Minimalist thinking, “simplifying” our lives, getting rid of “clutter” was the new way of thinking. Matt just couldn’t buy it. You see, Matt had come from a very simple lifestyle as a kid. No trips to Florida for Christmas, no cottage on a beautiful Ontario Lake, no trips abroad with family or expensive meals in restaurants. However, he had experienced a mother who worked on Christmas Day, hand me down toys, clothes, bikes and a lot of sharing. Perhaps because of this he found it difficult to swallow the elitists who were now shopping in hand me down stores and claiming that their behaviour was somehow good for the planet. I guess they’ve forgotten all the new cars they sent to the dump, their huge carbon footprint as they jet setted all over the country and all over the world. Perhaps it slipped their mind that expensive nights out and an abhorrence for cooking at home was not really a “simpler” life.
Not that any of these experiences had troubled him because he was a self contented little boy with a great imagination and was able to relish many childhood moments. Like the time Santa gave him a used aquarium and he built a turtle house in it and used his bedroom lamp as the sun. And the wonderful summers in the backyard where he would make tents on the picnic table with his three sisters and they would pretend that the top of the table was the boat on the way to the cottage. He didn’t see an actual lake until he was much older and when he did he was absolutely mesmerized. His parents scraped together enough money to rent a place way up north for a couple of weeks and every moment of the 14 days was like being in heaven. They rented a little boat, ate meals on the back of the station wagon and listened with great delight to their Dad’s reel to reel tape recorder. They never went out for dinner. They embodied minimalism in a very real sense of the word.
Finally, by the age of 40 Matt managed to purchase his first home and he was excited ~ he had lived in rental properties for most of his childhood, his parents could not afford a car until he was 12 and often as a child many items of clothing passed down from his older cousin or given to his mom simply did not fit. He would try to cram himself into the hand me down jeans knowing that they were all he was going to get. He wasn’t surprised when he purchased two new pairs of very stylish jeans when he was 50 and absolutely loved them. He folded them neatly after coming out of the dryer often ironing them and feeling with great pleasure the cloth beneath his touch. Now he had a lovely new home and he really hoped to be able to make it his home ~ he didn’t want hand me down tables and used couches. The first thing he did was buy a decent table so he could host his family and he started to purchase all of the things necessary to entertain and live a more complex life. He didn’t want simple ~ he’d already done that.
Over the years he managed to create an artistic space and a homey environment that his friends and family loved. He was organized, so entertaining was a breeze with the help of his wife and children. So yes now he does have a lot of stuff. And everything has meaning for him. The dining room table represents hundreds of family celebrations and events, his original couch reminds him of sitting beside his wife as she nursed his new born son, the toys that he has saved are still brought out to delight the grandchildren ~ they are neatly stored and easily accessible and remind everyone of a different time.
All of his Dad’s records have been carefully looked after ~ never shoved in a cardboard box and stored in a damp place. They have been curated and special display bins have been carefully crafted to ensure their longevity. Each record tells a story and reminds him of a different time in his life. He still has all of his original albums all carefully stored in the display bins and played regularly. Hard cover books are a delight and re read and shared often ~ he didn’t want kindle versions, he didn’t want to stream his music, he didn’t want the latest phone. But, he also didn’t want to explain his lifestyle to anyone.
Matt could easily relate to the impenitent anger of disenfranchised people, the poor and children with little hope of ever accomplishing a “simple” life. His insatiable mind resisted the illogical thinking of middle aged privileged individuals who felt that now, after a lifetime of over spending and over indulging were somehow going to redeem themselves by de-cluttering their houses.
He had one childless friend who really believed that by not shopping at WalMart she was doing something politically astute. She often pontificated on the shameless disregard for the planet, shown by low income families shopping at WalMart. I guess she forgot the part where they were simply trying to give their kids a Christmas present. And believe me Christmas was going to be “Simple”. They weren’t going to point at their shoes and proclaim “Value Village” with a tone of derision and superiority in their voice. They knew all about Salvation Army hand me downs and toys that lasted 3 minutes and then broke on Christmas Day. And unlike people who choose to shop at Value Village, in their latest vehicle or SUV ~ and are able to shop regularly and pick out all the BEST stuff …… low income families were forced to shop there. And, back in the old days when it was not so popular they could actually buy some of the BEST stuff. Not to mention that the prices in these places has sky rocketed thanks to the “Planet Savers”.
So Matt chose to shop locally and carefully. He too wanted to be environmentally aware and he sure was never a profligate. But, he was particularly thankful for the financially stable aspects of his life. He cherished every simple aspect of his day and his life. And he was never going to apologize for his stuff.