Why Minimalism?

A few weeks ago, I had the joy of spending some time with my Great Uncle Fred. Though I haven’t spent much time with him in my life, I can safely say he’s a hilarious wealth of stories, travels and a life very well lived. He also happens to read this blog from time to time, for which I am deeply honored!

When we were together at his son Brian’s lake house, he asked me why I want to live a minimalist lifestyle. I said, “Because it helps me focus on what really matters in life.” While this is a true and honest answer, I wish we would have had more time to talk about it. I certainly didn’t mean to imply that someone who isn’t a minimalist can’t focus on what’s important in life, although I think living minimally makes it easier.

I always want to make the disclaimer that minimalism means different things to different

minimalism-definition
Photo taken: The Stephanie Inn; Cannon Beach, OR

people and I believe it’s helpful to provide my definition of it before I can really flesh out it’s full appeal in my own life. I’d define minimalism as “The pursuit of simple living; keeping just enough possessions, things on my mind and things on my schedule to encourage living in and being thankful for each moment.”

Here are the reasons minimalism is attractive to me…perhaps loosely in order of least to most important.

1. Cleanliness and Order. I struggle with anxiety, people. One of the things that always makes me feel more calm is to be surrounded by clean, clear, open and well-organized spaces. I’ve always been a fairly neat/organized person, but as I began to get rid of physical possessions, I realized my time spent cleaning our house went down a good bit. Since I am the maid around here, that was highly appealing to me. The less crap I have to pick up to wipe down the surfaces in my home, the faster I can speed through cleaning. This is also one of the reasons I like the idea of a smaller home. The less time I spend cleaning these worldly possessions that cannot accompany me to the hereafter, the better, if you ask me. And of course, a less cluttered room = a calmer, more contented Sarah.

2. Financial Freedom. Most folks pursuing minimalism are highly motivated by this one. Interestingly, the more things I give away, the less I want to bring into my home. If something is not needed, or being used, I typically consider it unnecessary clutter. I don’t buy as much stuff now because I just don’t want more stuff; it doesn’t matter to me like it used to. Personally, I have found great blessing in wanting less vs. wanting more.  I would much rather use money for things that are more important and more in line with my values as a person – like helping others, traveling and experiences.

3. Rejecting Materialism. Our culture is constantly selling us the idea that we need more, newer, bigger, better things to be happy. Yet, some of the most destitute people in our world are the most content and some of the richest people in our world are the most miserable. I’m not implying that all rich people are miserable. Just that this notion that we’d all be more content if we were richer is a lie. I honestly did not know this deeply and in my soul until I started giving things away. It was only when I consciously decided to get rid of things that I realized how much I actually already had (and how little I really need). This sounds so silly and bratty to me now, but I never considered NOT following a trajectory of bigger and better; apartment to house to bigger house to even bigger house or reasonable car to nicer car to even nicer car. I never would have called myself materialistic before I minimized my belongings; materialism would not have been on a list of my values. And yet, I used to think and behave in a decidedly materialistic way. Minimalism reminds me not to go back to that way of thinking. It teaches me how much is enough for me – and I didn’t know what was “enough” until I gave a bunch of stuff away. I could still give more and not suffer in the least, and knowing that makes me overflow with humility and gratitude.

4. A Personal Response to Global Issues. One of the very first things that led me to pursue minimalism (although I didn’t know that word at the time) was a soul-gripping awareness of how we live here in America as compared to the rest of the world. I’ve always “known” we are mighty fortunate, but after fostering a more global awareness, it finally became real to me. I found myself feeling inauthentic and restless in the face of what others around the world must endure; from extreme poverty to persecution for faith in Jesus. I know I don’t deserve the wonderful life I’m blessed with; I know I “have it better” than so many people in the world. It feels wrong not to respond to that in some way. For me, there’s a fine line between feeling guilty for all God has blessed me with, and being humbly thankful for those blessings. It’s something I must be careful about because ultimately, I desire to live in the moment with a grateful heart. But as I’ve purged belongings, events from my schedule and thoughts from my mind, the clarity I’ve found always leads me back to both generosity and gratitude. I have come to view minimalism as a first step in thoughtfully responding to global issues in my own little ways. It encourages me to continue giving and asking myself and God how else I’m meant to respond.

5. My Faith. For me, this is most important reason to pursue minimalism. I have learned that when I pursue minimalism for calm surroundings, less financial burden, and a deliberate turn from the magnetic pull of materialism, it helps me keep an eternal perspective and see Jesus more clearly. When I begin to strip away my excess, I am more free to pursue the life He wants me to live – not focused on myself or on getting MORE. While we are never in complete control of how much God decides to bless us with monetary riches, we are ALWAYS in control of what we decide to do with whatever money we have. The Bible tells us to be good stewards of what we have (be wise financially!). It tells us to hold loosely to the things of this world and live with an eternal perspective (avoid materialism!). It tells us that the love of money (not money itself) is the root of all evil. It tells us that it is harder for a rich man to get into Heaven. My logic tells me that when I pine for bigger, better things, when I already have more than enough, I am both engaging the root of all evil, and I’m making it harder for myself to live for the Lord. In short – I believe minimalism is a way of living that helps me be consistent with the teachings in the Bible.

