Why minimalism, you may ask? What’s so good about it?
My husband and I have been consistently de-cluttering and living a lifestyle of less for a couple of years now, and because people we encounter along the way might not fully understand our choices or might not really comprehend the implications of minimalism, I’ve decided to write a bit more about this decision.
Before I share with you about why we took the minimalist path, I’d like to tell you what minimalism is not.
- It is not deprivation.
- It is not a fixed amount of possessions.
- It is not a vote of poverty.
- It is not anti-capitalism.
- It is not a monochrome wardrobe.
- It is not a plant-based diet.
- It is not frugality.
- It is not a cult.
- It is not what you think it is, or have been told it is.
In my life, minimalism has been a means to an end; an answer to prayer. It is the place I go to ask important, and sometimes, hard questions. It is about less so we can have so much more. Living a lifestyle of less does result in more. This might be crazy math, but it’s awesome wisdom.
Imagine a life that translates into more time to pursue the things we deem valuable, more time to cultivate passions, hobbies or relationships, more time to be instead of do.
The culture in America is engulfed with a mindset that bigger is better, more is greater, time is money, and hustling is the norm. I am not American by birth, and even though I have lived in this country for over 20 years, I still experience cultural shock in some ways. Minimalism is what has enabled me to thrive in a culture different than what I have been used to. I haven’t seen the perfect culture yet; I haven’t traveled enough to say that one does exist, and even though I also disagree with many aspects of my culture, I think we can create the culture we desire to live, regardless of location.
We don’t deprive ourselves of anything; on the contrary, we indulge in the things we love, which are not things at all. Yes, we have possessions, but the more we pare down, the more we leave space for only those objects that serve a purpose, are practical, or bring us joy. Nonetheless, we are not attached to our stuff. We are deliberate when bringing things into our lives. I personally like the one-in-one-out rule; it keeps me from the trap of excessive (and unnecessary) consumerism.
In his famous book, “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People”, Stephen Covey motivates the reader to “begin with the end in mind.” What would we like our legacy to be? What do we want to leave behind? That is a hard question. But with that in mind, what is the outcome we want for our lives, after we draw our last breath? A house full of stuff? Debt? The American Dream? And if so, why do we want it? What are we expecting to get out of it? Because we end up with other things instead of happiness. While we give meaning to X, Y, or Z, we lose sight of what’s right in front of us to set on a chase after something that will not be satiating when we finally obtain it. Don’t be fooled by its glitter; there will always be something else, there will always be more.
This is an endless race with less than expected results, and it’s not one I want to finish well, because it doesn’t end well. I’m in a different type of race, and when I slow down and minimize, I actually win. Contentment is our prize.
Minimalism has given me clearer eyesight. I am able to distinguish my needs from my wants, and to put a stop to this incessant desire to have more. It has made me realize that what I really want, and need, does not exist here; it is not of this world. As the Bible says in Matthew chapter 6, I should lay up treasures for myself in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. I want my treasure and my heart to be in the same place.
So I can stop chasing after the American Dream, simply because I don’t need it; it has no place in my life. I’m thinking of higher things, and have loftier desires that have been long buried under a pile of busyness and sacrificed at the altar of more.
I can now create space to breathe again, to feel, to listen, to live. Life is passing most of us by; we find ourselves working hard to pay off the car, the house or credit card(s), and accumulating while at it; yielding to everyone else’s schedules over our so-called priorities, and thus feeding this cycle without end. The button is set to repeat, every single day; that song should get old after a while.
I feel more awake, aware. Minimalism has provided me with the opportunity to design a life worth living, because it is lived with intention. There is no room for confusion, because the journey and everything else is seen with clarity, resulting in better focusing, better planning, and a better present.
I know what satisfies my soul. I am able to look up again and never look back. What we crave is intangible, but extremely valuable. Minimalism has opened the door to experience that again. As Christians, we are able to spend more time with Lord, in prayer and in His Word. We also become more available to serve Him and follow Him. He is our priority, first and foremost.
So many work the whole day in the attempts to create a lifestyle they cannot afford, to accumulate things that make them feel good at the checkout line, but will collect dust later, that keep them busy and blind from what’s truly important day in and day out; this is no way to live!
We have been significantly slowing down and paring down; we have learned to not be attached, but to let go. It’s an ongoing process, not a destination. And we feel so much lighter this way; our souls, our minds and hearts are thankful. We can live again, not just exist; our values being our compass and guide, not television, not Hollywood, not consumerism, and surely not social media.
Life can be full of meaning and purpose when we are not pursuing the latest shiny thing or that sale item that promises to fill the void. We know better not to listen to cunning advertisers that try to tell us what our needs are. And our wants are not out of control, but are reasonable, affordable.
We can be more with less. Our identities are not in the place we live, where we work, or what type of coffee we drink. Not having more followers on social media is not bothersome, not having the brand new car (and car payment) is not going to bring happiness.
Folks spend time and money at the shopping malls, because that is where they think they can be fulfilled; there is a better way. They avoid solitude and quietness at all costs so they won’t have to question and search their hearts; so they won’t have to face their true selves and intentions, because distraction has been so effective at numbing their senses; so they won’t come to the realization that the status quo has really wrecked havoc in their lives and they are truly unhappy and utterly miserable. A life without meaning does just that.
So why do we live a life with less, as minimalists? Simply, because a life well-lived is the life we desire, and minimalism is a means to that end.