4 Ways Minimalism Isn’t About Your Stuff
Minimalism begins with owning less. We start by filling bags and boxes with donations for Goodwill or Salvation Army, spending weekend after weekend rifling through our garages and cabinets and closets. We recognize the value of sacrificing our free time for a few weekends for a lifetime of freedom in return. And that’s a great place to start.
Soon, we see our home not as a storage unit but as a refuge and our chest swells as if to fill the empty space with love, respecting it and honoring it. And then we wonder what’s next?
Minimalism is a process.
At first pass it may be hard to let that one thing go, but then we dig deep into our being and finally accept the weight of the unmet expectations and we sense more joy in giving it away than it’s ever brought us by owning it. This is when minimalism gets real.
The process inevitably will lead us farther than we originally expected. Because once the stuff is gone and our space and minds are free from the stress and obsession of things it’s difficult to stop the process.
“…it isn’t enough to simply do what we’re told and just remove things from our lives. What we really need to do is understand how we got there, and how we can get back.” – Brian Gardner
The true joy of minimalism isn’t complete until it intersects every path of our lives. The true joys of owning less don’t become real unless we intentionally and creatively use the space and energy we gain to improve our whole life and generously improve the lives of others.
My husband was a minimalist evangelist long before I ever hopped on board – but for the wrong reasons. He was adamant that we owned too much stuff, and now I see that we did. But he admitted (after he had the satisfaction of listening to my pitch for minimalism as if it was my idea) that his efforts were not with the intention of minimalist lifestyle.
His intention, though not inherently bad, was to minimize for the sake of minimizing. You see, he wasn’t wrong, but he wasn’t right either. He missed the most important point of owning less stuff. He felt the burden of stuff and he knew what to do about it, but he didn’t understand the why.
I bet a lot of us are in that boat. We recognize we own a lot of things that we probably don’t need or use anymore and it gnaws at us. We feel the rub of it, and yet we can’t quite put our finger on what the point of getting rid of it is.
This is the point: to liberate ourselves from the burden of not enough time and not enough space, financial distress, physical health strain, and spiritual dilemmas we experience when we place our hope and comfort in our possessions. It’s not about having less for the sake of having less or depriving ourselves of, it’s about allowing minimalism to invade our being, reorder our priorities and values, transform our entire existence, and become our true selves through generous living.
In other words, its about loving ourselves, the people in our lives, and our purpose. As Courtney Carver of bemorewithless.com says,
“Minimalism…is nothing, nothing but love my friends.”
Once we’ve discovered the point and are liberated from our stuff, here are four ways minimalism is no longer about our stuff:
Human beings are wired for relationship, so it makes sense that when we break up with our stuff we seek honest, valuable relationships with the people in our lives. Our stuff steals a lot of quality time from our family and friends. The joy of minimalism, then, is that we reap time, energy, and intentionally invest in simple living for the benefit of sharing in community.
We get to focus on our spouse, kids, friends, co-workers, baristas, cashiers, nurses, receptionists, the homeless guy on the corner, the neglected teen from your church, the list goes on. People are more important than our things. It’s easy to forget that.
Less stuff = less stress. Stress is major and often overlooked in our health battles. I have autoimmune thyroid disease and stress is a major trigger. And so are certain foods. When I began simplifying, the benefits of a minimalist diet were all the more clear. No longer was I trying to manage my autoimmune disease with diet, I was allowing minimalism to enter my health.
Whole foods with little to zero processed ingredients, organic meats that haven’t been processed or stimulated, and lots of food that’s grown from the ground. Natural and unprocessed is as simple as it gets.
There are also reports that shorter and more intense workouts have more health benefits than the longer endurance type. A minimalist exercise routine that I love is the Scientific 7 Minute Workout. You can find more ideas on this post at becomingminimalist.com.
Minimalism creates a new financial value system.
There are several ways this happens: we realize we don’t need as much money, we’d rather spend it on what truly matters, we refuse to clutter our recovered space, and generosity becomes more important than immediate gratification.
What minimalism can do for our budget is release us from the trap of comparisons and free us from the impulsive need to buy more to be more. This lesson alone has endless ripple effects.
Spiritual freedom is the richest life we can ever find and I believe it can be found in a life of simplicity. Consider these Biblical examples: John the Baptist who ate locusts and honey and wore camel skins and Jesus had no place to lay his head. Their lives were not without difficulty but what richness of spirit!
The freedom that we have to enter into relationship with God and be unconditionally and eternally loved for being exactly who we are, there is nothing simpler. Minimalism guides us to the throne of God in humility, stripped clean of material distractions. The thing is, when our stuff is what is most real in our lives, God is less real. The less stuff we have the more we get to deal with ourselves in the presence of God. Personally, I can’t deal with myself unless I’m on my knees in the throne room of God because I know that he accepts this beautiful mess I am.
Minimalism is not just about our stuff. It’s a process that begins with breaking up with our stuff and continues weaving a beautiful story to share. Don’t cut your minimalism short. Give it room to flood your relationships, health, finances, and spiritual life and you will find more joy than you could ever find in a checkout line.
Where do you need more minimalism in your life?