10 Reasons Minimalism Might Be Right For You

161 - MinimalA guest post by Joshua Becker, author of the Becoming Minimalist blog, and on a journey towards rational minimalism with his family in Arizona. He is also the author of two several books on simple living, including :SimplifySimplicity Inside Out and Living with Less.

“Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.” – Wayne W. Dyer

Minimalism as a lifestyle, is a movement that seeks to pare down possessions to only the essential. Because life can be lived richer and fuller when unnecessary possessions have been removed, it is a growing trend that includes more than just young, single, 20-somethings. Many families are embracing the lifestyle as well.

And more and more are being introduced to the lifestyle every day. Perhaps, even, this is your first introduction.

Some people get nervous when they hear the term “minimalist.” For them, it conjures up images of destitution, barren walls, and empty cupboards. Rightly so, they decide that is no way to enjoy life. Believe me, I agree – that is no way to enjoy life. And since deciding to become minimalist years ago, we have been on a journey to define what it means for us and how it fits into our unique lifestyle.

We live in the suburbs of Arizona. We have two small children. We are active in our community. We love to entertain and show hospitality. While not exceptional, our life is not identical to anybody else. It is our life – nobody else’s. Minimalism, for us, would have to be unique. It would require us to determine the most important pursuits in our life and remove everything that was distracting us from it. And in so doing, we would find a new way to live life that adds richness and fullness around life’s most essential elements.

To determine if minimalism may indeed be the right lifestyle for you consider some of these questions:

1. Do you spend too much time cleaning?

If you enjoy clean, tidy rooms but don’t like to clean, minimalism just may be your answer. After all, the easiest way to reduce your cleaning time is to simply own less things. It works every time.

2. Are you trying to get out of debt?

Debt holds our life in bondage and weighs heavily on our shoulders. Getting a handle on it by buying less things is one of the most life-giving actions you can take.

3. Is there too much stress in your life?

Physical clutter results in extra stress on our lives. Minimalism removes the clutter and limits the distraction that it causes. Minimalism may be just the breath of fresh air that your home needs to help you relax and unwind.

4. Would you like more time in your day?

Consider for just a moment the amount of time that our belongings drain from our life. Whether we are cleaning, organizing, maintaining, repairing, removing, or shopping, our possessions demand a large percentage of our time. Owning fewer of them results in less time spent maintaining them.

5. Are you environmentally conscious?

Minimalism reduces our impact on the environment by requiring less resources on the front end for production and reducing the amount of waste on the back end.

6. Are you frugal?

While becoming minimalist doesn’t mean that you have to spend less money, it certainly provides the opportunity. And because you are buying less things, you also have the option to make higher-quality purchases that last longer.

7. Do you enjoy financially supporting other causes?

Minimalism provides an opportunity to not just save money for the sake of keeping it, but for using it to further causes that we believe in. After all, once you become content with your belongings and have been rescued from the race of accumulating possessions, you have no need to hoard money. You find new freedom to support the causes that you hold most dear. Currently, the Becoming Minimalist community is raising $10,000 for Charity:Water.

8. Are there things you value more than material possessions?

Minimalism seeks to intentionally promote the things in life that we most value and remove anything that distracts us from it. It allows our life to center around our deepest heart desires rather than the items on sale at the department store.

9. Are you not afraid of change?

Minimalism is a counter-cultural lifestyle that will force changes in the way you spend your time, energy, and money. Of course, almost every change is for the better… so it’s definitely worth the effort.

10. Is your life too valuable to live like everyone else?

Our heart, soul, and passions makes us valuable and unique. Don’t sacrifice your important role in this world by settling for the same temporal possessions that everyone else in your neighborhood is chasing. Your life is far too important… and short.

Your particular practice of minimalism is going to look different from anyone else. It must! After all, you live a different life than anyone else. So find a style of minimalism that works for you. One that is not cumbersome, but freeing based on your values, desires, passions, and rational thinking.

Ultimately, you will begin to remove the unneeded things from your life. As a result, you will find space to intentionally promote the things you most value and remove anything that distracts you from it.

Photo by jlz, via Flickr

RELATED ARTICLES – The Heart Impact of Choosing Less, The Art of Giving Up10 Ways to Have Enough Money and Stuff10 Ways to Simplify Your Life

The Beat of a Different Drum

Just finished something ?

Great – why not take a short break.

There, did you enjoy it ?

