A few weeks back we met Cheryl from Handcrafted Travellers who is currently traveling by train to Romania. Together with her family, Cheryl left the United States more then a decade ago to live a life that most of us have probably forgotten: a life outside. Learn how nature inspired her for minimalism and taught her to appreciate the value of nature.
Exactly ten years ago, my husband and I were packing up our lives in Seattle, getting ready to ship twenty boxes, three trunks and various artwork overseas. Everybody commented how little this was at the time and how brave we were, though we felt anything but courageous. It was the excited nervousness of living in a new country together and of owning a small farm that captivated our sense of adventure.
It was a move that we could never go back from.
Minimalism inspired by nature
A decade has passed and now I am down to a 40L backpack that holds all my personal belongings, a good portion of our daughter’s clothes and a stainless-steel coffee pot. My linguistic half carries the handmade backpack with his wardrobe and the rest of our little girl’s stuff. In addition, we have a computer bag and a hand-felted tote with our extra winter clothes, as we are ready to embrace the cold snowy months of northern Romania. It seems that with every move, we own less and less. And nature has played a tremendous part in all this.
Somewhere along the way minimalism found us, rather than us finding it.
When we moved to Hungary our boxes took longer to reach us than expected, then they sat in storage for nearly half a year until we could move out of town and to our thirteen-acre homestead. During that time, we realized that we needed almost none of those items lovingly packed away, we simply found ways to make it with the little we had on hand.
Once on the farm, we had days and nights to spend on our somewhat isolated farm outside the village. We became connected to the bird songs, the frogs croaking in the pond, to the flapping and clapping wings of the storks nesting close by. We listened closely to the call of the hoopoe and to the crickets in the night, when morning came our goats and pigs told us it was time to get up. We began to realize that every creature has a voice and whether we can hear them or not over the distraction of technology and the noise of busy lives, they all have something to say. If we can listen well, we know they converse about good and bad. What we do to our shared environment matters to them too, even when they cannot express their thoughts and feelings in our language.
Minimalism and growing environmental consciousness
So, with growing environmental consciousness year by year, during pregnancy and when our daughter was born, we sought the opportunity to clothe her in all natural materials for the beginning years of her life. It proved to be more difficult than we first thought, as most of the clothing industry is focused on fast fashion – often cheap clothing with harmful dyes, cute and stylish but with little regard for organic production or workers’ welfare. The lack of eco-friendly options was a disturbing wake-up call for us who washed all of our clothing by hand, seeing the red, black and blue dyes coming out of our beloved jeans and shirts. With no running water, no pipes to hide the waste, we had to dump it straight on the ground, knowing that it goes straight back down into the ground water, in a place where dug wells are just 3-4 meters deep.
Connections were being made in our minds. Deep connections.
When we wear out the soles of our shoes are they recyclable through and through?
With an abundance of second-hand shops, does that mean that too much clothing is being made in the first place?
What role can eco-customization play in the future?
Inspiration for minimalism is waiting in front of our door
We slowly came to the realization that too much stuff in our lives distracted us from observing nature and that too much of any material thing is a “negative abundance”. Once we started to unclutter our lives and eliminate the unnecessary, we had plenty of time for hiking, walking, gardening, creating, drawing and simply being together as a family.
The next time you have a technology-free moment take a walk outside and consider that birds and animals have all they need, as long as they can find food and shelter and – much to their credit – they can do it all without money. There is abundant freedom in that!
If we all tried to mimic nature by taking no more than what we need, being satisfied with what we have and using what the land has to offer, even locally, then we would find a fine sort of minimalism inspired by nature.
Inspiration to live simply is hiding out there, in the forests and the hills, one can find it everywhere one dares seek.