Minimalism and Pets

I recently saw a comment on a blog post that made me stop in my tracks. The blog post was (of course) about minimalism. The comment was from a person who was also aspiring to a minimalist lifestyle.

Now I truly can’t remember which blog post this was, or exactly what the comment said. But I remember part of the comment, and that part was this… (not word for word)

‘I still have some things to get rid of, such as X, Y, Z and my dog.’ 

Now I don’t remember the other items. But I remember that poor dog.

As a minimalist myself, and a long time pet owner I have been in this position. I have been decluttering my home and my life, stumbling upon chewed up dog toys along the way. But never did I consider that in order to clear out the excess I would actually have to get rid of my pooch!

Of course, there are often plenty of good reasons why you may no longer be able to care for your pet. But I don’t think minimalism is one of them. If you find yourself unable to provide your pet with the things it needs – toys, food, shelter, exercise and attention, then I can completely understand.

But I don’t believe you need to be pet-free in order to be a minimalist.

Sure, pets have things. My dog has food and water bowls, a whole cupboard dedicated to his food, treats, leashes, collars and brushes. Toys, blankets and a bed of his own. Yes it can get frustrating when my clean and clear floor spends half the day littered in the toys he’s pulled out to play with, but that’s part of having a pet. My pooch brings me lots of joy, and adds lots of value to my life. Without him I wouldn’t get outdoors each day (whatever the weather) to breathe the fresh air and stretch my legs. I wouldn’t have met and started conversations with countless neighbours who have four legged friends of their own. I wouldn’t have a toasty companion to curl up at my feet and watch a film with while J works away. I wouldn’t have my ferocious little alarm telling me that the post has arrived.

My pet adds value and brings joy to my life in many ways. And yes he has things that I don’t need, but I need my dog. And I see my dog as a living, breathing creature with feelings and needs.

As they say, a dog is for life, not for Christmas.

No one will convince me that I need to kick him out in order to fit into a minimalist shaped mould.

He isn’t a holey pair of socks or a spare pair of scissors. He isn’t outdated paperwork or our 5th set of playing cards.

He’s a part of our family, and the idea of getting rid of him to help declutter my home is as bizarre as suggesting I’d have to get rid of my partner in order to declutter some more.

Perhaps the person that commented has other reasons, perhaps they have realised they don’t value their pet as they should, perhaps they plan on travelling the world with their backpack. Perhaps I have got them all wrong.

But this isn’t an attack on that person, and this isn’t a declaration that you must keep your pet no matter what.

It’s simply a post to say that minimalism comes in many shapes and sizes, and don’t ever feel pressured to ascribe to a checklist in order to fit in.

I can keep my dog, and you can keep your college sweater.

If it adds value, of course.

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5 Truths of Minimalism

Truth #1 – You’ll still buy things

Yep. Minimalism won’t stop you from buying things. In fact, you’ll probably be more likely to go on full blown shopping sprees rather than just buying bits here and there. For the simple reason that you won’t shop often and you’ll only shop for a purpose. I recently found myself gearing up to go shopping with the intention of buying a new crockery set, new towels, a pair of sandals, a scented candle, some denim dungarees and several new items for my makeup collection. (That counts as a shopping spree right?!)

The crockery had been on the cards for a while since our set was damaged and wasn’t suitable for our lifestyle (guilty secret – we often microwave things and the square plates J bought just didn’t fit!)

I lusted for some new towels after reading this post by Miss Minimalist. I didn’t get a full set, just two bath robes to test them out and I can confirm I am onboard. So I will probably invest in a few more and clear out of mountain of old bulky towels once I do.

My sandals, which I must have owned for at least 10 years, finally bit the dust. I replaced them with a pair that ended being uncomfortable so I have since returned them. And I haven’t felt the need to replace them since finding I could wear the pair I wore to my brother’s wedding in their place. Such a great result since I didn’t buy these myself so hadn’t imagined I would get any use out of them. Plus my brother and his wife love seeing me wearing them – happy memories!

I still like to keep a stash of scented candles around the home. I find candles so calming and peaceful and take real joy in lighting them each evening, these are an item I will also buy and keep because they bring me joy.

The dungarees evaded me. But I still really want a pair. I have been trying to define my style more and more as I have reduced my wardrobe, banning certain items from ever re-entering and developing some wardrobes rules to live by. And dungarees feature! I’ll probably share more about my wardrobe rules once I have 100% decided.

Make up. I have never had a great stash of makeup. I’m not particularly good at applying it so I stick to the basics, and these run out occasionally! So they get replaced when they do.

Truth #2 – White paint can get dirty – fast

More and more rooms in my home keep giving in to the white paint revolution. I love how much brighter and bigger they make the space feel. However, since painting our kitchen white I have noticed that it doesn’t hold up particularly well when you are sloppy with your tea bags! We seem to get an inordinate amount of splashes and sprays onto the walls when we prep drinks or meals. Luckily, pure white paint is a colour that’s easy to find for touch ups! But it does mean we have to keep a tub handy for this.

Truth #3 – People will have an opinion

I have been working towards a minimal lifestyle for almost a year now but people still find it amusing, or refer to it as a phase or a crazy idea I’ve had. It can be really frustrating but I have learnt to brush it off. You get a mixture of views from…

‘You can’t have anything left to get rid of!’

‘What’s next – the dog!?’

‘I thought you were a minimalist – you can’t do that.’

‘You’re not a minimalist, look at all this stuff.’

For some reason it just seems to be a type of lifestyle that people must have an opinion on, and that opinion must be shared loudly and repeatedly.

Personally, I think it’s a defensive mechanism, I think people feel insecure that you might be judging them for being materialistic, wasting money or may see their belongings as mess or junk. I don’t think of it this way and have found the best way to get through to people is just to never make comment on their lifestyle. I will talk about my minimalist choices and experiences and will answer questions, but I never offer advice or suggestions if I haven’t been asked. And I have found this works in getting people to soften and open up. Once they know you aren’t trying to force your choices on them, they seem much more eager to find out more. And it’s even been rubbing off, with my trinket loving mother even asking me to help her minimise and expressing a desire to have more space and empty surfaces. And once help has been requested, I am more than happy to dive in!

Truth #4 – It takes time

I have been moving towards a more minimal lifestyle for almost a year and I am still no where near ‘done’. I don’t think there ever will be a time when I am ‘done’. It’s a lifestyle choice after all… Clutter can creep back up on you if you don’t regularly evaluate your belongings, but minimalism isn’t just about clutter.

For me it’s about making more time for the things I love and spending less time merely existing. But I still get caught in TV traps, or get sucked into a marketing campaign. I will still scroll social media for far too long and run out of time to start that new book or work on my crochet projects. I can still find myself prioritising things over people. But I accept that it takes time, and effort!

Truth #5 – It’s not just about clutter

See above!

So many people see minimalism as an absence of things, but I think once you’ve done the typical step one of becoming a minimalist (AKA a huge declutter), that is when you make the choice between pursuing the lifestyle or simply being glad that you’ve tidied and organised.

For me, it goes beyond the decluttering. It’s about making time and space for more meaningful pursuits, and reducing the brain space I assign to material objects and meaningless activity.

What truths have you discovered on your minimalist journey?