Everett Bogue sent me an email the other day. We email each other on occasion and he’d stumbled upon an article he thought I would find interesting.
I had to read the article twice. Then I had to ponder the article for a couple of days because I could not believe what I was reading.
Why? Because based upon that article, despite the fact that I was one of the top Minimalist writers of the Great Recession, I’m apparently neither the proper gender nor a member of the appropriate socio-economic class to be considered a minimalist. Colin Wright made it though; I was surprised he even got a mention.
One of the aspects of the high-handed article that I found so hilarious that Everett himself, the central voice in the Minimalism movement and the very person who encouraged me to apply minimalism as I struggled after having my telecommuting job moved to another nation, wasn’t even mentioned in the article. He was the person who privately explained to me that I could achieve my dream of being a stay-at-home single mother. Despite the fact that it was Everett’s personal experience and voice who jump-started the Minimalist Movement of the Great Recession, he was written out of the history of the Minimalist Movement.
Even more hilarious, the very impetus of the Minimalist Movement, the Great Recession itself, wasn’t even discussed despite the fact that many of us were driven to live on less because we had to. A lot of us lost our jobs during that time, including myself. The author decided to delve into the art scene instead, which has absolutely nothing to do with our lifestyle.
Leo Babauta wasn’t even mentioned. None of us old guard were named in the article except for Colin, and they didn’t even deign to link to his website, which is infuriating. Instead, they discussed the pseudo-minimalists who jumped on the bandwagon well after it left the gate, the wealthy folk who decided that Minimalism was cool and had the money to do what those of us who started this movement never could and definitely never would:
Throw money away on super-expensive, impossible to maintain furniture, appliances, and gadgets that the true Minimalists would have never deigned to bother with.
Minimalism is the art of eliminating the unwanted/unnecessary in order to have more time/money/energy to focus on the wanted and the necessary. A true Minimalist would know that it is stupid to spend $1,000 on a high-end special hotplate when you could walk down to your local thrift shop or box store and pick up a hotplate that serves the exact same purpose for $20 – or free in my case. My hotplate was given to me by a neighbor.
Minimalism isn’t about spending $1,000 on a high-end washer/dryer combo. A true minimalist would reduce their laundry and either wash their clothes in the sink (as I have in the past), go to a laundromat, or invest in a portable washer, hanging their laundry up to dry in order to minimize their impact upon the environment.
But since the elites hijacked the Minimalism movement in order to hawk their wares (you know who I’m aiming that dig at) and give fancy speeches to those who have so much money they can’t figure out where to spend it, the rest of us who started this movement, the ones of us who became minimalists due to our frustration at the economic climate at that time have apparently been written out of the history.
So I have one thing to say to the authors of that article: kiss my ancient female ass. I was a minimalist before you were probably out of short pants and I don’t give two shits whether or not I fit your paradigm.
I personally embraced minimalism because what I had been taught about life wasn’t working. The only way I could afford to feed my kids was to learn how to live on less money. The only way to live on less money was to reduce the amount I purchased. And as I reduced the amount I purchased, I realized that there were advantages to living on less that I’d not conceived. Not only was I able to become a stay-at-home single mother (which I’ve been told is still physically impossible), but I freed up the time that allowed me to write a number of books designed to teach others how to do the same if they wanted.
That said, I never imagined I would experience the time when minimalism, particularly my version of financial minimalism, would be desperately needed. I’ve already written a number of books on the subject; if you want to survive what’s coming I suggest you find one and start reading. I’m not about to repeat myself in a new book when my old books say the exact same thing and provide the advice you need to get through this.
Which brings me to the other subject I would like to discuss.
One of the things Everett pointed out in his email and bogcast shortly after was that, during the Great Recession, a housing crisis caused quite a few people to become homeless.
While I do believe that the housing sector is about to undergo a massive change, there is something different happening now. The Federal Government has suspended evictions and foreclosures. States are slowly following suit. They don’t want us to be homeless now. In fact, they are busting their butts in several states (including mine) to provide housing to the homeless, which is something I never imagined I would see in my lifetime. The governor in my state actually called out some landlords who were trying to quietly evict people just the other day, calling that a major no-no.
