The Freedom of Minimalism

Person holding rainbow colored umbrella in front a snowy pond
Photo by Anastasiya Yilmaz on Unsplash

Several years ago, I began to take my first steps down the path of minimalism.  However, I did not just wake up one day and decide to become a minimalist, first I was led to the concept through a desire to become debt-free, and then the goal to go plastic-free and live a more sustainable lifestyle, as I wrote about in my article entitled How Dave Ramsey and Going Plastic-free led me to Minimalism. I discovered and reviewed The Minimalists’ first film,  and that led me to read several of their books including Everything That Remains, which I reviewed as well. From there, it blended into the countercultural concoction of plastic-free, zero-waste, environmentally-friendly, sustainable, protecting-the-earth-and-animals-lifestyle I am striving toward. I now follow quite a few minimalists, have read Marie Kondo’s books, participate in Project 333, and I’m even considering living in a tiny house someday.

“Happiness resides not in possessions, and not in gold, happiness dwells in the soul.” -Democritus

What is Minimalism?

There’s not one single definition for minimalism and it’s often misunderstood. It’s about living with less physical items to free up space in your home, mind, and heart for the more important things in life.

“Minimalism is simply removing the things that remove you from your life.” Courtney Carver, bemorewithless.com and creator of Project 333

“Minimalism is not a numbers game…It’s about finding the perfect balance of enough. It’s learning to be content with what you have.” -Kathryn Kellogg, goingzerowaste.com

“It’s simply getting rid of things you do not use or need, leaving an uncluttered, simple environment and an uncluttered, simple life. It’s living without an obsession with material things or an obsession with doing everything and doing too much.” -Leo Babauta, author and minimalist

“What Minimalism is really all about is reassessment of your priorities so that you can strip away the excess stuff — the possessions and ideas and relationships and activities — that don’t bring value to your life.” -Colin Wright, minimalist and author

As all minimalists will point out, minimalism does not mean barren walls and living bored. It doesn’t mean not owning nice things, in fact, it often means owning fewer but higher quality items. It does not mean you can’t entertain, have children, or limit belongings that are essential to your life. Minimalism means living intentionally. It also aligns with environmentalism and sustainability.

Boy with blue sled in snow
Photo by me

Why minimalism?

“It’s a way to escape the excesses of the world around us — the excesses of consumerism, material possessions, clutter, having too much to do, too much debt, too many distractions, too much noise. But too little meaning.” -Leo Babauta, author and minimalist

All of the minimalists I’ve mentioned have websites, books, and podcasts dedicated to the why, and I encourage you to delve into those. Some of the reasons include having more time, eliminating debt, finding true purpose in life, living cleaner, and pursuing passions and hobbies. The Minimalists wrote, “Minimalism is a tool to rid yourself of life’s excess in favor of focusing on what’s important—so you can find happiness, fulfillment, and freedom.”

“minimalism is freedom from the modern rush…We are too hurried, too frenzied, and too stressed. We work long, passionate hours to pay the bills, but fall deeper into debt. We rush from one activity to another – multitasking along the way – but never seem to get everything done.” We can try to live within our means and we might find ourselves much more content.

Courtney Carver described in her book, Project 333, that after going minimalist and downsizing from a large house to a small apartment, she knew she “had made the right decision when my husband woke up one Saturday morning and said, ‘Guess what I’m not doing today? I’m not raking leaves, mowing the lawn, replacing the roof, or negotiating with neighbors to replace the fence.’ Instead, we went for a hike.” How lovely!

Couple walking in winter forest
Photo by Arina Krasnikova from Pexels

Consumer Culture

“We own too much stuff. And it is stealing our joy.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

Why do we have so much stuff?

A great deal of our desire for excess possession comes from our culture, which pushes and praises consumerism. In fact, we are told that we are good citizens if we consume and spend. We grow up to get a job so that we can buy property, cars, trendy clothes, and all the things we’ve been told will make us happy. Ownership has typically been viewed as a sign of success. We are exposed to an average of 5,000 advertisements daily and told that we need more, to be more. Joshua Becker wrote, “Minimalism is countercultural. It is contrary to every advertisement we have ever seen because we live in a society that prides itself on the accumulation of possessions.”