Does the minimalist lifestyle appeal to you? What is your own definition of minimalism, and why is it a worthy way to live (or not) in your opinion?

In Pursuit of Less Clutter

For me, this whole project began with a desire to clean out and de-clutter.  Step 1 was room-by-room purging. If you haven’t done it in awhile, donating or throwing away old stuff isn’t that difficult.  Once we begin, most of us know immediately what isn’t of use to us any more, and those things are easy to part with.  After an initial few rounds of this sort of de-cluttering, countless trips to both Goodwill and the garbage bin, I was struck by how much was left.  Despite carefully choosing which things to get rid of, every drawer, shelf and closet was still full (albeit organized BEAUTIFULLY).

I was also pretty surprised that after taking the time to do all this purging, I honestly couldn’t really remember what I had given away.  It’s as if all the things I parted with had never been there or were invisible somehow. I knew I wasn’t done.

Around this time, two of my friends (independently of each other) told me about a little book called “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up” by a Japanese woman named Marie Kondo.  life changing magic of tidying upIt sounded interesting enough, but it wasn’t until months and months later that I actually purchased this book on my Nook and started to read it.

The main idea of the book is that the “secret” to “tidying up for good” is to keep only those things that bring you joy.  The book also describes the best ways to fold/store things in your home so that everything has a place and looks appealing.  Once I started reading, I was hooked. Partly because I am a neat freak, but also because this was a much different approach than I had been taking.

In all my efforts to de-clutter before, I had certainly made a LOT of progress and became infinitely more appreciative of how much we are blessed with.  I am thankful for that process.  But as I went room to room, I was making decisions about what to get rid of.  In her book, “KonMari” (as she’s called), says that in deciding which items in your home spark joy, you are making decisions about what to keep.  It was a subtle but intriguing difference to me. I excitedly thought: perhaps going through our things using her methods could alleviate some (or all of) the stress I felt about how much stuff we still had.

KonMari has a very specific sequence for how you tidy the things in your home.  For each category of items (which include: clothing, books, papers, etc), you gather EVERYTHING in that category into a huge pile, touch each item one-by-one and decide if it sparks joy or gives you a little thrill.  If it doesn’t, it goes into your discard pile.  This might sound time consuming.  And it is.  But I have found that the time I’ve spent on this project thus-far has been very rewarding.

As luck would have it, Marie Kondo recently released a follow-up, more detailed book on her process called “Spark Joy.” spark joyI am in the middle of reading it now, and am using it as a guide of sorts as I make my way through each category.

I should note that while I am very excited about these methods, her books are very distinctly “Eastern”. For example, that socks ought to be folded and stored a certain way because they work hard on your feet all day and thus deserve a nice resting place while not in use.  It is not my aim to criticize these things, but rather view them through a more Christian lense.  I don’t believe my socks have feelings, but I do believe that if I fold them a certain way because they will last longer, I am being a good steward.

For items you don’t keep, she suggests thanking them for their service before parting with them.  Again, I don’t think I need to speak to the things I give away, but I DEFINITELY believe in cultivating a thankful attitude and that is what’s important here.  I’ll be thinking of the ways in which I can thank the Lord for something before I send it off to it’s new owner (or the trash!).

First category: Clothing.

Until next time,

S

The Road to Simplicity

Sometime last year, I stumbled upon a blog (via Facebook) called “Becoming Minimalist.” It interested me immediately, as I’d begun to re-think attachment to (and sheer volume of) STUFF in our home.  On my old blog, I described the beginnings of this journey and how important a global worldview has become to keep me grounded and humble in this blessed life I’m living.

Now, I’m intent on turning this into a major life change.  I want to live a simpler life, less attached to stuff.   I want Jesus in my life to be more than a means to getting what I want; that my relationship with Him would be my main source of security.  I want to be overflowing with joy and thankfulness for what He has blessed us with.  I want to be a good steward of stuff.  Letting go, yet graciously accepting.  Relying less on money and things, but thoughtfully caring for the money and things we find in our hands. Humbly receiving, expressing gratitude and pouring out.  Recognizing the beauty all around us every day and viewing those things as God’s love notes to us.  Being content.  Living life to the fullest.  This is where I hope to find the most real Jesus experiences of my life.

Love the giver more than the gift
Photo: Manhattan Beach, California

So I’ve been thinking about what I can do to move in that general direction. Reading about minimalism has been inspiring to say the least, and I definitely have a desire in my heart for that brand of drastic simplicity.  I always watch Tiny House Hunters when it comes on and have a lot of respect for the people who want to live in one. Realistically, I don’t think I’ll ever want to live in a 250 sq ft box on wheels, but I’ve learned never to say never!  God has changed my mind and heart on things in an instant, and I intend to stay open to ALL possibilities. Bottom line: I’m still learning what my life would look like in it’s simplest form.

This blog is meant to be a bit of a walk through this journey.  I am excited about the progress I’ve already made de-cluttering, and the surprising things I’ve learned in the process.  I’m also sobered by the ugliness I’ve confronted in myself already.  But I can’t wait to see where God leads my heart through all of this.  So follow along, and I hope something here will inspire someone out there!

 

S