I suspect that the Federal Government is so determined to prevent the spread of Covid-19 that they might end up subsidizing or even purchasing the properties of tenants and mortgage holders in danger of being evicted. It’s either that or have the landlord class rise up in protest. Since Trump is rather fond of the landlord class (he happens to be one of them), I suspect he’ll act to serve his own personal interests and apply the method he devises to save his own butt across the board in some way.
So for now, while this stuff is running rampant, I don’t think any of us need to worry too much about being homeless. While a housing crisis is pretty much inevitable since so many of us can’t afford to pay rent, I see too many signs that indicate that the Federal and State governments won’t allow that to happen. The landlord class is at the top of the house of cards that describes our current economy; the Federal Government seems determined to throw whatever they can at those top layers, to the point that they are all but ignoring the cracks that are appearing at at the foundation. Because of that, they will do what they can to keep the landlord class somewhat content so we can remain in our homes. While I don’t know how they will do that exactly, for now I believe we’re safe.
So keep your stuff. Stay home. Plant a garden if you have a yard or scavenge some buckets to start a container garden. I heard of one lady who bought a bunch of $1 trash cans to start her garden in since she didn’t own any buckets, so that might be an idea you can use. While only time will tell how things will pan out in the housing arena, for now I believe we’re safe from being evicted.
I will keep an eye on the news and warn you if I see any indications of trouble. If you happen to stumble upon something in your area, let me know. This is definitely something I want to stay on top of.
While you’re at it, ignore the advice of frugalists who think living on thousands of dollars a month is living cheap. They have no fucking clue what we’re about to deal with. If you don’t like the advice I give, find someone else who practices what they preach. Find someone who lives on very little money like I do and follow their advice. Just as with the Minimalist Movement, the frugal living movement is filled with charlatans who have no idea how to truly live on less.
You’re not going to coast through this by living the status quo, folks. Prices are already starting to rise nationwide. They will continue to rise. Most of the stuff we take for granted (including quite a bit of our food) originates from nations that are being hit hard with this virus, and it will take a while for the production in our nation to compensate. That’s the real reason it’s hard to locate bathroom tissue and diapers in the stores. Worldwide production is down. While factories in this nation are working hard to compensate, they actually do try to pay somewhat of a living wage so prices will go higher.
But if the strikes over PPE, sanitation concerns, and hazard pay continue, we will have a rocky road ahead of us as they sort things out.
Minimalism, folks. You need it. While you don’t need the “toss all of your stuff” brand of minimalism that many propose right now, you do need to embrace the financial minimalism that my grandparents, my parents, and myself embraced as a way of life.
Water jugs and butter bowls can become bowls and planters to grow food. Plants can be grown to provide food instead of decorative greenery. Vegetables make pretty flowers too so don’t worry – they’re still pretty, just in a different way. If you can’t afford potting soil, make or grab a spade and a bag and dig some out of the yard. Find and “borrow” some if you have to. Do whatever you have to do to use what you have and locate what you don’t to start growing a bit of food. Some farmers are having to let their food rot in the field because they have contracts that won’t allow them to sell to the average person, so the cost of food will go up until that gets sorted.
If you happen to know a farmer, make that person your friend on Facebook. You can’t exactly meander out to their farm with the current restrictions, but if you can figure out a way to befriend them, they may allow you to quietly liberate some of the food they’ve got rotting in the field. If they have a heart (and dislike wasting food) they may be willing to turn a blind eye if some of that produce disappears into your belly.
Ask your friends if they happen to know a farmer who raises eggs and meat. I know some in urban areas who raise chickens and ducks. There is very little difference between chicken, duck, and goose eggs so don’t be picky. And if your kid happens to have a BB or pellet gun, clean it well and start target practicing. While I really hope it doesn’t get as bad as that, you can kill small game with a BB or pellet gun, and you don’t need a gun permit to own one in most areas.
If you really want to learn more about growing and quietly raising food, read Dolly Freed. I’m reviewing her book myself.
