Wednesday, June 25, 2014

My thoughts on Minimalism

"Minimalism is a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives.  By clearing the clutter from life's path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life:  health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution."  
-Joshua Fields Millburn & Ryan Nicodemus

There seems to be this new buzzword floating around more these days - minimalism* - and I decided to learn some more about it.  After following some blogs and reading some articles on minimalism, I understand its appeal - the beauty of living without bondage to stuff.  As a human product of consumerism, I grapple with the difficulty in finding worth outside of our physical possessions; our society linearly correlates status with ownership.  We find comfort in owning everything could possibly need, even if we have no idea where it actually is in our home.  Our drive is often fueled by the desire for the next thing on the list:  a bigger home, a nicer car, another gadget or smartphone.  The mantra of 'Just-In-Case' reigns supreme.

As with most things, there are extremes.  Some folks latch onto the idea of minimalism, taking it to one end of the continuum of owning almost nothing, while there are TV reality shows about folks who cannot seem to let anything go.  Most of us think of ourselves somewhere in the middle, being responsible by having items on hand for emergencies, but also slightly in denial by holding on to jeans and dresses from our days of optimal metabolism (as I guiltily walk to my closet).  

The goal of minimalism is to find the right balance.

Ironically, there is no right or wrong way to look like a minimalist - its principles are grounded in perspective, one that focuses on living right here, right now, not the nostalgically in the past or impatiently for the future.  It relates to the "no bag for your journey" approach that Jesus told his disciples when they were about to embark on their mission.  Minimalism is about living with only the necessary so that we are available to experience life with intention and purpose, not for the sake of obtaining more or in fear of losing our precious stuff.  What constitutes 'necessary' varies from person to person, to family to family, from season to season.

As "neat" and "organized" are not the same, the difficulty with minimalism arises in one's ability to accurately defining what is truly necessary, filtering out the influence of our culture from our real needs.  It's about letting go of the motion of acquiring for frivolous reasons:  sales, newness, convenience, therapy, or status.  It's about taking a look at all the stuff (and this includes our schedules) and weighing the pros and cons.  It looks at quality over quantity.  It appreciates simplicity and generates gratefulness.  It encourages us to value relationships, enjoy our work, and pursue our passions.  At the core, minimalism asks us to dictate how we spend our time, intentionally instead of haphazardly.

Our lives are in a perpetually fragile state, with our last earthly moments never fully known - and the stuff stays here.  What if our drive was no longer based on what we own, but on who we can become?  People who exude love, joy, peace, patience, goodness, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  People who help build, not tear down.  For me, it's harder to make strides towards these qualities when my energy is devoted to things.  So, this is my concluding thought on minimalism: holding on to stuff keeps you from being the best person you could be.

If you are interested in generating your own thoughts on minimalism, here are a few blogs that you can reference:

Becoming Minimalist, a blog by Joshua Becker
The Minimalists,  Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus
Zen Habits, a blog by Leo Babuata

*Side Note: I know 'minimalism' is often referred to as a type of decorating or artistic style.  What I am speaking to here is more of behavior or mindset, which ultimately would affect design choice at some level.

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I am so grateful you took the time to read my thoughts! I would love to get the chance to read yours, so go ahead and leave a comment!