Now what’s next ?

How about making those phone calls, sending that text message, responding to those emails or updating your social media ? How about checking in on a few blogs ? Maybe you could update your ‘to-do list’, your ‘bucket list’, your ‘reading list’, your ‘films to watch list’ or your ‘wish list’ ? Maybe you could finish reading all those 1001 Things Before you Die books – places to go, foods to eat, paintings to see ? Have you finished watching that new DVD box set you got for Christmas yet, or that new video game, or for that matter that old DVD box set, or that old video game ? Did you get round to listening to the last couple of albums you downloaded, reading that book you bought or organising your photos ?

Or you could do some of the more important stuff you’ve been putting off: sorting out your bank accounts, or the phone, the internet, the electricity, the TV, the heating, the cars, the insurance, the mortgage, your subscriptions or your memberships. Then you can walk the dog, spend time reading with the kids, cut the grass, tidy the house, do the washing, sort the recycling, do the shopping, book the dentist, plan your holiday, make lunch for tomorrow, cook diner for tonight, catch up with your friends, phone your Mum, get some exercise, keep up to date with the news and buy everyone thoughtful presents for Christmas.

Make sure you don’t forget to do some work, and get enough sleep !

More things to do, more rushing, more multi-tasking, more obligations, more commitments, more things to organise, coordinate, choose, pay for and maintain.

Any of this sound familiar ?

If you’re getting stressed just reading this, then it’s probably far too familiar for comfort.

For the last century and a half our pace of life in the West has been speeding up – driven mostly by advances in technology and associated cultural change. I’m sure most of us would agree that this technological advancement is a good thing – saving us time and effort, liberating women from the home, doing away with drudgery and providing us with more leisure time.

So why do so many of us feel increasingly under pressure, unfulfilled and worn out ?

The Slow Movement suggests that although our technology and surroundings have changed, our essential needs and nature remain the same. We increasingly neglect them in our constant personal and societal drive towards doing more and more, and doing it faster and faster.

It’s not just our homes that need decluttering, it’s our whole lives.

Henry David Thoreau, the American writer and thinker, escaped New England society to go and live for two years in a small wooden cabin by Walden Pond, Massachusetts. He recorded his thoughts in the book Walden; or Life in the Woods, published in 1854, which went on to have a significant influencing effect on both Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.

Thoreau wanted to detach himself from much of the clamour of modern life – though not leave it completely, and learn how to live a simpler, less stressful, more connected and ultimately more meaningful existence.

Many others have sought similar detachment in order to find simplicity and meaning, both before Thoreau, and since – including Christopher McCandless, whose journey into the Alaskan wilderness formed the basis for the recent book and film Into the Wild.

Thoreau used the word balance to describe his objective for life – something we all have to define for ourselves.

Perhaps the challenge for those of us wrestling with the rhythm and trappings of our own lives – is how we can also achieve balance ? Both for our own happiness, and considering our footprint on the planet.

It would also be nice if we could find a way to do it where we’re already planted – rather than needing to spend two years in a cabin somewhere, or hitchhiking off to Alaska :)

  

Photo from Timehettler via Flickr

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The Secret to Happiness

Courtney Carver is author of the blog Be More with Less, and describes herself with “I have been too busy, too tired, too full, too stressed and too overworked for too long and I am changing my ways.” Courtney also runs the One Million for Good site, selling limited edition fine art prints in support of good causes.

I’d like to tell you a story…

A certain shopkeeper sent his son to learn about the secret of happiness from the wisest man in the world.

The lad wandered through the desert for forty days, and finally came upon a beautiful castle, high atop a mountain. It was there that the wise man lived.

Rather than finding a saintly man though, our hero, on entering the main room of the castle, saw a hive of activity: tradesmen came and went, people were conversing in the corners, a small orchestra was playing soft music, and there was a table covered with platters of the most delicious food in that part of the world.

The wise man conversed with everyone, and the boy had to wait for two hours before it was his turn to be given the man’s attention. The wise man listened attentively to the boy’s explanation of why he had come, but told him that he didn’t time just then to explain the secret of happiness.

He suggested that the boy look around the palace and return in two hours. “Meanwhile I want to ask you do do something,” said the wise man, handing the boy a teaspoon that held two drops of oil. “As you wander around, carry this spoon with you without allowing the oil to spill.”

