Why going minimal is so hard…

In various ways, I have now spent just over 3 years embracing a NoXS Minimal lifestyle. I will be open – I am still not anywhere I think I should be in terms of living minimal; and am expecting getting to that stage will take some time still. Being an impatient person, (even with myself), I have pondered why it is the transition has been so difficult. Today, I think I have figured it out.

The thing that sparked this epiphany came from an unlikely source. As I write this, one of our Australian States is in a tussle with indigenous people over the rights to use land; land which is under traditional ownership which means the legal rights have been transferred to the indigenous tribal group that “belongs to the land”. (I love that term!) Anyway, discussion on the comments for the news post pretty much did what they usually do when we talk in Australia about our indigenous peoples – one argument lamented the contempt indigenous peoples (supposedly) treat what the government gives them. This then cascaded to suggestions that if they could bring themselves out of their primitive state, perhaps they could make a positive way for themselves in modern Australia.

In answer to a question that asked where might Australian Indigenous peoples be today had Europeans not settled here, I replied as follows:
I’m not an “expert”, but could I suggest that our indigenous peoples, had Europeans not invaded their space, would be living a contented, simple and, yes, primitive life. But one of the dodgy words that fly around these types of forums is “civilised”. I for one think the kinds of societies and communities the few remaining primitive and untouched (by “modern life”) peoples of our world actually are is civilised; and that our “modern” and “progressive” ways are anything but. I think part of the problem is that when we assist our indigenous peoples we still do so with an air of authority and assume our way should be theirs. When that happens things always go sour…

Back in 2011, footage was taken of a non-contacted tribe in South America. There was some discussion at that time about what should be done with these people – whether contact should be made or not? It sparked a discussion then that I was reminded of today about what is deemed “normal” and what is not. Some are of the opinion that progress should be for all and that in coming along for the ride, all the benefits of progress will make us all better people.

And I think this is at the core of why it has been so hard to go NoXS Minimal.

In 2008, after 15 years of marriage, we bought our first home. Our kids turned 8 and 6 that year. The house has three bedrooms, an open living space, one bathroom, one toilet, a small laundry, a quite spacious kitchen, and a beautiful back deck and yard. And people thought we were nuts!!

I had comments like:
– “It’s beautiful, but isn’t it a bit small for a young family?”
– “You are going to regret this when the kids reach high school!”
– “No ensuite bathroom? You’ll never sell it!”
– “I give you 6 months before you end up killing each other because you are living in each other’s pockets all the time!”

What I (apparently) failed to understand – and what was communicated to me in no uncertain terms on a number of occasions – was that the average house these days was a 4 bed, a bathroom and an ensuite for the master bedroom at a minimum!, at least two living areas, a double garage connected to the house, a kitchen, separate dining and a laundry. Extra kudos for a study, porch/deck and for a rumpus/recreation room. Backyard was an optional extra – I was told more internal living space was more sought after than outdoor space.

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house...

Our humble and, apparently, crazy, risky house…

We loved (and still love – although we live elsewhere now, we still own the house) the place and we loved it’s feel and we loved the way it forced us to interact as a family and we especially love that buying it was manageable and did not break us financially. But buying it was seen as an extremely counter-cultural move.

When I was in high school, I remember a conversation we had in class with our Film & Television teacher, Miss Barker. We were having a discussion about our school uniform (probably in an attempt to get her off topic) and Katrina Stead shared all our sentiments she she said, “We should be able to dress as we like in order to express our own individual personality.” Miss Barker came out with a check mate: “If the rules were changed so that you could wear whatever you wanted, you would all come dressed the same anyway.”

And nothing seems very different 23 years later. We do because everyone else is doing. Or because the mass media told us so. And any attempt to do any different is seen as counter-cultural particularly when it threatens the status that has come from conforming to the perceived norm.

So when I refuse to kowtow and go out and buy this seasons fashion, or when I buy a small house, or when I refuse to spend for spendings sake, or when I decide to grow my own food, or forsake the next generation of iProduct, or seek sustainable methods for things I use or do, or choose not to eat packaged food, or go barefoot or wear minimal footwear most of the time, or make my own clothes, or make my own Christmas cards and gifts, or decide not to store 10 years worth of useless crap in my garage and sell or give it away instead (because it hasn’t been used in 10 years why keep it?), or bring my lunch instead of buy, or choose to only have one TV in the house I am not just making personal choices. I am actually rebelling against a whole culture that says doing these things is strange, and being out of debt is abnormal, and not spending is ruining our economy, and more and bigger is better.

Progress, you see, should be followed by everyone, because it is best. Apparently. So our indigenous people should live like us. And the untouched tribes should be given the things they (obviously?!?!) need (read “what I want them to need”). And I should stop being a hippy and get back in touch with the rest of the modern world.

Because it is better. More civilised. More hygienic. Maybe…

Actually there is no evidence of that, but what we do know is that it is more busy, more stressful, more addictive and more expensive than ever. Going NoXS Minimal is hard because you are bucking against a whole culture. I have been misconstrued. I have been misunderstood. I have been thought of as weird and abnormal. But if you are prepared to put on your wry grin, not take yourself too seriously and dream big (minimal big, that is!), I think you will agree as hard as it is, it is also fun, fulfilling and content.

What has been or do you think will be your biggest challenge in your minimal journey?

Live Simply & Simply Live,

Mark G

  1. So refreshing to read your posts! I struggle with trying to find my place in this over-processed, consumer-based world. It is super hard. I would love to take my family and go live with the indigenous people.

    I find the hardest thing so far is keeping the “stuff” out of our house. I don’t want to live in a stark white place. (Even if I lived in a hut, I would be creating and making things. That is just who I am.) But I don’t want to live in a cluttered house with “things” we don’t need.

    Even though we are better than the average family, I still feel we can do better. I am making a conscious effort to eliminate even more and to keep it away.

    • Mark G said:

      I hear you, Heidi. It’s this continual, back and forth tension between the two “worlds”. And in regards to some things, you don’t want to live with it but the way society has gone, it is difficult to work out how to live without it (even though you may want to). I certainly find encouragement from fellow travellers such as yourself – knowing that you aren’t the only one living with that tension is a relief; and drawing strength as we share our stories with each other. :o)

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