I was talking to my best friend of 35 years yesterday and she said, “You sound so happy.” Honestly, I was taken back. I mean, reading back a few blogs into the bottomless hole I was in a few months ago (click here), a lot has changed. Yesterday evening, I was talking with another friend and she said, “What are your plans this week?” And I said, “We have none. When I start making plans, having expectations of what I want to accomplish etc, I begin getting stressed and we are just over that.”
Then, last night, on Netflix, my brother told me to watch The Social Dilemma. We were about to turn it on, but the preview looked so depressing to be honest. The recommended watch next to it was, Minimalism. (read more on the minimalists here.) We only made it 30 minutes in before we needed to go to bed, but it struck home. The documentary was made in 2016 and truly since then, I feel like society has gotten to much more dependent on “stuff” and “buying” finding happiness through quick delivery of products and “things”.. which is partly why The Social Dilemma was made right? Finding happiness through other peoples reactions, having media dictate what you see based on your own patterns.
Over the last few years… really since 2009 when we first ventured away from America and began exploring the world, ourselves and what we needed and wanted out of life, we have slowly turned into minimalists. We have had set backs and double takes in different moments, when we had kids and thought we needed to adjust back to the norms of society. But, that didn’t agree with us and we decided to take steps to adjust. Although we have bought larger houses and spent so much money etc, we have spent a lot of time paring back.
This large trip with our children has reiterated, that this life is what does in fact, make us happy; calms us and refocuses us.
Here is what we have learned from just our few short months away from suburbia and the “normal” expectations of society.
- We prefer to live further away from things and places, quieter streets, less bustle, less shopping, just plain less.
- We actually only need a small 4 foot mini fridge as it holds just enough food for 1 week for the 5 of us. Nothing extra. Nothing to throw away because it has gone bad.
- We only need 2 bedrooms, for now. Yes maybe someday in the future we may want more as we are a family of 5, but right now, its all excess. Maybe we need a place for guests, but really, how often do we have guests.
- We need windows and a yard for sunshine and the light of the world for our kids and for our wellbeing.
- We do not need a minivan. Although our van is amazing, and it is comfortable, and there is plenty of EXTRA room… we can operate with a wagon or a large trunk and one row of seats.
- We only need one bathroom with one sink… I mean, how many times do multiple people need to poop at the same time and do I really need my own sink to wash my face in?
- We only need 1000-1200 sq ft of space for our family… because this, encourages us to spend more time together.
- Everyone asks, where does Adam work? Where do you do work? Where is your school area? Guess what, the kitchen table is an amazing space. School manipulatives have been paired down to a personal whiteboard, pencils, paper and cherrios or whatever food we have handy.
- We only need 4 outfits, a jacket and a pair of boots, a hat and gloves.
By removing the stuff, the expectations, the bills, the “responsibilities dictated by society as normal.” By removing the social engagements, the pressures of having to say yes, the extra…. and pairing down… really far down… we are so much happier.
Our day now looks like this….
- Adam is up at 5 to work.
- I wake up around 6:30, the kids 8!
- We give the kids breakfast
- The kids play and yes, watch TV until lunch. And our kids are brilliant, they watch Octonauts and Super Wings, Wild Kratts, Dino Dan, Floogals
- We have lunch around 12
- Then, we do 30 minutes of individual learning time with the kids. Adam has been doing their reading curriculum (Teach your child to read in 100 lessons).
- By then, Adam is done with work. We go outside together.
- 4:30-5 we have dinner.
- 5-7 family time, bath time etc. and then the kids are in bed by 7:30.
- We leave the house maybe 2 times a week, I grocery shop one day. We drive around and explore a nearby location etc.
That’s it. And you know what, it is completely okay. Over the last 30/40 years society has added more and more and more pressures of things we should do, things we should need, things we should want. The documentary showed a house, a 4 bedroom, 2 bath, 2500 sq ft house with heat sensors that tracked the movement of the family members. 90% of the time the family was in 2 spots. We need more to fill more. You are approved for a $500k home and instead of looking at what you really need, we look at what we can afford, what we want.
Anyway, I encourage all of you to look at if you are happy. How can you fix that? Letting go of the norms is so hard. Our happiness has become linked to what we have, and even when we have it all, we still aren’t happy. We are happiest when we see the joy on our kids faces when we give them more, when they are doing things that cost us money, when they are busy, because that is what we believe creates memories. Our houses are overflowing with things to pick up, things to clean, yard work, fixing things. We are forced to be so busy, and are now conditioned to be this way. We have yards full of activities, garages full of stuff, things we may look at again or need from 30 years ago. Memories of Stuff. How can we relax when we are surrounded by so many things?
I feel like now, more then ever, I am seeing all these self help coaches, ways other people can help you enjoy your life… we all need to find it within and I can promise, by removing things (not just reorganizing more “stuff” so its in pretty boxes on shelves so we can find where we put it one day when we want to look at it) you will find less demand on yourself, and in turn find time. This available time is when we just stop and are able to relax, to find happiness, to turn off the outside “things” and “people” who add the stressors and expectations and weight to our life.
We once again have discovered that our dream is to find land, with a view of bluffs and the water… and to build our efficient home, customized for us. A home just big enough, with sunlight and community space for us to spend as much time as we can together, being happy.
We just need to find our landing spot.