I like to think of myself as an aspiring minimalist. I’m not yet where I want to be, but I am making intentional decisions to get there.
But what is minimalism, really?
I have been actively observing, and even asking people what minimalism means to them. For some it seems to equal frugality, to even poverty. For some it is a complete lack of clutter and excess and living on as little as possible.
Minimalism is such a fluid term, its impossible to nail down an exact definition. It is personal and looks different for everyone. But some of the basic tenets of minimalism are universal.
Living intentionally is a significant part of a minimalist lifestyle. From the way you spend your time, to the things you bring into your home, so choose thoughtfully and in the best interests of achieving your goals. Maybe your goal is to achieve financial independence. Would buying a new car contribute to that goal, or detract from it? There is absolutely nothing wrong with buying a new car. But for someone seeking financial independence, buying a new car would make no sense. Maybe your goal is a less clutter and more peace. So then it doesn’t really make sense to buy things and bring them into your home unless they serve a specific purpose.
Minimalism is not the same as frugality. Many people assume that minimalism is about spending as little money as possible. To me minimalism is about higher quality and less quantity. I would rather own a $350 Kitchenmaid mixer that will literally last me a lifetime, than buy a $50 knock off that I do not love, and will have to replace many times over. When you own less things not only did you not waste money on a bunch of junk that you either no longer use, or is no longer functional, you are also not wasting time or money on the upkeep of that many belongings. This gives you the financial margin to be able to purchase quality, and what you really want.
My brand of frugality isn’t simply finding the cheapest thing. It is not spending money unnecessarily.
Simplicity is the cornerstone of minimalism. If I could boil down minimalism to one word, I would say it is simplicity. Minimalism is about renouncing consumerism, over-scheduling, clutter, mindless consumption and accumulation, and embracing what is really important. Letting go of the emotional attachment to money and things frees up time and emotions for relationships, faith, and happiness.
Minimalism is about decluttering our schedule as well as possessions. Are you fulfilling your God-given purpose on this earth? Do you even know what it is? It isn’t about how hard you work or how much you work, but are you contributing to anything besides yourself and your lifestyle? Many families are so busy and over-scheduled that they simply do not have the time margin to be missional. Minimalism is about being intentional with the things you say yes to, and only including things that truly add value to your life or help you achieve your goals and missions.
Stop and ponder for a moment why you live where you do, why you drive the car that you do, and why you own the things that you do. Is it solely because those are things and places that you love and that bring richness into your life? If I am totally honest, there are many things that i own or do because of what someone else may or may not think of me. There are many things I spent a lot of money on because in that moment I thought it would fulfill an emotional need for me.
In Ruth Soukoup’s soon-to-be-released Book Living Well, Spending Less she talks about her shopping addiction. I couldn’t really relate, because I actually hate to shop. This quote stopped me dead in my tracks:
“THIS was the item that would change my life, make me ecstatic, bring me bliss, perfection, and contentment. THIS would finally leave me satisfied.”
I HAVE to live in an apartment, so don’t I deserve nice furniture? I need a better computer so I can finish writing my book. I NEED to buy a certain brand of shoes because I stand at work all day. I NEED to have an iPhone because I run businesses online. Oh, and I need the newest one because my old one was too slow.
I may not have a shopping addiction, but I have a stuff addiction. Maybe your stuff addiction looks a little different. Maybe you NEED a new car, because used ones aren’t dependable, right? Maybe you HAVE to have your kids in every activity offered. Because its bad parenting not to let them participate. And they HAVE to have the $130 shoes to go with.
Breaking the hold of possessions sounds like wonderful freedom to me, and is a goal in my quest of minimalism. Its not about how many things I own, or how much I get rid of (although owning fewer things is definitely a component), its about putting my value and investing my energy into things of eternal value.
We all come to the end of our lives as naked and empty-handed as on the day we were born. We can’t take our riches with us. Ecclesiastes 5:15
He said, “I came naked from my mother’s womb, and I will be naked when I leave. The LORD gave me what I had, and the LORD has taken it away. Praise the name of the LORD!” Job 1:21
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. 1 Timothy 6:7
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. Matthew 6:19
I wont go so far as to say that the Bible commands Christians to be minimalists, but it is very clear that we are not to put our energy into storing up earthly things, and that none of it will mean a thing when we die.
I can’t speak for anyone else, but I know that the more I own, the more I want to own. The more I own the more cluttered my life and mind become. My goal for 2015 is to sift through my possessions, my schedule, and my heart and to craft a richer and more meaningful life, not out of possessions, but rather people and experiences.
If this resonates with you I invite you to join in this journey to simplicity. I will be posting updates and challenges along the way.
Do you strive for simplicity? I would love to hear your thoughts in the comments!