my mother where they could purchase the fruit and cookies we were eating. Every summer, we all went to my grandmother’s house and helped her can tomatoes from her garden. As my grandmother got older and began living on a limited income, she would give everyone a case of her canned items for Christmas gifts. My grandmother thought her gifts had no value, but I would much rather have jars of fresh preserves, green beans and tomatoes than a sweater or bathrobe.
The interesting thing about my childhood is that while my mother had basically adopted a minimalist lifestyle, she encouraged that we do the opposite. In Everett’s book, he states, “Many people are being told to sit down, shut up and pay their mortgages. This is no way to live.” He’s right. When my son was younger, I used to envy the mothers who could go to every school function, who could volunteer in their child’s class and who could pick their children up from school. I was a single mother, so I had to work, and work for me meant a 2.5 hour round trip commute every day, with my son in daycare until 6 – 6:30 p.m. at night. I was miserable, and also felt incredibly guilty. When I would tell my mother how much I hated my job and how I wanted so badly to have more time for my son, she told me that I had no choice and that I should accept my life and deal with it, even if I hated it.
Thank you, Everett, for making the simple statement that we really don’t have to just “shut up and deal with it.” We cannot only be frugal, live simply and consume less in our personal lives, but we can also do this professionally, survive AND be happy. Imagine that! It’s too late now for me to be the class volunteer for my son’s kindergarten class, but it’s not too late for me to accept my life the way it is, and be happy, without all the designer clothes, fast-paced lifestyle, expensive dinners and trips out of town every other weekend. Instead of going to a really cool place and spending all my time working, hopefully now I can go to a really cool place and spend all my time sightseeing and relaxing.
This is a great book, and I will definitely be adopting some of Everett’s suggestions and ideas into my own life. Everett blogs at Far Beyond the Stars and is also on Twitter as @evbogue and for a limited time, you can download Everett’s book for a reduced price.