If you had asked me what I thought minimalism was a few years ago, I would have said something like, “I think it’s when crazy people get rid of their TV and choose to own practically nothing.” I would have considered these “crazy” people to probably have no children, a cold and uninviting home, and live in a big city with consistently nice weather so that they are able to walk or ride a bike everywhere. Minimalism, in my mind, would have been an unattainable and unsustainable lifestyle.
I am all about sustainable. I’m really not one to join a random trend or movement. I think I may have been the last person in America to finally purchase a pair of skinny jeans. Change just isn’t my thing. I’m never going to go paleo or do a juice cleanse. I’m not going to commit to something like an entire year of no purchases. You will never see me willingly part with wine, gluten or God forbid…dairy! I try to work toward a consistently healthy lifestyle with, as Oscar Wilde said, “everything in moderation, including moderation.” Slow and steady wins the race.
When I shared our new adventure with some of our friends and family the reaction was pretty consistent. Eyebrows raised, half smiles, with a condescending nod. I heard a little of, “You are not a minimalist. You have a car.” “Are you going to get rid of your TV?” “You have a cottage. You are not minimalists.” It’s true. We had been living the complete opposite of a minimalist lifestyle for our whole lives. I fully acknowledge the irony.
So why did the idea of minimalism pull at my heart strings? Why did I conclude, in a moment, that this was exactly what my family and I needed? I had recognized that my former definition was wrong. In an instant I realized it was all about intentional living. THAT is what I wanted.
For me, minimalism is an outward expression of an inward transformation.
It’s about giving up control, living each day fully present in my life, and being able to find absolute contentment with what I have.
I had allowed fear and worry to play too big of a role in my life. From the size of the grape slices I cut for my kids, to the quantity and quality of time we spend as a family, to the legacy I will leave behind, worry was the name of my game.
Life has so many variables. My inability to manage them all has become abundantly clear. I had come to realize that something had to give and I couldn’t live the rest of my life drowning in this fear. It dawned on me that worry is rooted in this need to control life’s outcomes, because deep down I knew I could not. My struggle with fear was coming from a lack of genuine trust in God.
Learning to be fully Present
Life seems to go by in phases. I kind of view the phases of my life as: prior to college, then marriage, before my first child, then my second, then my third. Previous stages allowed for more free time than the next, but I can’t say that during the earlier stages I was more present than the next.
Looking back, I was never a very good steward of the time I had. I did a wonderful job of filling that time, but I think I was always planning for the next phase. How tragic is a life spent always looking to what’s next or what was in the past. Simplifying my life, from appointments to belongings, has helped me make tremendous strides in being free to soak up each moment. Even if those moments are locked in the laundry room, with a child crying on the other side of the door, so that I can just finish scheduling the carpet cleaner. I certainly don’t always enjoy those kind of moments, but they are my moments and I want them.
You will never be able to buy enough stuff to give you freedom from wanting more stuff. How, in a time of Amazon Prime, credit cards, Kroger Click List, and Siri, can we possibly live in a state of satisfaction? Whatever we want, we can have with ease. It always seemed acceptable to me that we would constantly be doing a home improvement project, upgrading our phones, or buying new back packs for each new school year.
We need to make a choice to find joy and thankfulness in what we have. We need to teach the next generation to do the same. I think contentment is something you learn through intentional living. It’s perfected through practice. How can we possibly be present if we are never satisfied with what we have?
Minimalism will look different for each of us. What one person treasures another can easily discard. Minimalism in Michigan looks different than it does in Texas. We all have different jobs, hobbies and family sizes. I love to bake. My kitchen may have more pie pans than yours. It’s not about removing a certain number of items.
Be patient with yourself and your loved ones. Often, when people think of minimalism, they think of immediate results. Instead, be patient and find what works for you. Cookie cutter minimalism will cause as much anxiety as clutter. Joshua Becker defines minimalism as,
“The intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.”
I love how he refers to this thinking as “rational minimalism,” encouraging people to,
“Find a style of minimalism that works for you. One that is not cumbersome, but freeing, based on your values, desires, passions, and rational thinking.”
Yes, we have a car, TV, cottage and a boat. I can’t imagine we will ever git rid of those items. At least not in the name of minimalism. When Spring finally arrives and it’s time for the dock to go into the water, that is where I want to be. Fully present with my family, cherishing memories instead of things.