The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-one

scrabble freedom

You have a very good salary, but your bank account is low and your debt is never-ending. You live a house that has more bedrooms than people to inhabit them. You have a mortgage and a car loan and credit card debt. Are you happy? Are you free?

I’m not judging. When I was in my twenties, I lived way beyond my means. I was stressed about credit card debt, and while I always made the minimal payments, I wasn’t getting myself out of debt, because every month I’d make more purchases, just to feel good. Ha! Joke was on me. I worked in a bank (yes, me) and I hated it. But when I had a chance, a good chance to switch to a job at a college, in a field far more suited to me, I couldn’t do it. Because it paid slightly less and I couldn’t afford a lower salary – because I had debt.

In my thirties, I got married. I didn’t bring a lot of money to the marriage, but by then, I’d worked my way out of debt and was living more carefully. We bought a house and furniture. We had a mortgage that at first was daunting. But we managed, even paid a little extra each month. And as my salary increased, I began saving aggressively, trying to make up for the previous ten years when I squandered money easily.

By the time I hit my forties, I was earning a good salary. More importantly, I was saving a lot. My 401k grew substantially, and whenever my pay went up, my contribution to it went up as well.

I quit that lucrative job in my fifties. It was making me sick, and I didn’t want to have a heart attack or a stroke. I started writing novels, and while I probably won’t ever get rich from writing, I’m doing something I love. We’ve never had credit card debt, and I’ve found that we need so much less than I used to think.

Joshua Fields Millburn, who is one half of The Minimalists (with Ryan Nicodemus) says this: “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

Look, my clutter isn’t your clutter. Each of us has to take stock of what we have, and what we can live without. But by clearing our the excess, the stuff that doesn’t bring you happiness, you will find space for the more important things.

 

14 thoughts on “The Year of Living Minimally – Week Forty-one

  1. Thoughtful post.
    I’ve never been in debt and always lived within my salary. My family struggled when I was a child and I was determined to never cry over an electricity bill, as my mother had in the 1960s.
    I love this quote by Mr Micawber in David Copperfield:
    “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen [pounds] nineteen [shillings] and six [pence], result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”
    Dickens should know, his father and family spent long spells in debtor’s prisons.

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  2. I love Josh and Ryan. I’ve been following them for quite some time and I’m right with you on the minimalism. It truly is freedom. For years, decades, I also worked in a job that didn’t suit me. Life is better without things we don’t need. Consumerism is an American disease.

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  3. “…by clearing our the excess, the stuff that doesn’t bring you happiness, you will find space for the more important things.” Well said, Martha! It’s difficult to part with those accumulated possessions, but if it just takes up space and collects dust, why keep it?

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  4. “Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.” LOVED this quote. And you know what, Martha? I think it applies to emotions as well.

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