Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Minimalism Can Help You Break The Chains of Poverty

This is another one of my thinking out loud posts. Some of you already know I am getting back on my feet after some really tough years. Not easy, let me tell you. My first year as a single parent I was earning well below the standards set for poverty in our country. That year my total taxable income was $7,000. It took a lot of creativity and help from family and friends to keep a roof over our heads, but I did it. By all comparisons, I am doing much better now. But busting out of poverty is no easy task unless you make a really significant jump in income. Why? Things break. Credit piles up. If I hadn't been thrust into poverty, what I earn now, with my lifestyle, would be bountiful. I'd be able to build a savings. But that never happens. Because things break.

Right now I am ignoring the fact that my Jeep has a leak in the cooling system because going to the mechanic is not a financially sound option. So I keep adding fluid so it doesn't overheat and kill the engine. I haven't replaced my eye glasses in, well, it has been so long I can't remember. I have been putting off seriously needed dental care for that same amount of lost time.

Poverty is like a really deep hole in the ground with loose soil piled up around it at the top. You can attempt to climb out, but you've got to find a way to do it without burying yourself. At times you will be so tired from climbing your way out you want to just give up. You've had so much dirt thrown in your face it seems impossible to climb out. Occasionally you get a glimpse of someone walking by your hole and you try not to get angry, try not to envy them for having both feet on the ground. And occasionally someone up there will toss you a stepping stone so you are a little closer to the top, or hand you a shovel so you can dig easier. Someone may even throw you a rope, but you still have to climb out. Just as occasionally, someone will kick dirt back into your hole, where you will taste the grit of it in your teeth and it will mix with the tears on your cheek.

I have been climbing out of that hole for nearly four years now and I am not quite to the top yet. Getting there, but I still have more climbing to do. I am close, so close. If only things would quit breaking.

But I wouldn't have made it this far without grasping onto minimalism and, perhaps, being very frugal.

Minimalism has allowed me to focus on what's important even when things aren't going well. It is a matter of focusing on what you do have and not on what you don't. It is paying attention to your real needs and letting go of what isn't necessary. Instead of panicking, you trust that slow climb upwards. You take time to see the beauty within the chaos. You find peace in wanting less. You no longer feel poor when you are surrounded only by things that bring joy.

Well, most of the time you no longer feel that way.

Things still break. Important things that need fixed. But you are no longer at the very bottom of the hole getting dirt kicked in your face. Minimalism gives you some measure of control in a situation that can leave you feeling helpless. Even when things break.

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