“The problem with the rat race is, even if you win, you’re still a rat.” Lily Tomlin
I’ve been struggling this week with a topic. Life has calmed down so much since I went all rational-minimalist it seems that I’ve partially reached my goal: To live a simpler life. This is a good thing, though, make no mistake about it. For someone as ambitious and goal-driven as myself, it is difficult to not have a list of things to do on the weekend. In fact, I used to be so busy on the weekends I would joke that I couldn’t wait until Monday to return to work just so I could relax. But, alas, I reached down deep inside me and found a topic I’m passionate about and decided to get to work. After all, isn’t this blog about sharing my passions with others and hoping I impact their life a bit?
I’ve been following Adam Baker’s blog, Man Vs. Debt, and recently he announced the completion of a fantastic project called “I’m Fine, Thanks” which is so amazingly awesome and completely inspiring that I get goosebumps just adding a hyper-link to my own blog. Most people I know think this entire idea is a bit radical but I find myself getting all warm and fuzzy when I think about the idea. And here’s why…
My husband and I chose to live differently than most people. I admit, it did start out as a ‘have-to’ lifestyle where without two steady paychecks and annual salaries over $100K, I felt a bit deprived. ‘Doing without’ seemed more like a dreadful thing than something exciting. But we started a journey and added a little bit of mind-shifting thoughts. We studied simplicity and the new-minimalism mindset, and ‘debt free living’… only to realize, we prefer this lifestyle over the ‘rat race’. We dig it. It suits us.
I am fortunate to have a job where I work from home without much supervision. It is very much like being self-employed except that I know where my next paycheck is coming from (at least for now) and I’m extremely grateful to be blessed by this sweet little set up. I also draw a great income which is equivilant to many of our friends who work two jobs to make ends meet. So, yes. We are blessed. We make enough money that we can live a simple life, pay all our bills, have a bit of play money on the side, and enjoy our life. My husband is a musician and he spends his time working up songs and playing with various local bands. He brings in enough money – and usually just at the right time – to allow us to buy those extras or take a weekend trip. He also works from home and we get to see a lot of each other throughout the day – but we stay in separate corners enough so we can still enjoy each others company. We don’t have a problem with this set up. But it seems other people do. It seems that not having a ‘real job’ is a real problem for some people when they hear about our situation, especially that my husband doesn’t get up on Monday to dress for a job he hates. It chaps my ass because we are living our American Dream – and it seems to bother other people because it challenges their idea of what the American Dream is. I could use this time to go on and on about some of the mean, hurtful things people (even family!) say about how we’ve chosen to live our life, but I’ve made a promise to you, dear readers, to keep this upbeat and encouraging…and so I will. Here are just a few things are lifestyle has allowed us – or will allow us – to do:
1) My husband single-handedly raised the value of our house by $12,000. Because my husband doesn’t have a ‘real job’ he had all the time in the world to remodel our kitchen by himself. It took about 2 months, but it looks so much better than it did and we didn’t go crazy with stainless appliances and granite counter tops, but even so, a friend with a real estate background said the modest upgrades added about $12K in equity to the house. I’m extremely proud of my kitchen and proud of my husband for taking on this project – especially when I consider the fact that he isn’t a construction worker and I know he’d rather be practicing his guitar than working 12-hour days on this ‘job’. It is truly beautiful – and all done on just under $1,000. (I’ll say this: My husband is the hardest working unemployed person in the world and I’m blessed by his creativity!!!!)
2) We will save about $400 a week in childcare. I work from home, my husband works from home. I work during the day, he works mostly nights and weekends. I don’t need to go into great detail here – but I will tell you that if the roles were reversed, and my husband brought in my salary and I worked part time no body would say a word. We are, truly, the modern family. We get to raise our child instead of sticking him in daycare with a bunch of people we barely know. We get to instill our values in him instead of correcting bad behavior taught by people with values different from our own. I know there are many women who envy this but because of the boat, the vacation rentals, and the second car payment, can’t afford to do it.
3) We can examine the possibility of homeschooling. I admit, I once considered homeschooling to be concept of the religious-right, but the more I learn about the lifestyle, the more I am drawn to it. The most interesting thing about bringing up homeschooling in conversation is that the three people who seem to support my idea the most are teachers. Interesting. It speaks volumes to me when public educators are encouraging me to NOT provide public education for my child. It solidifies my reasons (which are non-religious and non-’right’) to home school. Anyway, I have almost 6 years to think about it, so I may change my mind. I’ll keep you posted.
4) We can take fun little day (or weekend trips). Admittedly, extravagant vacations like cruises and week long tours of Disneyland are not in our budget but even if they were…those kinds of vacations just do not sound like fun to us. By not taking a huge, expensive week long vacation, we get to take in more fun things during the year, and maybe even learn something new in the process. I like to get in my car and drive to the lake and chill out by the water. My husband likes to visit flea markets and antique stores in hopes of coming across some vintage guitar or an old tool worth its weight in gold. We want to take our child to Wilson’s Creek Battlefield, Johnson’s Shut-Ins, Yellowstone National Forest, and float down the Buffalo River. I want him to explore how musical instruments are made by craftsmen/women, and learn how important our freedom is by hearing stories by local veterans. Disneyland sounds completely nauseating to me (I’ve been there 8 times in my life and really only remember the Monte Cristo sandwiches at the Pirates of the Caribbean restaurant and the long lines for the Matterhorn. I’m sure this would sadden my parents to know they spent all this money on those trips). The happiest place on earth? Really? I’m never happy when I have to pay $8 for a hot dog. Our little day trips allow us to meet some of the coolest people, and because we aren’t pressed for time, we can even chat awhile with them. My husband and I still talk about the woman making violins we met at Silver Dollar City one rainy October day and the 10-year old fiddle player who brought tears to my eyes when he played. Those were the highlights of that day trip – oh, and of course, the $6 funnel cake. Even minimalists indulge.
5) We have time to be creative. So many of my friends work all week long, drag their kids to a million activities, and then spend the weekends catching up on laundry, grocery shopping, lawn care, etc. My husband practices. I try new recipes (because I really am trying to embrace cooking!!). He works in his workshop drawing plans for a new guitar. I make some curtains or decorate the nursery. I buy groceries during the week. He mows the lawn whenever. Laundry? I do a load each day and its manageable. The point is, our ‘weekday’ lifestyle is so awesome that a weekend day is just another day – but with less to do. It’s so freaking awesome.
So, while I could go on a major tangent about the butt-head statements made by those who don’t understand why we do what we do, I choose to focus on the really cool stuff we get to do that they don’t. By choosing to life a ‘non-excessive’ lifestyle (a.k.a. Rational Minimalism) our priorities and values have a bit of breathing room. We may not have a closet full of clothes (we did…but we got rid of most of them) or a garage full of recreational items (who needs a snow board in Missouri??) our house is always 15 minutes away from being presentable to company and grilled-dinner for our closest friends is not a huge production. We prefer our life this way. And to those who don’t understand it, or who criticize it…I’ll end with my favorite statement in the entire world: “Sounds like that’s your issue because it certainly isn’t mine…”