Our plans to leave relatively well-paid jobs, the social security and well-fare system of Sweden for rural Spain poses some fundamental financial, occupational and emotional questions. Will we be able to make enough money to buy a house in Gaucín and lead a meaningful life here within a couple of years, as we hope? Should we aim to pursue our respective careers once we make the move, or should we do something else entirely for a living? Will up-rooting ourselves, learning a new language and leaving friends, colleagues and family behind prove to be too much, emotionally? We have no answers at this point. We do have a strategy, or, if you will, a philosophical, or even spiritual, approach, that we think will guide our way towards the mountains of Spain. We choose to call it minimalism, well aware that this is a currently trending and quite hazy terminology refering to anything from hairdos and interiour design to arcitecture and economy. Our version of minimalism indeed includes choices concerning these, and more, aspects of life. At the moment, our minimalist endeavours are primarily about spending as little money as possible in order to increase our savings.
To us, minimalism means consuming as little as possible and reducing our material possessions to a minimum. The point, is to explore our material and emotional needs in order to find out what really matters – and, subsequently, what can be eliminated from our closets, backpacks, calendars, expenditures and, not least, from the back of our minds. So far, our minimalist experiment has proven to be even more rewarding than we expected. Let us give you a few examples.
We might as well admit to being quite anal when it comes to our home. Any visible smut or clutter upsets our delicate souls. This psychological disposition could obviously become a source of angst, but, adhering to a minimalist lifestyle, it’s the opposite. Since we own very few things, and decorate our apartment sparsely, keeping it clean and neat is easy. It takes us no more than an hour a week to do so. Clearing, vacuuming and dusting become effortless when there are only a few pieces of furniture and decorational items to grapple with. In addition, we needn’t spend any time looking for misplaced belongings or trying to fit stuff into crammed storage spaces.
More important than keeping our home clean, though, is creating an environment that allows us to recover from busy work-lives. This means, our apartment must be rid of anything keeping our minds overly occupied. Hence, there are no electronical devices, calendars and work-related trinkets lying around. Neither are there used clothes, dirty dishes or any form of clutter catching the eye, screaming “Clean me!” or “Remember me!” . Instead, we make sure our apartment is beatiful, peaceful and brings us joy. We love spending time there, cooking for our friends, tending to our plants and engaging in DIY-projects.
We both grew up poor (notably, by Swedish standards) and never learnt to handle money – there simply wasn’t any to be handled. Moving out of relative poverty into comfortable middle-class life has meant a more relaxed attitude towards spending money – admittedly, a little too relaxed. Embarking on our minimalist quest therefore meant starting to map our expenses, putting each under close scrutiny. It should be noted that, in comparison to most relatively wealthy people, we were always far from extravagant. Still, we quickly recognised that making cut-backs could take us a long way. Everything – and we really mean everything – that we found to be less than absolutely necessary had to go. Among the expenditures we’ve eliminated are minor and major things such as cotton pads, week-end trips, take away coffee, chewing gum, eating out, magazines and owning a car. In less than six months, we managed to save two full years of living expenses.
What’s fascinating, and what sent us on a more spiritual path of minimalism, is that we had fun doing this. Our lives didn’t at all become dull, grey and meaningless as a consequence of depriving ourselves of everyday luxuries. Instead, they’ve gained new, deeper meaning. We now take great pleasure in simple things we used to take for granted. The other day when we went to the beach in Estepona, Emmie ordered a bottle of sparkling water with ice and lemon. She hadn’t had anything like this in six months. As cheesy as it may sound, sipping on the cold drink made her feel nothing but blessed. This reaction would not have been possible back in the days when we spent money on such things without thinking twice. In other words, consuming less has made our lives richer in every way.
One last example of our minimalist experiments, concerns hair- and skincare. We started by asking ourselves how badly we needed the products on our bathroom shelf: is it really so that our faces will fall off of our skulls and we will go instantly bald lest we buy a certain number of bottles with more or less chemical-laden content? It seemed unlikely, given that people have managed to keep sufficiently clean and groomed throughout the millenia, without the blessing of L’Oreal, Schwartzkopf and the like. After trying out a few alternative products, we’ve arrived at a surprisingly cheap and simple solution: olive soap, apple-cider vinegar and sunflower oil. These three ingredients, along with ordinary razors, are all we use for hair, face and body. We’ll expand on why and how in later posts. For now, suffice it to say that they are better when it comes to nourishing skin and hair than most fancy products, while costing next to nothing.
By now, surely you get the main picture when it comes to our version of minimalism. It is about spending less money, while at the same time enhancing the pleasures of life. We’ll be sure to tell you more about minimalism in cooking, eating, dressing, shopping, working out and traveling in future posts.