I’m a sucker for a minimalist on a journey. Anyone who can walk away from a job that makes them unhappy, start a business with pretty much nothing, or pursue their art all with a creative strategy like minimalism is completely dazzling to me. While I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist, I embrace minimalist sensibilities, a desire to live with less and simplify. Living with less is subjective.
Some would think my carriage house in Brooklyn, NY is too small. Others way too big. For me, it’s perfect for what we want, and I don’t feel the need to fill every square inch with stuff. I’m comfortable with what I have and enjoy a lean aesthetic. However, I spent the first half of my tenure in New York with little more than a bed, dresser, love seat, and clothes and was quite happy with what I owned.
Everything else I used was generally a roommate’s or came as a free hand-me-down. It was enormously convenient when moving around apartments, spending less time on cleaning, and having more money at my disposal for travel and the things that actually mattered to me.
I also prefer to minimize my movement and thoughts. I like to obsess over one idea for a while, mull it over and explore it before taking on 10 others. I prefer sipping coffee and reading the paper on the subway in the morning than transferring to catch the express line and make a mad dash to stuff myself onto a crowded train. My husband and I travel everywhere with one roller-board suitcase each. Or just a single backpack.
There is just no point in spending all of your time packing and re-packing, worrying over losing a favorite shirt or a creature comfort while on the road. I am unhappiest on my travels when I’ve overpacked. You can’t move around easily, spontaneously drop in a new city, or take on a new adventure with all of your stuff holding you down. When’s the last time you saw someone dash across a train platform in Italy hauling 4 or 5 bags?
If you travel with kids, it’s a myth parents are children’s roadies complete with an arsenal of high-tech gear, toys, clothes, and gadgets.
I know a couple who only packs a few outfits for their baby, some diapers, a bottle, car seat, and a toy when they travel. She really doesn’t need anything else and always seems content.
With less, you actually have more freedom for more. You have opportunity and room for greater creative abundance. When is the last time you sat down and wrote part of your novel or picked up a paintbrush when you had a pile of clothes in your bathroom, a sink full of dirty dishes, and a bunch of boxes you never unpacked from the last time you moved? When my mother-in-law visits, she’s surprised at how “efficient” our apartment is.
And that’s the way I like it. I don’t want 6 sets of dishes. Or 4 mops. Or 6 closets full of seasonal clothing. Or an entire drawer dedicated to tape. I just want what we need with a scattering of things we enjoy or bring some comfort. I want time to think and create and explore new ideas. While our place is probably excessive to a true minimalist, it’s pretty compact and carefully planned compared to a sprawling suburban house.
I use de-cluttering as a creative strategy to get inspired and recharge my creativity.
When purging old clothes, books, and junk; the house feels electrified. You can feel the energy flowing freely and it’s easy to get inspired. It makes me wonder how a small space, or lack of stuff, impacts creativity.
One of the more inspiring and creative minimalist phenomenons I’ve seen is the Tiny House movement. There is a group of people, usually professionals with adequate financial resources, who choose to live in less than 100 feet of space. The size of a large parking spot. The ‘houses’ are usually not considered dwellings by the city or state, and thus there are no property taxes.
Their owners are free to take them with them when they move or change up the scenery. The houses are also pretty adorable. You can build your own tiny house by buying some inexpensive plans online, or have one made with you. I showed this to my neighbor, and he said: “That’s not a house, it’s a shack.” Perhaps. Or maybe it’s a pretty ingenious way to live. How much space do you really need?
You don’t need a tiny house to be a part of the movement or radically simplify. Check out Tynan‘s blog and his quest for freedom. He lives in an RV in Austin and spends his time and resources on his entrepreneurial pursuits, adventure, and travel.
If an RV isn’t quite your speed, what about a houseboat? I’m mildly obsessed with the idea of how a houseboat impacts your creative point-of-view. Most people think you need to live in Maine, Florida, or California to live in a boat instead of looking right in the city. In Manhattan, a lucky few live at the 79th Street Boat Basin costing roughly $490 a month to dock. There’s also houseboat activity on the Gowanus Canal and Venice Marina.
Want something more down to earth? There’s a hobbit-house reminiscent of The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe over at Simon’s Eco-house in Wales. You can literally live one with nature. I can’t say that I will never own a house, but I can say it was one of the best decisions not to buy when we looked around a few years ago. Given our budget at the time, we would have spent most of our time and financial resources fixing up and upgrading our purchase. One such house we looked at had 3 kitchens in a single-family home. Yes. Three.
With three kitchens, there would have been little left over to pursue our creativity; and plenty of unnecessary stress in carrying a mortgage and property taxes. Now we can make small tweaks in our apartment to adjust our aesthetic whenever we feel like it. Or call our landlords when things break and they schedule and pay for the repair. The money we would have used as a down payment is earning interest and we have more monthly income to allocate towards savings, travel, or new creative projects. There’s also freedom in knowing we can move just about anytime we feel like it. Or just stay. It’s our choice.
What’s your choice? And how does it impact your creativity?