I work at a circulation desk of a public library, and I can’t tell you how many hours I’ve spent watching people rooting through their purses, handbags and backpacks trying to find their library cards.
I stand there patiently as they remove bulging wallets from mammoth pocketbooks and start sorting through the plastic. Credit cards. Health club membership cards. Insurance cards. Department store loyalty cards. “It’s here somewhere,” they’ll mutter. “I know I’ve got it. I really should be more organized.”
I refrain from agreeing “Yes, you certainly should.” And I certainly don’t add, “What you really ought to do is get rid of most of that stuff.” I just keep my mouth shut and marvel at the huge collection of crap most people carry around.
Finally, they’ll locate their library card and hand it to me. Or fail to locate the card. “What happened to it?” they’ll wonder.
Who knows? It probably IS in there somewhere. The problem is, so is everything else.
I’m a minimalist. I only have one credit card. And just five other cards in my wallet. My drivers license. My AAA card. My insurance card. My museum membership card. And, of course, my library card. And that’s it.
I enjoy not being weighed down by stuff. Yes, I know, that’s almost un-American! Still, I resist consumer culture. I don’t own a smart phone. I live in a small house. I buy clothes infrequently and wear them until they actually wear out. I drive a 2002 Toyota that I’ve only put 10,000 miles on since I bought it used a decade ago because I’d rather walk than drive.
Fifteen years ago, I left the practice of law to work at my local public library when I realized that having fun was more important to me than having money. Now I make a tiny fraction of what I’d be making if I’d continued to practice law.
But I enjoy my life a lot more.
I can’t afford the world travel, the pricey coffee table art books and the expensive restaurant meals that I used to enjoy. Do I miss those things? Not enough to return to the rat race that makes them possible.
This is what I’ve discovered — having less means having less stress.
I’m not talking about being poor. Obviously, that’s incredibly stressful. I’m talking about having just enough. But not having too much.
I don’t own a television. I don’t shop for recreation. I never go near the mall. So what do I do for fun? I read. I spend time with my friends. I swim. I go for long walks in my suburban Philadelphia neighborhood. (Where I can and do, literally, stop and smell the roses.)
Going for a walk with a good pal and having a great conversation is my favorite pass time.
Cost to me? Nothing. The best things in life really are free.
The culture we live in is urging us to buy things. Drive a newer car! Wear the latest fashion! Live in a great big house! Get the latest gadget! Get two! Big is better than small, and more is better than less.
All I’m suggesting is that we can choose not to buy into this. (Pun intended.)
Do I have a better life? A happier life? I have no idea. If schlepping around a million credit cards is working for you, that’s great. All I know for sure is that living as a minimalist makes me happy. (Plus, it’s better for the planet.)
And I probably spend a lot less time searching for stuff than you do.
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