Frugality Versus Simplicity and Those Inspiring Minimilists

“As you read my stories of long ago I hope you will remember that things truly worthwhile and that will give you happiness are the same now as they were then. It is not the things you have that make you happy. It is love and kindness and helping each other and just plain being good. ”
-Laura Ingalls Wilder

Little House in the Big Wood
Little House in the Big Wood

I love the Little House on the Prairie books, they give a glimpse into a simpler time. When you have to fit every thing you own in a covered wagon minimalism is a necessity.  Each girl had one small box for their treasured possessions. Except for those boxes, a little china shepherdess and Pa’s fiddle, their possessions were  utilitarian. They found joy from a ring of violets on the prairie, starlit nights, fiddle playing and real glass windows. I’ve romanticized that era, but probably wouldn’t have survived, I love me some AC in the summer and indoor heat in the winter.  The simplicity and inherent minimalism of that time is attractive.

It’s no wonder minimalism and simplicity are  making a come back. It’s easy to become buried in possessions and commitments and lose sight of what has true value. From tiny homes and living off the grid to living with less there is a new wave of simplicity by choice not just necessity. I’ve been following The Art of Simple for a few years now and always gain inspiration to purge possessions, live with purpose and focus on the moment.  Recently I stumbled across The Minimalists, ah these guys! Wise beyond their years, and living lives free of many of the trappings of many their age who are consumed with success and appearance and lots of toys.

Love their message. I was so inspired I gave away two car loads of stuff and threw away two trash bags full of old photos and put the rest in a bin to sort and scan when I have a full day to do so. I had already purged quite a few things this spring. My home is not too cluttered, yes I have a few piles but I am no hoarder. Yet there is all this stuff, stored, displayed, in drawers and closets, 24 years of marriage and five kids worth of stuff. The stuff gets easier and easier to let go of though.  I crave minimal, I crave simplicity I’ve been living frugally my whole married life. Now with two married and the third not too far from independence we are looking to down size in a few years. I’d love to be able to fit all our stuff in a covered wagon before we move!

This new kick (hopefully a never ending way of life) got me thinking about simplicity versus frugality. At first glance they might seem identical they both encourage debt free living and simple lifestyles yet frugality does not always equate to a minimalist mentality. In fact the opposite can be true.

Frugal people can live very complicated, cluttered lives. They go to great lengths in their bargain hunting, practice the most energy efficient ways yet, their time is used up and their space, mental and physical, is full to overflowing. They never part with anything that might be of use someday. They always think their stuff is worth more than it is. I’m not talking about the coupon clippers that have managed to keep their grocery budget in check. Or those who keep track of every consignment sale to get the best value in slightly used clothing and baby items. I admire these people actually, I’m quite in awe.  These aren’t the people I’m talking about though, it’s the ones who go to every free clothing give away and take home 5 bags full of clothes to add to their already overflowing closets and drawers or bring home stacks of books from the library sale without an empty shelf waiting to set them on.  The ones who think they are saving money by buying stuff they don’t need on sale  when actually they are spending money on stuff they don’t need. The ones who find security from full shelves and comfort from their collections miss out on the freedom of less. Instead of security they become slaves to managing stuff.

I’ve been there to some degree, I’ve made purchases I regret, bought  appliances and gadgets I thought I would use, have emotional attachments to much of my stuff and have imagined my things are worth more than they are. My family is not free of this vice.

Even worse despite being frugal and living fairly simply we have debt. At almost 50 we have little savings and lots of debt and negative net worth.  What can we possibly add to the conversation?  Hope for our peers. I know we are  not the only ones who have reached mid-life without financial security.

We have a plan and for once I feel we are on the right track. How we got here is not your typical buy lots of stuff to keep up appearances, we have some noble reasons for the predicament we’re in but we’ve still made mistakes. We are renewing our money sensibilities and look forward to the day, in a few years time, that we can say we are free and financially secure.

The Minimalists are not the first guys with a message of simplicity and freedom.    Over hundreds if not thousands of years the same message packaged a little differently and delivered by different people has been preached.  I’ve needed the current reminder though and have found others sharing the same principles. I look forward to this journey and I’ll share it with you.

Renewed Sensibilities is more than minimalism, though it will be a major theme. I’ll talk about the many facets of life and how to respond sensibly.

Here are others I’ve read over the years:



Your Money or Your Life

The Tightwad Gazette

Dave Ramsey

The Art of Simple

The Minimalists

Becoming Minimalist



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