Making the Most of Minimalism

Okay, I'll say it again.  In spite of what some may think when they hear or see the word, minimalism does not necessarily mean that

  • you are able to store everything you own in a backpack;
  • you live in a white cubicle with one chair, one lamp, and a mattress on the floor;
  • you cultivate a loner existence with no family, no friends, and no commitments.

I suppose there are some who choose to live this way, but I don't know anyone like that.  It certainly doesn't describe me or others I know who have chosen a minimalist lifestyle.

So what do I mean when I say I'm a minimalist?

As a minimalist, I try to determine what I need in my life so that I can discover and fulfill my calling, while removing the things that distract or prevent me from doing that.

For example:

  • I want a beautiful, comfortable, tidy home, but I don't want to spend all my time cleaning or caring for things.  I don't want clutter to put up obstacles that keep me from dressing, cooking, or relaxing when I'm at home.  I don't want a crammed-full environment that distracts me from my family or my work.
  • I want to own some nice things, but I don't want to squander my resources on stuff I don't need, that I bought on a whim, or that will be of no use because it is poorly made.  I don't want to be in debt for things that add no value to my life or because I'm trying to keep up with some consumer ideal.
  • I want to be busy and fulfilled, but not so crazy that I'm constantly stressed or wishing I could bow out of something in order to have time to pursue something I really love.  I want to leave room in my schedule to observe, think, read, write, give thanks, and treat people with kindness.

Just like anyone else, I want a lot from life.

But I've realized that the pursuit of more and more possessions might keep me from achieving what I most desire.  I want a sense of satisfaction with what I already have, not a feeling of discontent that constantly drives me to acquire more.  I want to realize how blessed I am, and how much more I have going for me than what I own.

By removing what I don't need, and refraining from adding more and more, I maintain space for what I actually value and enjoy.  I maintain energy to do something more important than service my house or car or possessions, and I maintain financial resources for the experiences and people I care about.  By limiting my commitments, I maintain time for the relationships and tasks that are my passion.

These choices bring me a great deal of happiness and contentment.  They fill my life with a sense of purpose and peace.

Minimalism isn't simply about owning or doing less.  In fact, it's not as much about what you remove as it is about what you keep.

A minimalist removes things that don't matter in order to maximize what he or she deems important.

You might choose to own less because you want to maximize:

  • time and attention for your family and friends
  • time and funds for travel and experiences
  • time and funds to make a positive difference in the world
  • time and energy for a passion project
  • meaning, significance, and joy

Once you realize that this is possible, your mind starts thinking of ways to accomplish it.  You get excited about decluttering, and you actually start doing it.  You remember something you've always wanted to accomplish, and you take the first steps toward your goal.  You open an account and start saving for that trip, you begin your book with a commitment to write at least 100 words per day, or you buy some healthy food at the grocery store and make the first of many nutritious meals.

When you choose minimalism, and pare away the things and activities you don't need or want, you're left with a clear view of what you really care about.  And then you can cultivate that.

Want more?  5 Reasons to Simplify Your Life


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