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This is my entry for the contest in the new The MINIMALIST group. I chose to respond to
If you won one million dollars, would it change or not change your beliefs, practice or desire to live a minimalistic lifestyle?
I really didn’t feel like writing today, but this contest really piqued my interest. In particular, this second question about how/whether winning a million dollars would alter my life and beliefs appealed to me.
I like the new minimalist community. I have believed in minimalism for a long time. Have I actually practiced it? In some ways, I have, and in other ways, I have not. I aspire to increased minimalism, and it seems like clutter and chaos are always in the wings trying to creep in.
Definition of Minimalism
I think minimalism means something different to different people. For one person, it might mean not wasting food. For another, it might mean living off the grid. Others might have very little furniture or not very many belongings.
I try to, as Henry David Thoreau said, “Simplify, simplify, simplify,” but it is made increasingly difficult in the modern world. For example, I only have one pair of shoes, but I recently wrote about how my fiancé accidentally threw them out, and so I had to buy another pair of shoes. I did not need the second pair of shoes. Well, I did need them because my other shoes were missing in action, but, had they not been thrown out, I would not have needed them.
I feel as though there is a lot in my life that comforts me that a true minimalist might eschew. For example, I have a car. It is a 2005 model, but still… a car. Also, I have more possessions than I need, but this is mostly because I have not had the energy to sell the overflow. I bought a large number of items at the auction with the intention of selling them for profit – a small business – and then my mother passed away and I did not do it and now all of those items are languishing in my father’s basement. That is not minimalist behaviour.
I have often fantasized about living off the grid, growing my own fruits and vegetables, and generating my own electricity using solar power. I am not sure this is in the cards for me, for a number of reasons, but the idea is still appealing.
To me, what minimalism means is that the goal of my life is not the accumulation of “stuff.” In fact, I would prefer not to have “stuff.” It seems like most people have items that are precious to them. I have very few such items. In my opinion, physical objects are just material things and hold little sentimental attachment. I did not always feel that way, but that is how I feel now.
One Million Dollars
In the developed world, sadly, one million dollars is not as much as one might hope. Still, it’s far more money than I have ever seen! It seems to me that a lot of people behave in crazy ways when they win a million dollars.
What are these crazy ways? One crazy action is to spend the money without considering the value you will receive. For example, you might spend money on expensive trips, fancy cars, and other things that are likely to quickly whittle down the money without leaving you much in the long run. However, some people go crazy the other way. They stay at jobs they don’t like and don’t spend anything. That is also insane, and I have difficulty understanding it. Money is not for hoarding. It is for using.
My beliefs would not change if I won a million dollars, but it would be a huge relief. It would let the pressure off in a monumental way. If you have a million dollars and you plan carefully, unless the world economy changes drastically, you can live a frugal, minimalist lifestyle for the rest of your life and just enjoy your life.
What Would I Do?
If I suddenly was handed a million dollars, what would I do? Once they brough the smelling salts… I would probably move to British Columbia, Canada, first of all. It is one province over, and it is much less cold! Why don’t I do that now? Long story, but I am economically tied to Alberta.
I would buy a modest property in Southern British Columbia. No, wait. This is why you have to plan so carefully. The modest property in Southern British Columbia would cost almost the entire million. Look it up. It’s insane. Ha!
Okay, so, back to the drawing board. Maybe I would purchase an RV. A nice one. That would allow me to travel, which I love, and then I could stay in Alberta in the summer when it is decent and go elsewhere when it is not. I would probably put most of the money in some sort of investment and try to set myself up with an income for life.
No Change in Beliefs?
Currently, I like to travel whenever I can and leave the province whenever possible. My travel is as frugal as I can make it. I would continue that way of traveling. It feels luxurious to me, but it is inexpensive.
I think the biggest change is that I would no longer have to worry about money. It has been increasingly difficult for me to work over the past decade, and it feels bad to take money from the government. It would be really great to have a source of financial safety that doesn’t cause me pain nor guilt. That would be truly amazing. Bliss, in fact.
I would do everything in my power to protect that nest egg, so I see myself being extremely frugal in my use of it and very slow to consider how I would actually spend it. Owning a home (which I never have) seems appealing in theory, but maybe it would be stressful and bring problems with it. I might prefer to remain unencumbered even if I had a million dollars.
I think one important thing would be to remember that this is a million dollars, not a bottomless well. I think that is minimalist thinking also – realizing that there are limits to everything.
Just thinking about winning a million dollars is a very cheerful thought. It would bring me a lot of peace of mind. Personally, I would have to guard against giving too much of it away.
It is hard to say what would actually happen if I won, but I think the biggest changes would be psychological. I would not worry about money. I would not feel guilty about getting money from the government. I would feel safe.
In terms of actual spending, it seems obvious that I would spend a bit more, but I don’t think it would be a lot more. I think it would be maybe 20% more as opposed to an insane amount of money. It’s hard to say. If you have a spare million lying around, feel free to send it over and we can see what actually happens if you like. It could be a fun experiment.
I am inviting @merit.ahama and @wolfofnostreet to join this contest! Contest details here.