When you decide to be car free in a consumerism-obsessed world, some people freak. They think you've joined a cult or been brainwashed or, most often, gone broke and are too scared to admit you need the cash. Big decisions like this are what prompt the hardcore "what are you doing with your life?" comments from others and, more importantly, what help you to decide who your real friends are.
At the time we made the choice to be car free – a few years back – we were heading out for several months of travel (which was already disturbing enough for some people). I remember we kept hearing "That's crazy! How will you get around when you get back?" The truth is... we probably didn't really need a car in the first place. I mean, come on, our home base is Seattle. We have easy access to public transit, an express bus to the airport and we can easily rent a car when needed. We're most embarrassed to admit that – when we were driving – we both worked downtown. There was no long commute and no kids to haul to soccer practice in the burbs.
Even for us, through all the relatively simple minimizing associated with our lifestyle rejiggering, deciding to be car free was probably the most difficult decision. We, too, held on to many of those outmoded beliefs about why you "have to" have a car.
Owning a car became part of our identity. What kind of people were we if we didn't have a car?
Recently, a friend was telling us that she regularly tries to sort through her stuff in an attempt to simplify and de-clutter. She said "I look at everything spread out across the floor, and I start justifying why I need to keep each item. It's bizarre. It's just stuff - most of which I don't even use." That's the thing about minimizing. It's often not really about the relatively simple act of getting rid of stuff. Rather, it can be about the identity we associate with our possessions.
This is why minimizing was such an important part of creating our NVR lifestyle. When you strip away all of those things that are, oftentimes, a false representation of your identity, you free up the space to figure out what your identity really is. And, in retrospect, that's exactly why it was tough for us to break up with the car and why our friend can’t seem to part with things she admittedly has no need for or connection to. When life seems uncertain and unfulfilling, it can be terrifying to do anything that makes you face who you really are.
We're big fans of minimizing for the sake of minimizing. If you don't need it, get it in the hands of someone who does or get rid of it in an environmentally sensitive way. But if, as was the case for us, certain items seem to have a hold on you, ask yourself why. What decisions might you be avoiding? What dis-ease might you be trying to bury in junk?
For us – when we started to live deliberately, or at least try – it became all about asking "What in the hell do we have this for?" We had unnecessary tech gadgets, furniture that just filled unused space and clothes we bought simply because they were on sale. No wonder we were half nuts.
And that car. That car that, on some level, affirmed that we "must be successful" when, in truth, we weren't successful in a way that mattered at all.
Minimize. Lose the weight of stuff you don't need and, along the way, gain some insight into who you really are.
What's your take? Are you comfortable minimizing?