“Living doesn’t cost much, but showing off does.” -Jeffrey D. Sachs, economist and author

This consumer culture leads us to compare our lives and our stuff to that of others, which causes consumer competition. This fills our homes with unnecessary belongings and creates discontent.

“Comparison is the thief of joy.” -Theodore Roosevelt

Child being pulled in sled in snow with rainbow winter hat
Photo by Marcel Walter on Unsplash

Organizing

I used to believe organizing was the key to having a clean home and an easy lifestyle. I’ve spent hours of my life organizing and reorganizing my belongings, believing I was doing something good and healthy. I would spend hours online learning organizing methods and ideas. I loved organizing so much that at one point I even wanted to become a certified professional organizer so I could do it for a living. Now I see the errors of my ways. The best organizing is not having excess amounts of items to organize. The Minimalists wrote an article entitled “Organizing is Well-Planned Hoarding,”3 and I completely agree.

“You don’t have an organization problem, you have a too-much-stuff problem…You don’t need to organize more, you need to own less.” -Erica Layne, author of The Minimalist Way

The excess stuff gets in our way and limits us as every possession must be cared for, cleaned, and maintained. “Each one will require time, energy, and effort once they enter your home,” Joshua Becker said. If you own less stuff, you don’t need to shop at stores like The Container Store (a former favorite of mine), and this saves time as well. I’ve gotten rid of so much that I was able to sell most of my storage containers at my last yard sale.

“It is better to own less than to organize more.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

Girl making a snow angel
Photo by Jimmy Conover on Unsplash

Teaching Our Kids

If we have children it is imperative that we pass down the belief and understanding that relationships, love, giving, and contentment are far more important than any item they can ever buy. If we at least have what we need, the basic necessities, then everything else is a blessing.

“We must teach our kids how to handle envy and how to overcome it. It is important we help them learn how to focus on the positive, the shortsightedness of comparison, and the foolishness of jealousy. We should teach them to be generous and grateful, and to celebrate the success of others.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

Man skiing with dog
Photo by Puneeth Shetty on Unsplash

Less Is More…

Sometimes, as the saying goes, less is more. Owning only the things that add value and joy to your life. Participating only in those events that bring fulfillment. Spending time with those we love. Learning to be content with all that we do have.

“Modern society has bought into the lie that the good life is found in accumulating things – in possessing as much as possible…Minimalism brings freedom from the all-consuming passion to possess…It values relationships, experiences, and soul-care. And in doing so, it finds life.” -Joshua Becker, becomingminimalist.com

Less Is Now!

Though I’m not yet fully living the minimalist lifestyle I seek, I’m continually inspired by minimalism. It is a process and I’m working that process.

So I was very excited to learn The Minimalists are coming out with a new Netflix documentary, coming out today! What a great way to start the new year! The trailer alone inspired me to write this post, and I thought I’d dedicate my first post of this year to minimalism. Because minimalism has something positive to offer all of us, on some level.

Happy New Year! Thanks for reading, and please subscribe!

 

Additional Resources:

Article, “What Is Minimalism?,” by Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus.

Article, “What is Minimalism? Maybe it’s not what you think,” by Courtney Carver.

Book, 101 Ways To Go Zero Waste, by Kathryn Kellogg, 2019.

FAQs, “Minimalist FAQs,” by Leo Babauta.

Article, “Minimalism Explained,” by Colin Wright, September 15, 2010.

 

Footnotes:

What a Crazy Time with Coronavirus (and more cute kittens), Part 2

Kitten on pink blanket

In mid-March, I wrote a post about the craziness that was coming down surrounding the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. At the time, everything was starting to close down in the United States, but I was still going to work until right after I published that post. I went grocery shopping the day before that post. Many things had announced closure for 2 weeks.

But this pandemic continually changes things, sometimes on a weekly if not daily basis. The day after that post I began working from home. I haven’t been back to the campus and I’m not allowed to go. Officially, that has been extended into summer. I’m truly grateful to be employed and to have a job that will allow me to work from home. The latest number of unemployment claims in the United States is 36 million, the highest since the Great Depression!

Public schools were closed for 2 weeks, then 4, and now children are finishing the school year at home. High school seniors will not have the usual end of year experiences. My son will not be in his first-grade teacher’s classroom again. We were instructed to do guided homeschool, which has been challenging.

