Why you don’t need to quit your job to be a happy minimalist

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This post comes from a place of honesty, not negativity.

I read a lot of blogs written by people who either already feel very comfortable living a minimalist lifestyle or are aspiring minimalists themselves.  Most of the time I find them to be inspirational.  A common theme in a lot of the writings of “professional” minimalists (as in, they write minimalist blogs for income) is that aspiring minimalists and readers should quit their jobs, and once you do that, you’ll be free!  Free as a bird!  Imagine how good it will feel!  Of course, it will feel good – you’ll get to sleep in all day and you won’t have to show up at the office.

But then reality will set in.  Maybe you won’t be able to make your car payment or your rent or your mortgage.  Or your family will get hungry.  And you certainly won’t be able to pay off any debts you might have without an income, which will further impede your goals of becoming truly minimalist and not being indebted to others.

If you are working toward living more minimally because you have a lot of debt and don’t want any such burden hanging over your head, that’s a commendable goal.  However, it’s pretty hard to achieve those sort of goals without any income.

Our family paid off our own mortgage in five years, and let me tell you, it was not while writing on a laptop from a beach in South America.  It took both adults in our family going to work every day, at jobs we’d held for the previous five years to make not only our down payment, but also our mortgage payments.  Had we quit our jobs, we certainly would not have been able to pay our mortgage, much less pay rent on a basement apartment in the expensive city we currently live in.

I think there’s a fine line between working to support an excessively consumeristic lifestyle, and working to pay down your debts, live simply, and meet your own and your family’s basic needs.  So when you see a post floating around the internet from a “Minimalist” claiming that quitting your job is easy, take their words with a grain of salt.  If you can’t stand your job, by all means, look for a new one.  If other aspects of your life are lacking, seek out a creative or social aspect to nurture.  But by all means, don’t walk into your boss’s office this morning and tell him, “Screw you, I quit!”  Because a lot of people can manage to find a job they really enjoy and not drive themselves to exhaustion by  putting in an excessive amount of working hours each week.

There is no easy solution to avoiding a highly consumptive lifestyle.  It takes months to form new habits and pay off old debts.  But there is no direct correlation between quitting your job and becoming a dyed-in-the-wool minimalist.  I wish I could tell you otherwise, but I’d be lying to you.

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5 responses »

  1. If anything being someone attempting to live more sustainably can make even more of an impact by being in the work force. We can affect change in the recycling and waste within the work environment and also influence, teach and guide fellow employees and possibly clients/customers. Today one of my co-workers walked in with her Subway sandwich and showed me that it wasn’t in a plastic bag. Victory!

  2. So true, Erin. I actually get really irked that so many simple living and minimalist writers focus on quitting a day job as the ultimate goal of simplifying.
    I’ve been very happy in traditional work and can see myself going back to it if freelance writing doesn’t work out. My husband has worked for himself for 20 years and recently took his first ‘day job.’ He loves it.
    Also, strangely, quitting my day job of being a SAHM part-time WAHM mom would actually mean going back to a day job. Which wouldn’t be too bad!

      • You’re right – I think it’s very easy to quit things in life, but much more difficult to say “this isn’t working for me, maybe I need to do things differently.” I know that if/when I re-enter the workforce, I’ll be looking for a job to suit not only my skill set, but also my values. Hope you guys are having a nice summer than we are in Vancouver so far! 😉

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