My life is... well, I guess you'd say it's unconventional. I'm still trying to figure out how to describe my lifestyle. The word "minimalist" is very popular these days. But when I think of a minimalist, I picture someone in a very neat and tidy house, with very little stuff and... well... um... I try... but... er... let's just say that's not really me.
I guess the only aspect of my life that I could accurately call "minimal" would be my need for money. So maybe the word is "frugal." But, the thing is, to me, "frugal living" always seems to conjure up an image of someone who spends a great deal of time actively involved in the process of saving money, stretching dollars, and trying to live a typical American lifestyle with less money.
And, well... the truth is, that I'm just not really interested in living anything remotely resembling the "typical American lifestyle."
So maybe I'm a hippie. But, in reality, I'm about 20 years too young to be a real hippie. Plus... well... I don't know... but to be completely honest, I'm just not up for the idea of living in a bus with a bunch of other people...
I guess on some level, it's all about choices, and what you are or are not willing to put up with.
I mean, when people look at my lifestyle, I generally get one of two reactions. People tend to either be jealous of my no job, get up when I feel like it, no time commitments sort of existence - they look at me and think that I've got it really easy and they sure wish they did too...
Then there are people who see me living without things like smart phones, and fancy clothes, and home decor, and expensive vacations and think that I must be somehow suffering and living a life of hardship and deprivation.
But in reality, it's all pretty simple. I've just made conscious decisions about what is and isn't important to me.
There are a lot of things that I'm willing to live with that other people aren't... but the opposite is also true. There are plenty of things that most people tolerate on a daily basis, and I'm just not willing to go there.
Cars and TransportationI am willing to walk to the grocery store about once a week. I actually accomplish most of my day to day errands on foot or bicycle. I consider it all a great excuse to get outside, enjoy the fresh air and go for a walk. But inevitably, some neighbor will see me hauling a few bags of groceries and stop to offer me a ride. It's sometimes difficult to explain, that this is what I want to be doing.
On the other hand, I'm not willing to sit in a car in traffic... I'm just not. I've never been willing to have a job that was more than a few miles from my home. I HATE the highway, and consider it a last resort. I generally won't go shopping if it means driving across town... I just hate it and refuse to do it.
So this all means that I have a 21 year old Honda that has less than 85K miles on it, and I fill up the gas tank about 3-4 times per year. It's a great savings... but it's not like my decisions are based on some higher moral purpose or anything like that... I just don't see the logic in spending a pile of money to participate in an activity (driving) which I totally hate. I just ain't gonna go there!
Vacations and Free TimeI have taken only one real vacation in my adult life... This was when I was with BeerMan and we spent a week on the beach in Mexico. Other than that, CatMan and I have gone camping once or twice, but generally, we just don't vacation.
Back when I still had a job, many of my co-workers would save all year for their annual vacations. This all really baffled me. I just couldn't imagine working all year just so you could enjoy one week of escape. It just always seemed to me that I'd much rather spend my time, money and energy creating a life that I didn't feel the need to get away from. And the truth is, why bother going somewhere else, when everything I want is right here?
Houses and StuffThis is one area that's just mind boggling to me. I often read things on line about people who have refinanced their mortgage and are now saving $1500 per month. Holy Moly! My entire mortgage is only $450/month. I can't even imagine how big your payments must be if refinancing could save you $1500.
I often see things on the news these days about struggling American families. And, it's not that I'm unsympathetic, but when I look at the pieces, I see people living in houses that are virtual mansions, full of fancy expensive furniture and decor... I mean no wonder they're broke! I'd be broke if I tried to live like that!
The truth is that I'm happy with my 900 square foot house in one of Denver's poorest neighborhoods. I don't relish the 40 year old avocado green shag, but it doesn't really bother me either. I've only purchased 2 pieces of furniture new in my entire life... an entertainment center and a CD shelf. I gave the shelf away because it was just clutter, and the entertainment center I only bought new because it was easier to haul it home in a box as opposed to trying to figure out how to fit a fully assembled one into my car.
I read things on line about people spending huge amounts of time redecorating, or remodeling, or otherwise making their homes look just so... and I dunno... I mean I suppose part of me can understand the desire to have everything look the way you want it to, but is it really worth the time, money and energy?
Seriously though... I just can't figure out what goes on in people's minds. Is the "pretty picture" really so important to people that they're willing to work their asses off their entire lives in order to pay for it all?
Jobs and WorkYou've probably figured this out already, but I hate working... at least I hate working for someone else.
The closest I ever came to a "real job" was running a non profit folk music school, and even that proved to be more than I could stomach. I'm not sure why, but I just really resent the whole idea that some person or entity thinks they have a claim to my time and energy.
It's not that I don't make some money. Technically, I am self-employed... but the truth is that I don't really work very hard. My current money making scheme is that I own a handful of web pages - mostly focused on photography and graphic design. I take pictures, design funny graphics etc, post them on line and make money from the ads.
I don't make a lot of money, but it's enough for me, and hey... if it means I don't have to have a job... I'm IN! I don't really see this as a "career"... the truth is that it's just a model that I stumbled upon that seems to work well for me... but there are thousands of other ways I could make money if this didn't end up working out.
But it's not all lollipops and roses either. Along the way I had to learn how to do my own taxes, how to write software, design databases, design web pages, do server management and a whole host of other things. But I am more than willing to do all of that.
OK... I think I could probably go on forever in this vein, and this post is already WAY too long. I guess when you get to the bottom of it, it's really just a matter of priorities.
And in the end, I don't consider my life to be overly easy or overly hard... I just consider it to be thoroughly mine.
So how about you? What are you and aren't you willing to put up with?