The stay at home orders remains in effect in some places and not others. In Tennessee, for example, they’ve been lifted and we are wondering if we will now see a spike in illnesses. In the United States, they are discovering between 20,000-30,000 new cases of COVID-19 per day and the death rate is sure to go up. How long will this go on?

We don’t know.

Kitten on blue and white carpet

Uncertainty

On top of that, the Southeast experienced tornados on Easter Sunday. An EF3 hit Chattanooga and dozens lost their homes and some lost their lives. Thousands went without power for a week or more and lost some of the contents of their refrigerators and freezers. This is concerning during a time of partial food shortages, especially the meat industry.

Now there are wildfires in Florida, forcing people to evacuate their homes. Hurricane season begins in just a couple weeks and they are predicting stronger storms this year. Natural disasters just add to the stress people are experiencing.

Everything seems uncertain and distressing.

Kitten on leopard print

But positivity abounds

The Kitten Academy, featured in my other post, celebrated a new litter of kittens one month ago. I’ve featured photos of their kittens again because it’s something cute and positive and happy.

Our local school district provided Chromebook computers to students who needed them. Several internet companies provided internet for free to low-income families. The school district has even been providing meals for students who need them. People who received their stimulus checks in the last month are donating portions (or all) to those who need it more. Many funds have been set up to help the tornado victims in several states.

Kitten on blue and white carpet

A chance to slow down

We’ve been given an opportunity to slow down. There’s no daily rat race to get from one place to another. No lessons to rush to, no errands to run, no places to be. Minimalist Seth Riley wrote an article and it echoes my thoughts: if we are healthy and safe, we are blessed. We have this rare opportunity to reassess our values and behaviors to decide what really matters to us.

“This is a rare chance to take stock. Through all of the anxiety, we still have the option to start practicing those values we usually ignore and, with all of the closures and cancellations, we have been given the blankest slate we can ever expect to receive.”  -Seth Riley

Lots of people are trying to use this time to do new things or to be creative, but it’s ok if you aren’t. Courtney Carver wrote a post on staying calm during an anxious time. It is a good time to think and reevaluate your life, however. Here’s a good article from Joshua Becker about things you can do during this time – they are not all life-changing things. Activities as simple as going outside, teaching your children a new game, or simply reading.

“May the silver lining of today’s crisis be that we get the opportunity to think about how we really want to live, serve, connect, create and BE in our new normal.” –Courtney Carver

We have had more time to spend outdoors. We have more time together. We planted a garden. We ate dinner on the patio. We have time for evening walks. We literally flew a kite!

My son flying a kite in the backyard.
My son flying a kite in the backyard. Photo by me

Maybe it’s a good time to let go

Some are using this time to declutter or even go minimalist, and let go of mental and physical clutter. At the very least, maybe it is a good time to reassess and simplify. The Minimalists released a good article on reevaluating our belongings. Here’s an article from Courtney Carver about how to start during the quarantine. Becoming Minimalist recently launched an app called Clutterfree. You can try it for free before paying the monthly subscription. Here’s some advice from minimalist Joshua Becker:

“It’s a good exercise in reminding us that we just don’t need a lot of the stuff that we have. When times are bad, having each other, having your health (is most important). We can do with a lot less and I think that’s an important lesson I want my kids to understand… Be grateful for what you have and be ready to share it when the time comes.” –Michelle Obama

What about remaining eco-friendly?

If you’re trying to remain eco-friendly during this quarantine and struggling, know that you are not alone. It’s obviously harder to maintain an eco-friendly or zero waste lifestyle right now. I’ve had to struggle with unwanted plastics in my grocery deliveries and curbside pickups. Bulk bins foods are not available and it’s harder to get my usual products in glass. As one of my favorite zero wasters, Kathryn Kellogg wrote in her book ((101 Ways To Go Zero Waste), regarding having plastic water bottles in her emergency kit: it’s ok if every part of your life is not zero waste. “Putting your health and safety in jeopardy in the name of wanting to reduce trash is silly.” This is especially true right now.

Kitten on pink blanket

Be gentle to yourself, allow yourself time to evaluate, meditate, and reassess everything. Decide what is most important to you. Let this time of fear and stress also be a time of mental clarity. Love those close to you and call the people you can’t see right now.

Thanks for reading, and stay safe.