The Paradox of Minimalism

Welcome to my random musings about the world, on a weekly-to-occasional basis.

Where we are: Bonaire, where we had a proper American Thanksgiving dinner last night. I am grateful for many things, including spicy Caribbean-style stuffing.

The Paradox of Minimalism

Fun fact: I’ve never actually gone shopping on Black Friday. I always thought I would, but then I could never think of a good reason to. Bargains are nice, but even when we had a house and kids and stuff, I could never think of anything I really needed badly enough to make it worth battling crowds. We often spent the day after Thanksgiving having a second Thanksgiving with whichever extended family we’d missed the day before, and failing that, I was always thrilled to spend the day eating leftovers and reading and going for a long walk.

One random Sunday afternoon, this past August, we found ourselves sitting in a small Scottish hotel room, having what was, for us, a normal afternoon. Reading, watching the Tour de France, and staring out the window at the view. It was a very tiny little space, and it was perfectly adequate for us. Lee pointed out that we had everything we needed, in a room that was smaller than our bathroom in the house we used to live in.

The reality is, we just don’t take up much room these days. The apartment we’ve rented here on Bonaire is huge, by our current standards. It has two bedrooms, two bathrooms, and a large balcony. Lee sometimes wanders around looking for me. We’re not used to being able to spread out this much.

We get a lot of questions about our stuff: what our luggage looks like, what we did with our house and possessions. Well, I’ll tell you: we don’t have very much. There’s a storage locker in North Carolina, in which we have one banker’s box of things I couldn’t quite let go of—some portraits of our children, their baby books—a few bits like that.

That’s it. Our suitcases fit in the overhead bin, if for some reason we don’t want to check them. Sometimes we do; sometimes we don’t. We’re weird like that. 

For what it’s worth, I do occasionally love new things. I love clothes—shoes, particularly. But they just won’t fit in my bag, so I’ve learned to do without. I satisfy my retail urges with things like tea and chocolate. I buy any kind of digital content I want, and tell myself it’s cheaper than a pair of Fluevogs.

But in this pandemic year, I’ve come to really appreciate our lack of stuff. When we were in Mexico in March, freaking out about the coronavirus, and decided on the spur of the moment to flee to Japan, it took us less than an hour to pack all of our stuff. I learned something that night: I can actually pivot, in large part because I have so few possessions.

The border here in Bonaire is still closed to people coming from the US; when it opens, anyone wanting to come will still have to wait for airlines to resume flights. We’ve been paying attention to various Facebook groups, and watching people stressing out about being unable to access their property here. Lots of Americans have vacation and/or rental homes on the island, and they’ve been unable to get here for ten months now.

We’ve always been comfortable with our decision to go nomadic, of course—otherwise we wouldn’t have done it. But for the first time, I’m able to see it as a real advantage, rather than a sacrifice we had to make in order to have this traveling lifestyle. 
Our physical minimalism makes us incredibly flexible. The less stuff we have, the more choices we have.

We have the entire world to choose from, but we take up very little space. It’s a paradox, but the one would not be true if the other were not. Part of the reason we have the entire world to choose from is because we take up so little space.

From my writer’s notebook:

A huge new excavation has been ongoing in Pompeii since 2017; some of the finds are amazing—mosaics, frescoes, jewelry, and of course perfectly preserved skeletons. I’ve wanted to go to Pompeii for years; it’s close to the top of my ‘as soon as the pandemic is over’ list. That list gets longer every day.

Take care,


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