I used to wholeheartedly subscribe to this mentality. In fact, when we made a wedding registry during our engagement, I recall believing that we needed to register for a huge flatware set and lots of glasses, because think of all the kids we'll have! Think of all the gatherings we'll host! We need to plan for the future!
***glances back shamefully at a cupboard which contains beautiful glasses that have never seen the light of day ***
At this point in my life, I'm a bit of a minimalist. And there have been one or two times when my minimalism has been met with a Well, that's really nice for you, but I'm good with hospitality and I like being welcoming to people. This kind of statement makes sense, doesn't it? Remember those ideas that we have as a society-the reasons which basically tell us that if we want to build community, we need stuff. To be clear, I know some people-with wonderful homes-who are incredibly welcoming and hospitable, and they are not minimalists by any means. I don't think that they necessarily should be minimalists if that kind of lifestyle doesn't jive with them. However, I've found that in my own life, minimalism has actually helped me build community with others.
A prominent way in which this takes place is through books. It's no secret that I love books and devote several hours each month (or week) to the written word. I believe that reading is important, and I also believe that having books physically present in one's home is excellent. Not only does cultivating a home library promote literacy LINK but I can easily return to my favorite stories again and again. Yet, while I love and believe in owning books, I do regularly go through my collection and downsize-giving away or donating books that I have no desire to re-read or stories that I own multiple copies of already.
|This is probably only about 1/2 or 1/3 of the books|
I have in my personal library.
Some people may not think that this is a very minimalist library.
But for me, this is definitely a minimalist library ;)
It may seem odd to say that minimizing food helps me build community, but in a small way, this does happen. I'm gradually working towards paring down the food storage in our pantry area. This is forcing me to both use food that I already have in the kitchen (as opposed to continually buying lots of food and letting it stockpile in my cupboard) and to regularly buy certain groceries once a week or a few times a month. Because my cupboards are slowly growing more empty, I'm spending less time cleaning-so I can spend more time with others. Our grocery trips are a regular, once-a-week affair now, and this normalcy is a nice way to see some of the same people at the store whenever we go (for example, we have become acquainted with one of the ladies who typically stocks produce when we come by-she enjoys noting the growth progression of my baby bump!). Also, because I've saved some money on groceries-since I am purposefully using what's already in our cupboards for some meals-our budget has had room to buy some food at the local farmer's market recently. I think it goes without saying that frequenting a farmer's market is an awesome way to build community and support your local area :)
"In our quest to become minimalists, we want to reduce the amount of things in our homes that require our care and attention. Fortunately, we have ample opportunity to do so--simply by shifting some of our pleasures and activities into the public realm. In fact, it produces a pretty wonderful side effect. For when we hang out in parks, museums, movie houses, and coffee shops--instead of trying to create similar experiences in our own homes--we become more socially active and civically engaged. By breaking down the walls of stuff around us, we're able to get out into the world and enjoy fresher, more direct, and more rewarding experiences."Some of you may ask, but what about when other kids come over? What do they DO without having roomfuls of toys? Well, when we spontaneously babysat two young children the other week, they spent nearly four hours playing with a marble track, clothespins, yarn, knitting needles, and yes, the toilet plunger. I didn't even have to pull out coffee beans! Children really do not need much to amuse themselves.
The minimalist lifestyle may not appeal to everyone, and it looks different for each person. I never imagined that my little jaunt into a bit of a minimalist-inspired life would help me grow in community, but it has. Looking back over the narrative I used to tell myself, I think that sometimes when we claim that we "need" lots of stuff in order to build community with others, we are masking our fears of actually welcoming people into our homes. Because I would tell myself that we didn't own enough furniture or have a big enough apartment, I would be very hesitant towards having other people over.
While I'm not very good at entertaining and welcoming people into our home, I'm trying hard to change that. I'm forcing myself to stop hesitating because we "don't have it all." I'm reminding myself to focus on people, and not things. I'm working to create beautiful memories with my family and friends. This has been a messy process (we're not going to talk about that recent occasion when I hosted a dinner meeting for a dozen adults and my house was a disaster less than two hours beforehand and I messed up the main dish), but it's been a really good journey. I'm excited to see what else I have to learn on this adventure!