written by: Susan Lacke photo by: Adam Finkle
The biggest question Ben and Esther Trueman get about their minimalist lifestyle is “But what do you do when you need…?” The concerned friend or family member ends the question with an essential for home ownership: a rake when the leaves fall, a mixer for baking birthday cakes, a large serving platter for the Thanksgiving turkey. Though it’s true that these items can’t be found in the Trueman home, that doesn’t mean they don’t have them. Their answer to every variation on this question is the same: “I ask my neighbors.”
The Truemans live in Salt Lake’s Glendale neighborhood, in a co-housing subdivision where neighbors know each other, help each other, and work together. The cluster of 26 private homes surround a common house that is shared by the neighborhood. Community members gather twice a week for community meals in the common house, meet regularly to discuss neighborhood needs, and share the responsibility for (and bounty of) the neighborhood’s community gardens, fruit trees and chicken coop.
The couple’s foray into minimalism wasn’t intentional. They fell in love with the neighborhood first, then the lifestyle.
“Instead of everyone owning a lawn mower, weed-whacker, household tools and other so-called necessities a house should have, we borrow and share these things with each other,” says Esther. The couple soon realized the financial freedom that came with minimalist living—by not accumulating so much stuff, their bank account was stable, even flourishing. They cut out even more of their expenses—eliminating cable TV, riding bikes to work instead of paying for gas and making purchasing decisions based on need.
“Now we get to purchase what we truly want, like a master’s degree without student loans, nice bikes, traveling,” says Esther. “People think of our sparse lifestyle as self-deprivation or even torture. But nothing can be farther from that. I feel like we live like kings and queens! What makes us happy is not owning a bigger house to fill it with ever more stuff. The new American dream consists of experiences, knowledge, relationships and achievements—you know, the stuff that lasts forever.”
See more inside our 2017 July/August Issue.