Over a year ago, I began going down the path of a minimalist lifestyle. This entailed reducing my possessions down to items I use on a consistent basis. If I didn’t use something within the past six months, I gave it away, sold it, or threw it out. Although I always lived somewhat of a minimalist life relative to the average person, I was amazed how much stuff I accumulated for either sentimental reasons, thinking I may need it someday, or because I paid a lot for something and I didn’t want to admit it was a waste of money. The process of getting down to the essentials took a couple weeks, but after it was completed, it was such a cleansing feeling – like making a clean break from the past and taking that wasted energy to focus on the present moment. Also, minimalism is not just about getting rid of stuff and can be applied to other things in your life, such as reducing your commitments or just living simply.
There are a number of great blogs out there on minimalism, some pretty extreme, others more moderate. The top three blogs I regularly read include Zen Habits, Rowdy Kittens, and Becoming Minimalist. The first two bloggers are fairly extreme in their approach to the minimalist lifestyle, but the third blog, Becoming Minimalist, takes a more balanced approach. I myself fall in between extreme and balanced and try to pick and choose concepts that work for me personally.
Being a Christian, I also believe the minimalist lifestyle can enhance your relationship with God by removing the clutter, something that is not encouraged from our hyper consumerist society supplemented with a constant bombardment of the non-essential things vying for our time and attention. By working to deepen my relationship with God, it has significantly reduced, if not eliminated, my anxiety and desires to live up to this world’s standards of what will bring fulfillment, which we all know is only temporary and shallow and will leave us thirsting for more.
“Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will.” – Romans 12:2
Jesus was the ultimate minimalist, freeing him to focus his efforts and fulfill God’s purpose for his life. Jesus came to serve so that we may have eternal life, and have it abundantly – but a man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. And I truly believe that having too many earthly possessions distracts us from finding the true abundance that fulfills that hole in our hearts that only God can satisfy.
Beyond removing much physical clutter from my life and allowing for a deeper spiritual union with God, below are other peripheral benefits that I’ve experienced from a living a minimalist lifestyle.
Finances: Since I am now much more conscious of what I buy and think through a purchase, I don’t spend nearly as much money as I used to. I find that many things that I once thought were needs were actually wants, and I’ve been able to eliminate many of these expenses. Minimalism has also made me realize I don’t need a large house and I could probably live just as comfortably in a house about half the size that I live in today. With a smaller house, it reduces costs for furnishings, utilities, taxes, insurance and maintenance. My whole life I always thought I needed a car, but I’m even considering doing away with having a car if the next place I move to has adequate public transportation. In fact, through minimalism, I’m finding that you really don’t need a whole lot of money to be comfortable and the best things in life are indeed free.
Contentment: When you don’t have your emotions or worth tied up in earthly possessions, and you work to fill the empty place in your heart from the things above, the result is contentment. Constantly striving to increase your lot in life is a never-ending cycle, so why play the world’s game? The fact is, we will all die and nobody will care about what you possessed in life – but they will remember your character.
Present Minded: Life is in the present moment. The past is history, so there is no reason to dwell on it – good or bad – and the future is some illusion that never turns out how we expect. Life is now and that is all we can bank on and clutter or being overcommitted tends to put us into a daydream mindset of either the past or future because we don’t want to deal with the present.
Freedom and Flexibility: Not being bogged down by possessions and commitments provides greater freedom and flexibility. Being a minimalist makes moving to a new location easier, not being overly concerned about a thief coming into my house and stealing everything, or taking a spontaneous trip out of town for the weekend.
Perspective: Holding possessions loosely, knowing that they are there to serve you, and not the other way around, changes your perspective from stockpiling your home with nice things to keeping your eye on the ball for the things we know in our hearts are more important – our relationship with God, spending time with family and friends, and helping and serving others. I’m not opposed to having nice things and admiring the beauty and craftsmanship of these items, but we need to be careful that the pursuit of these possessions doesn’t drown out the voice of God.
Essentials: Beyond food, water, clothing, and shelter, there is really not much more we need to survive. Going down the minimalist lifestyle path, this becomes ever more apparent. Since becoming a minimalist I have given up television for the most part and only drive my car if absolutely necessary – opting for public transportation, walking, or biking. Everything beyond the essentials is a luxury and we need to appreciate and express gratitude for the God’s blessings.
Time: Significantly reducing my possessions as well as reducing commitments that were not adding any satisfaction to my life, I have found more time for things I enjoy doing. I used to always feel that I needed to have my day planned with little down time, but found that saying no to some requests is a good thing. Having more open space in my schedule has increased my energy levels and ability to put a better effort forward for the things that are important to me.
The minimalist lifestyle has not solved all my problems in life, but I have found that it has enhanced my overall well-being and I plan to live the minimalist lifestyle for the rest of my earthly existence. I do want to state that possessions are not a bad thing – just as money is not a bad thing – as long as our relationship to them are kept in proper perspective and our identity is not wrapped up in them. To try and put it succinctly, an essential component of the minimalist lifestyle is to be mindful of every acquisitions and commitment and ensure the utility to be derived is beneficial to your eternal purpose.