If you’ve been following me since about six months ago, you’ve probably noticed my interest in minimalism. Largely thanks to this minimalist, yet practical, blog, I’ve been edging more and more toward a minimalist lifestyle. Jordan’s been getting into it, too; we did some cleaning and emptied out some old boxes of stuff this weekend, and when I’d get discouraged by the clutter, he’d cheerfully say, “We’re almost minimalists!”
“Almost” is perhaps an overstatement. We’ve got a long way to go, but I’m learning to take things gradually.
You may be wondering what, exactly, “minimalism” entails. It’s a rather broad term; for some, it means replacing all codex books with Kindle versions, owning a single pot for cooking, and literally living out of a backpack. We’re not going for anything that extreme. Here’s what I think of when I think “minimalism”:
- Owning only items that we love and/or use. This includes clothing (why should I fill my closet with clothes I don’t like to wear?), household applicances, media/entertainment, and sentimental items (photos, souvenirs, notes/letters, etc.)
- Putting a limit on the things we keep in our home. I want our home to be our sanctuary, a place we enjoy spending time in. Why would I clutter it with things I don’t want, need or use? The author of that blog I mentioned above has a great solution to having “too many” of something: put like items (e.g. makeup, office supplies, toiletries) together in a physical space, be it a box, cabinet, or shelf. When that space is full, you can’t add anything to it unless you take something else out. If you cheat, the space will literally overflow, and it’s a good way to ensure that you don’t end up with too many of any category of items. It all comes down to that first principle: only put things in your home that bring you joy or fulfill a need.
- Realizing that what gives value and meaning to our lives is not stuff. Aside from the fringe examples of an odd sort of self- or earth-worship, I’ve found a lot of cross-overs between minimalism and Christian living. Minimalism emphasizes that experiences and relationships are more important and fulfilling than stuff; as a Christian, I know my value lies in what Christ has done and continues to do for me, and my life is not defined by things I own or recognition I achieve. Plus, since we’re getting rid of things, why not give them to charity, or to others who truly need them? Consumerism is inehrently self-centered; I buy things for me, because I want them. Minimalism, for me, is one way to strive towards selflessness.
As you can see, my reasons are both practical and personal, and the two seem to feed into one another. If our home is clutter-free, our minds will be clear. If we’re not spending so much money on stuff, we can afford to do things we really love. Ultimately, minimalism is about regaining control over the things in our lives, rather than letting them control us.