As for that surplus of clothes in your closet, you might want to keep them even if they don’t fit. Dolly Parton’s “coat of many colors” is a real thing. You can repurpose old clothes into rags (which will come in handy if you can’t afford paper towels, napkins, diapers, or bathroom tissue in the future). You can sew patches on your pants with the fabric, or even extend the legs on children’s clothing. You can piece them together to make quilts and other needed items. Hell, you can burn them in a stove in the winter if you get cold along with that stack of books you never got around to reading. It might not be the most eco-friendly thing to do but at least it will keep you warm.
I would rather have you over-prepared than under-prepared for this situation. Since we do not know what is going to happen, it is best to prepare for even the situations we cannot conceive of. I find it personally hard to even imagine that there will come a time when I cannot acquire food. I’ve not helped slaughter an animal since I was a kid but you know what?
That won’t stop me if my grandbabies get hungry. I hope it won’t stop you either.
So let the fools who think this is going to blow over in a few weeks do their thing. The so-called minimalists who are using their time off work to toss their stuff will learn the truth soon enough when their 401(k)s start plummeting to nothing. Everyone who has placed their faith in the stock market will learn a harsh lesson about life before this is over.
DISCLOSURE: I sold out of almost all of my stocks as I saw this coming. While one medical company I’d invested in went belly-up before I could catch it, the only companies I’ve still got an investment in are an entertainment company (since the demand for entertainment will increase for the duration) and a finance company that is essentially a “check into cash” place for the corporations. They make sure that they get their money first in the event that any company they provide financing to goes belly up, so they rode out the Great Recession pretty well. I kinda like the thought of someone charging corporations usurious interest rates the way so many of us are charged because we are poor, so even if I lose every penny I will receive immense satisfaction at the thought that those fat-cat CEOs are getting a bit of comeuppance.
I’m using the money from the companies I sold out of to help get through this. This girl is putting survival first.
I believe we will all learn some hard lessons about life before this is over, truth be told. We may have to learn and do things we never imagined to get through this.
But you know what? We’re going to be stronger in the end. So don’t be scared; just do what you can to prepare. While it could get rough, we are smart. We are creative. We will do whatever it takes to get through this mess. Just don’t waste your time casting blame, because at this point the reasons do not matter. What matters is that we survive this.
And we will survive this. I will share everything I possibly think of to help you through this. I’ve went through times when I had to feed a family of five on $25 a month. I’ve went through times when I lived on the scraps my kids left on their dinner plates. I’ve slept in stairwells. I’ve snuck into garages and huddled under mountains of scratchy curtains to sleep during the winter. I’ve even lived in my van in the past, so if anyone has the skills to figure out how to get through this mess it’s me.
Because I’ve been there. I know what it’s like. And I will share every tip I possibly can to help you through it too.
But if you’re going to make it through this, you need to start preparing now. It is best to over-prepare than under-prepare. Hoard your cash. Cut your expenses to the bone. I’m even going through my expenses and doing the same as I wait for the danger of frost to pass so I can start digging.
For the record, I’m seriously dreading the digging. I’ve not had a garden in ages and all I’ve got is a spade to work with. If I’m lucky, Middle Daughter will find that hoe she thought she saw in her shed the other day. We’re combining our forces to grow a garden.
It will be a cold day in hell before I risk my babies going hungry.
And thank you for your email, Everett. I appreciate you more than you will ever know.
All you old-guard Minimalists who are still out there, who understand what minimalism is truly about, you need to get off your duffs and start writing again. Seriously, these fools that are popular now are not helping matters. I don’t care how you do it, you have a duty to help people learn how to live on less so they can survive this. Send me links and I’ll get the word out that you’re back.
We are all going to have to band together for what’s coming.
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I’ve written a lot of books sharing my odd view of life in hopes of helping others. My most notorious book is titled The Shoestring Girl: How I Live on Practically Nothing and You Can Too, but The Minimalist Cleaning Method is pretty popular as well. You can find them at the following places:
Barnes and Noble
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