LIVING WITH LESS: TRADING UP
I had big plans last week on my mini kid-free vacation. I was going to get SO MUCH done, folks. I did not, of course. But I did catch up on some sleep and I did make some progress on a book that I’ve been reading and those are big wins in my book. Note that I did not actually finish said book, but that’s okay. I am more than happy to have read a few chapters uninterrupted in the middle of a Friday.
The book I’ve been reading is called Clutterfree with Kids by Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist. It’s not exactly Girl on the Train as far as being a page turner, and it’s kind of preaching to the choir for me because we already tend to live a minimalist lifestyle (although I could certainly do better and clutter creeps its way into my life for sure), but it’s refreshing to get a different perspective and apply new frameworks for approaching our stuff especially now that we have Beatrice and, alas, more stuff.
There was one concept I came across last week that I found to be particularly interesting so I thought I would share it with you guys because you might benefit from it too. I’m still working my way through the book so as other good nuggets of information come up I’ll share those as well.
The concept is this: every day we are trading our lives for something. We are trading our finite resources (minutes, energy, dollars) in exchange for things often of limited value. While I do try to live my life with intention (try being the key word here), I have never approached my decisions quite this way. Let’s dive into this concept a bit further.
Joshua Becker describes it like this: at the most basic level, we exchange our lives for security by developing a skill that allows us to earn a living to provide food, shelter, clothing. Few will argue that this is an unwise trade. From security, Becker observes that we then trade our lives for comfort…a bigger house, nicer car, trendier clothes. Then we move to luxury where we find that we are trading more of our finite resources for the luxurious things the world has to offer. Finally, we pursue victory where we seek power and even more money in an attempt to obtain greater success / fame / power than our neighbors, friends, and even family members. As Becker points out, at this stage, we have traded our most valuable resources to “win” a competition that exists only in our own heads not to mention that these pursuits can never be fully achieved as they are moving targets.
Becker offers an alternative framework. What if we trade up? What if we spend our finite resources pursuing causes we believe in or pursuing our passions or deepest-held values? What if we spend those finite resources helping others instead of pursuing luxury or victory? What if we shift from self-centered pursuits to people-centered pursuits? What would we change? What would your life look like?
I don’t have any answers and I’m certainly not passing any judgment. Pursuing luxury might be exactly what makes you satisfied and you willingly and intentionally exchange your finite resources for the finer things in life. The broader point, and the reason that I wanted to share this concept with you, is that asking these questions brings an awareness to the tradeoffs that we are making with the finite resources we have and I found this framework for approaching these important choices helpful and thought that you might too.
I’m a firm believer that visual clutter creates mental clutter and that a space free of clutter gives us room to breathe and grow both mentally and physically. So, while this post is not interior design related on the surface, it does get at the heart of what we choose to own and with what we choose to surround ourselves. And when we live in small spaces that still cost an arm and leg that we work so hard to afford, these tradeoffs are critical.
If you are interested in pursuing this topic further, below are some blogs you may want to check out.
Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker lives with his family of four in Arizona and blogs about his family’s journey of discovering that the abundant life is actually found in owning less.
Un-fancy – Caroline Rector blogs about living with a small and intentional closet. She shares her journey with her capsule wardrobe and provides simple outfit ideas, closet-curating tips, and a focus on personal style over trends.
The Minimalists – Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus write about living a meaningful life with less stuff. They focus not necessarily on discarding, but on making room for more in life.
Mindful – Mindful is a non-profit whose blog offers personal stories, practical advice, and insights dedicated to inspiring, guiding, and connecting anyone who wants to explore mindfulness—to enjoy better health, more caring relationships, and a compassionate society.
The Minimalist Mom – Rachel Jonat lives with her husband and three sons in a (spacious!) 1100 sq ft condo. She loves capsule wardrobes, walkable cities, and brunch (we are kindred spirits!).
So what are your thoughts on trading up? Does this resonate with you? I’d love to hear your thoughts on this as it’s something that we’re contemplating in our house all the time.
Have a great rest of the week and Happy Halloween!