In honour of Black Friday, which I know (conversely) as Buy Nothing Day, I am posting two interviews about minimalism.
Buy Nothing Day started right here in Canada over 20 years ago. I had a fun and activist school teacher at the time, who introduced me to Buy Nothing Day at a ripe, young age (planting the seeds of minimalism!). I have observed the day of anti-consumerism ever since.
Buying less is the single most effective thing we can do to help protect our natural environment and the earth’s resources — because we are not creating demand for resources. And…having less and doing more is probably the most effective thing we can do to find greater happiness and contentment in our lives. I’d call that win-win.
The first interview I’m sharing today is with Tiffany, and while she doesn’t use the word ‘minimalism’, everything she says and lives resonates as minimalism to me. I’ve followed Tiffany on Instagram for a long time, probably two years, which is a life time in social media terms. After a series of life events, some of which she talks about below, she had an epiphany that shaped how she has lived everyday since. While my path to living with less has been different, I share a similar experience with Tiffany.
In late September 2015, while Matt and I were camping with the children in Gloucester, Massachusetts, I had this heavy feeling, but a happy heavy feeling. I never wanted to leave. It wasn’t because I was on “vacation” (I do call camping a vacation, but our style of camping isn’t exactly leisure or glamorous, so it’s only vacation in the sense that we are away from home). I had been on vacations before, even really nice ones, and never had the feeling that I wanted to stay forever, that I had found my perfect place and space in life. When our family camps we bring and do the bare minimum, very little gear and equipment, very simple food. And I love it. The barest form of simplicity (for us). There are no extras. We bring nothing we don’t use. There is no schedule to observe except the natural rhythms of hunger and sleep. I feel complete peace. This simplicity feels like the greatest abundance. This ‘less’ is ‘more’.
I’ll let you read on to hear about Tiffany’s experience, but first a little more about her as way of introduction: Tiffany works as an x-ray tech and is a self-described plant hoarder. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two boys.
I hope you enjoy her perspective on life and the stuff that fills it. I know I do.
Tiffany, let’s start with a little bit about you. Who are you? What’s your background?
I’m a 35 year old girl! And by ‘girl’ I mean I have very few adult tendencies. I was one of four children growing up in an extremely small town outside of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. We were surrounded by corn fields and cows and even though I wouldn’t change a thing about my childhood, I prefer the suburbs.
What are you passionate about? How do you like to spend your time?
Absolutely passionate about my relationships. Not just my kids, but my husband and myself as well. I think that your relationship with your spouse is just as important as the one you have with your children. When I’m not spending time with them, I’m spending it by myself! I’m a bit of an introvert, so this is something I crave often. And when I get those moments of solitude I usually find myself taking pictures, gardening, or crafting of some sort.
How many children do you have and what are they like?
I have two boys, Cooper and Elio. Cooper, my oldest, is my calm. The sweetest soul, that boy. He’s hypersensitive, introverted, and full of wonder. Elio is my wild. The dreamer, the charmer, and wanderer. He’s super affectionate and already has the wittiest sense of humor. It’s amazing. You love your children equally, yet for so many different reasons.
Do you have a favourite quote or words that inspire you?
JUST. WING. IT
Seriously, it makes life way easier.
What is your story? What drew you to minimalism?
The term “minimalism” was never actually used. We kind of fell into it. Every year I take my boys camping and we pack for pure function. I finally realized why I couldn’t wait to go camping every year. It was for the simplicity of it. You pack what you need. And on those weekends when we were sleeping in a tent, hanging out outside all day, eating food off a fire I was completely relaxed and present with my boys. I love that. That’s what every mother wants and struggles with.
Watching their smiles and their little hands grace the rocks as they hunt for pebbles to skip on the lake. I wanted that every day, but it’s so hard to do at home with a million distractions and a million things to clean up. By the end of the week after our first trip this season I was overwhelmed by everything at home and struggling with dividing my time between everyone and everything. And that was it. I looked at my husband and said: “I want to camp at home”
I wanted just what we needed. And I knew if I erased a lot of the clutter, unused items, and toys I’d have less to think about and less to clean up after. And it’s so true. It really does work out that way. We have two small appliances, a toaster and a hand mixer. We now only have six plates, six bowls, and six cups. Even clearing out what was behind the closed doors helped clear my mind.
I believe there are many ways to be a minimalist and many forms of minimalism. What does minimalism mean to you?
It just means simplifying life. If you simplify your surroundings there’s more time to explore and really concentrate on your relationships with others. To love and to feel. To actually have the time to enjoy those little hobbies that you otherwise wouldn’t have time for. I don’t think it means your home has to be bare, my home is decorated. Even though I like the look of somewhat bare room, it’s just not me. We just don’t have anything ‘extra’. And now, when I’m at the store I really question my purchases.
In what areas do you struggle with maintaining your minimalist goals? What is your weakness?
Ah! My closet! I’m a girl. I still have a drawer full of jeans. To be fair, they make so many options for us. Skinny jeans, flare jeans, straight leg, dress jeans. It’s my biggest weakness, but also what I wear the most of. I have cut out a lot of other clothing though. I’ll be real, I don’t have time for dresses. I’ve kept a few for special occasions. I work full time so I’m mostly in scrubs and when I’m not I’m usually in some form of dirt with the boys so there’s no point in wearing nice clothes. I always fall back on the same pieces anyway, so it was kind of pointless for me to keep the others. I’m not as bad about shoes as most women, but I’ve always been the type to buy quality shoes that I know I’ll wear and will be timeless. And I kind of wear my Chuck Taylor’s with everything (even my wedding dress).
Have there been any struggles with the other people you live with about living in a minimal way?
My husband is all for it and my oldest son actually seems to understand. when we went through toys to donate, he knew the toys he didn’t play with were going to another kid that didn’t have as much. He’s also my logical thinker and it just made sense to him.
In what ways has minimalism improved your life?
I can’t begin to tell you. As a full time working mother, the struggle (and guilt) is really there when you’re trying to divide yourself between everything. I’ve always been the mom to take time out in my day to at least do something little with them. But still, before this, my mind wasn’t there. And I always felt guilty for that. And not only am I able to have more time for them, I have more time for myself. And who doesn’t want that?
What advice can you offer to people interested in living a minimalist lifestyle?
Just do it. You’ll be amazed at the difference in the quality of life your living. But, take it slow. You don’t have to do it all at once. We didn’t. We started one weekend and a few weeks later did more. In those few weeks you start looking more at what you can do without. And guys, you’ll be amazed at the amount of money you save. You really do start to question your purchases. Somewhere along the line, life became a contest to see who had better things. THINGS. I was buying things I didn’t NEED just to “keep up.” I don’t want to compete. I don’t even want to be in the race.
What are your dreams for the next year?
I really don’t think that far ahead. I just take it day by day. Life is better that way. For me, anyway.
Thank you very much Tiffany for sharing your story. Readers: You can find Tiffany on Instagram here
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