Today’s post is from staff writer Melanie.
For as long as I could remember, I have been a minimalist. I don’t like stuff. It actually overwhelms me at times.
I have a huge disdain for shopping, which I know makes me some sort of freak as I do biologically identify as a female (but how much of that is cultural conditioning, I wonder). But shopping, especially clothes shopping, simply represents a plethora of choices and inevitable disappointment. Clothes never fit the way you want, it always looks better on someone else and there is so much pressure to buy the best thing.
My minimalism has gotten me in trouble though. I never bring back souvenirs when I travel and I hardly remember to take any photos. I love being in the moment – real life can be so much better than a photo, but then I end up regretting it later, when the memory fades.
When I moved to New York from Los Angeles, I moved with one large suitcase. I kept a few belongings at my parent’s house, and sold the majority of my stuff.
It felt good to declutter and be so free. When it was time to move to Portland to be with my partner, I packed that same large suitcase, and sold all my furniture. Once again, it felt so freeing to live with so little. You start to realize how important things really are (or are not) to you.
I moved to Portland to be with my partner, a musician. It was our first time living together.
We started looking for a place to live and I realized he had so much stuff. So much stuff that it would affect where we would live.
Because as a musician and audio engineer, you need a certain amount of equipment to be deemed professional. My partner has 4 different guitars, an electric bass, and a standup bass, in addition to all his recording equipment, microphones, and speakers.
All of a sudden, the thing that initially attracted me to him (being a musician), was seriously stressing me out. I started counting all of the things, calculating how much money all of it was worth. I accusatorially asked him, “Do you really need ALL that stuff?”
The answer was “yes.”
I had to back off a little. In every relationship, there is a moment of compromise and this was mine. We ended up finding an apartment, a large studio no less, that would fit all of his stuff.
Here is what I learned about being a minimalist and living with a partner who is not:
1. Everything Has a Different Value
I think my boyfriend could be a minimalist, but because of his desired profession, it’s very difficult. He’s very talented and is an instrumentalist, audio engineer, and composer. Unfortunately, that requires you to have a lot of equipment to produce and create. His things are what give him joy and help him create beautiful music. His instruments aren’t trash or junk and they do have value. I have learned that not all things are equal and that I can’t judge everything by the same standard.
2. You Can Go Too Far with Minimalism
I hate to say it, but I have thrown out hand written letters, gifts, and other sentimental items because I didn’t want the clutter. Now as I get older, I cherish those things deeply and wish I hadn’t been so hasty.
3. Just Because You’re a Minimalist Doesn’t Mean Everyone Has To Be
I understand the desire to evangelize the benefits of minimalism. If you’re minimalist you know it feels so good to live with less and be free of attachments. You want others to feel the same. But people have deep, psychological attachments to their things. I have accepted that what is right for me, might not be what is best for someone else, for a variety of reasons.
Coming to Terms
We’ve been living together for three years now and his belongings have now become part of our home. I enjoy watching him play bass and be passionate about music, while I hole up in the corner typing up posts.
Our belongings may just be things, but they can also help us create a life together –and sometimes that is something you have to embrace.
About The Author: Melanie blogs about breaking up with debt at DearDebt.com and invites others to write breakup letters to their debt as well. She’s accumulated a total of $81k in student loan debt between two degrees. Currently she puts more than 50% of her income towards debt, while living a frugal, fun life. Melanie enjoys travel, art, music, adventure, and of course, personal finance.
Photo Credit of Steve Jobs, his lamp, stereo and cup of tea: Lifehacker