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Minimalism is often thought of as a way to keep clean and tidy all the time without excessive stuff. When you look at magazines, minimalism is usually displayed as a near empty-room with just a few materials used in the design. White paint and concrete floors are almost a cliche by now!
But the reality is that minimalism is more than just an obsession with white paint and clean lines, it is a lifestyle that incorporates every aspect of life from financial health to how you spend your time. The minimalist lifestyle is linked to living a mindful life, using just what you need to be happy and fulfilled without the excesses pushed onto you by capitalism and an obsession with “stuff”.
With this in mind, you might like to ask how pets can fit in with a minimalist lifestyle? A fish might settle in without much of an issue but what about a puppy or a kitten? Can the chaos of bringing a pet into your home fit with your minimalist ideals?
The Practicalities of Pet Ownership
If you see a pet as a thing you own rather than a member of your family, you are going to struggle to adapt to this new presence. All pets have personalities and so you must learn to get on with them just as you do your family. In a practical sense, this means that you must have time to help a new pet settle in as well as plenty of time during the week to give them the attention they deserve. In fact, many companies are now recognising the need to settle pets in properly by offering ‘pawternity leave’.
Pets need a lot of love and care but when it comes to the basics, they are usually fairly easy to manage. Making sure that your pet has enough food and water, has a place to sleep and knows where they can go to do their business is about as simple as it gets.
But there are a few other things to consider too. Just like humans, pets need a bit of maintenance to keep them at their peak. Brushing their fur, giving them suitable foods and ensuring they get enough exercise is still down to you. Just as you make sure your kids brush their teeth, you will have to work out a solution when your dog has bad breath!
Pets need to have plenty of toys and things to do otherwise they will choose toys for themselves from your possessions! Cats absolutely love playing with knotted string, especially if you drag it around the floor for them to chase. They also like toys filled with catnip and small balls they can bat around. Dogs also want toys and chew sticks are ideal for keeping them quiet for a while! The main thing you can do for a dog, though, is to take him on a long walk and play endless hours of fetch – good for you and the pooch!
Welcoming a Pet into Your Family
Pets will always bring a new dynamic into any family. Cats and dogs especially have their own unique personalities and will be pretty quick to get you all on board with their plans for napping, playing and cuddling. For all that you might be able to train them to some extent, they will certainly alter your family routines.
Pets like cats and dogs do require their own space and providing that from the outset is a good idea. For cats, a space that is relatively high up is usually preferred as this gives them a sense of safety and a good spot for spying on you and the kids! Cats do a lot of sleeping and though many are quite happy for you to cuddle them and will sleep on your knee, they also like to have their own quiet place for a good nap.
Dogs also need their own space where they can’t be disturbed such as a dog bed. Having their own space allows pets to take themselves off when they don’t really want to talk or play with you – just as you do when you need a bit of peace and quiet!
For a minimalist, this might be difficult to begin with, but a little bit of chaos is actually a good thing. Pets are wonderful companions and even the most aloof cat can form a fulfilling bond with you and your family. Though pets may not be able to talk, they can certainly share experiences with you and show you love.
The Benefits of Having a Pet for Children
Having pets is hugely beneficial for children, especially those who struggle to talk about their problems or tend to bottle up their feelings. A pet can offer them an opportunity to develop their emotional maturity and since a pet can’t judge, they are often ideal for helping children open up socially too. Horses have even been used to help children dealing with PTSD.
Children also benefit from taking a bit more responsibility for their pets. Animals are great at telling you when they are hungry or want to play and children will quickly learn how to communicate with their pet and respond to their needs. This is a brilliant way to teach children how to empathise with others, even when they may not have a shared language or many similarities. Even negative experiences with pets, such as getting scratched while playing, can help them to develop more mature emotional responses and understand the value of forgiveness.
If you have still not been persuaded then perhaps the most important benefit for children is that cohabiting with an animal like a cat or a dog is a good way to boost their immune system and reduce their risk of asthma. Kids are spending less time outside and our super clean homes minimize the amount of bacteria they are exposed too. Pets are a fun, fluffy way to introduce more bacteria into the house in a positive way!
Pets and Finance
It would be easy to assume that the minimalist approach to finance is simply to try to spend as little as possible but this isn’t necessarily true. Instead, money should be traded for things that will bring you joy or develop you in some way whether that means spending or earning less of it. In that sense, as long as you are living within your means and only spending on the things that will fulfill your life, it’s all good. A pet is a good example of money well spent.
Even a free pet from a rescue centre will cost you some of your monthly income. Pet food and toys should be factored into your grocery bills. You should also put some money aside each month as a buffer should you need to take your pet to the vets for any reason. Another potential cost is that of kennels and cat-sitters or dog walkers.
Pets bring something new to the house that you are unlikely to find anywhere else. They aren’t self-conscious, will offer unconditional love and respond to your emotional needs. As a minimalist concerned with cleanliness and perfection, a pet might feel like a stretch too far but please be assured, a pet will bring you so much joy and fulfillment, you won’t care about the shoes that get chewed up ‘by accident’ or the muck trailed in at the back door.
In answer to the question, do pets and minimalism mix? The answer is a wholehearted yes.