Minimalism and a Sense of Fun
Amid the journey to serenity and an uncluttered abode, it’s sometimes easy to forget that, as a lifestyle, minimalism leads to fun. Getting rid of things does not mean getting rid of personality. Even living inside a simple white space does not mean you lose all your personal color.
Nothing is Simpler than Your Inner Ten-Year-Old
When I was ten, life was pretty good, and it was easy to have fun. I was old enough to do a lot of things on my own, yet not old enough to be responsible for very much. I would read one Nancy Drew mystery after another, I still got a kick out of dolls and Legos and crafts, I loved to climb an old cherry tree, I had the bestest cat in the whole world, and puberty hadn’t kicked in yet. I’m sure the world was in turmoil for the adults around me, but I was still innocent and oblivious to it.
The summer day that I turned ten I had to clean up my room because some friends were coming over in the afternoon for games and cake and ice cream. I had one of those spiky little square looms for weaving potholders with jersey loops sitting on the floor. Back then they were made of metal. The floor of my room was quite messy and I tripped. My left knee landed on the loom, creating a deep gash that required stitches. There was still cake and ice cream that afternoon, but the rest of the plans were canceled, because I couldn’t run or play badminton, the current obsession among our little group. My room was still too messy to hang out in, too. I was so angry at myself. It was clear that I had too much stuff to deal with in my room, no place left to put things away, and that only led to no good. I wanted it out, all of it, except for the few “very most important” things, so when the stitches healed enough, I boxed up everything else and took it to the attic. I went through regular updating purges like this, at least every birthday and Christmas when new stuff came in, for about three years.
Once puberty hit, though, what qualified as the “very most important” things seemed to change weekly. Suddenly, grubby bump-toed sneakers had to be pristine white Keds (kept white with shoe polish), the right blue skirt was imperative, the right kind of hair style could make or break my whole life (and required 9,000 pieces of various related products, ribbons, curlers, and whatnot to make it happen), and then it would all change to a different shoe, a different skirt, a different hairdo, meaning more and different stuff. I became aware that the grownups had some serious issues with each other and even with me, people I cared about died (a jolly grandpa, Bobby Kennedy, my school bus driver), cramps came at unexpected times, I was taller than all the boys in my class except the one who was repeating eighth grade for the third time, math and music and art and poetry became fascinating and awful in turns, choices were both greater and more critical, everyone had strong opinions and made me feel uneasy about my own, and everything seemed to get more complicated by the day–for the next forty-two years. Fun was hard to come by, and sometimes took self-destructive forms. You know what I mean.
Every so often, though, a purge was necessary, like after a breakup, or before moving to a new house. I found it cathartic. A shift in possessions came with a shift in direction, and for at least a little while things would seem simpler, calmer, clearer, and just more fun in and of itself. Unfortunately I also considered it a fresh start for acquiring more new stuff. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, though, that I got down to the “very most important” things again. In doing so, I’ve occasionally come as close to feeling ten years old again as I possibly could, given all the responsibilities and some knowledge that can’t be unlearned.
Consider these wonderful sneakers that I recently purchased. I do like a bit of purple to mix with the blacks and whites and denims that comprise the bulk of my unbulky wardrobe. When I came across these in the 50-75% off aisle at Target–and in my very common size which is seldom available by the time anything goes on deep clearance–it was as if Life was handing me something I really wanted (a sense of fresh uncomplication) without causing undue strain on my wallet. Same with the socks. They’re comfortable and practical, but their essential value is in the way I briefly reconnect with a much simpler frame of mind when I look at them.
Sure, minimalism makes a lot of good things possible, creating room in your life and your house and your budget for the important things in life, for bringing in serenity and mindfulness and good works and right living and all that. But I also think it brings in enough mental space to really connect with those little quirky things that mean fun and happiness to you. And you don’t need a whole lot of them, either. I wouldn’t be happier with several pairs of bump-toe sneakers than I am with just this one pair, but there was I time I might have thought I would be, and then the fun would be lost amid the resulting clutter. At the same time, getting down to essentials, the “very most important,” does not necessarily mean becoming monastic or sterile.
The scar on my knee is still there, along with a few more, both physical and mental. But I still love to read mystery series one volume after another, I don’t worry too much about the ‘do anymore–or cramps, and I’ve been wearing the same skirt for ten years. (Climbing trees isn’t going happen, but I did climb up to the roof to patch a leaky spot.) People come, people go, as do cats. I married a guy who is ‘way taller than me, though. He totally gets the purple sneakers.
Has a sense of fun increased for you, too? Do tell.