The boy began climbing and descending the many stairways of the palace, keeping his eyes fixed on the spoon. After two hours, he returned to the room where the wise man was. “Well,” asked the wise man, “did you see the Persian tapestries that are hanging in my dining hall? Did you see the garden that it took the master gardener ten years to create? Did you notice the beautiful parchments in my library?”

The boy was embarrassed, and confessed that he had observed nothing. His only concern had been not to spill the oil that the wise man had entrusted to him.

“Then go back and observe the marvels of my world,” said the wise man.

Relieved, the boy picked up the spoon and returned to his exploration of the palace, this time observing all of the works of art on the ceilings and the walls. He saw the gardens, the mountains all around him, the beauty of the flowers, and the tasted with which everything had been selected. Upon returning to the wise man, he related in detail everything he had seen.

“But where are the drops of oil I entrusted to you?” asked the wise man. Looking down at the spoon he held, the boy saw that the oil was gone.

“Well, there is only one piece of advice I can give you.” said the wisest of wise men. “The secret of happiness is to see all the marvels of the world, and never to forget the drops of oil on the spoon”

The Alchemistby Paulo Coelho

This little story with a very big message from one of my favorite books begs the question, “Can we appreciate the beauty that surrounds us while staying focused on what is most important.”

Simplicity answers the question with a resounding “Yes!”

When life isn’t simple and you have to constantly think about

  • debt
  • shopping
  • catching up
  • spending
  • competing
  • appointments
  • health issues
  • falling behind
  • family conflict
  • clutter
  • stuff

then there is no time to appreciate the beauty or protect what is most important to you. There is no time to be happy.

Imagine dumping everything in your life that is meaningless. Everything that you don’t do for love. What would be leftover? It’s time to prioritize the “leftover”. Somehow those most important things, those things (which usually aren’t actual things) get shoved back behind all of the things we are “supposed” to be doing, buying, reading, worrying about.

This isn’t permission to shirk your obligations, but an invitation to put the most important thing in your life today at the top of your never ending to-do list. While everyone will have a different thing at the top of the list, clearing out, or making a plan to begin clearing out clutter/debt/meaningless stuff should be close to the top until it’s gone.

That said, even before you are debt free, clutter free, or free of whatever stands in the way of you and a happier life, prioritize the precioius oil in your life and start living, start enjoying immediately.

There is no doubt that clearing clutter will give you the time and space you need to fully embrace life, but you don’t have to wait for an empty drawer to get started. I know you think you will be happy when you are debt free, or happy when you fit into your skinny jeans, but I can tell you with great conviction that it’s time to be happy right now. You can be happy anytime.

You know me better to think that I am suggesting that you run around with a crazy smile on your face and rainbows shooting out of your pockets, but once you believe that happiness is possible, regardless of your current circumstances, things will start to change.

You will change.

Your life will change.

You will be happy.

Happy reading recommendations

What makes you happy right now?

Photo by Jonathon Benson via Flickr

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The Heart Impact of Choosing Less

A guest post by Joshua Becker, author of the Becoming Minimalist blog, and on a journey towards rational minimalism with his family in Arizona. He is also the author of two books on simple living: Simplify and Simplicity Inside Out.

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

Four years ago, we decided to begin living with fewer possessions.

The decision was based entirely on outward emotions. I was tired of the never-ending cleaning and organizing that my possessions required. I was tired of living paycheck-to-paycheck. And I was getting frustrated that I couldn’t find enough time and energy to be with my family and the people that mattered most. Somehow, I had been unable to notice that my desire to own possessions was the cause of this discontent in my life. Luckily, my neighbor pointed it out with a simple statement, “Maybe you don’t need to own all this stuff.”

My life forever changed. Owning less has allowed me to spend less time and money chasing (and caring for) possessions. It has provided me far more opportunity to redirect my time, energy, and money towards the things that I most value. Ultimately, it brought great resolution to the emotions listed above.

But it has also provided me with even greater opportunity to change than I had ever imagined. The outward change of behavior has brought along with it the opportunity for inward change as well. It has allowed my very heart to change and adopt values that I have always admired in others.

For example, consider how the intentional decision to live with fewer possessions allows our hearts to embrace the following desirable qualities…

1) Contentment: being mentally or emotionally satisfied with things as they are. So much of the discontent in our lives revolves around physical possessions and comparing our things to others. An intentional decision to live with less allows that discontent to slowly fade away.

2) Generosity: willingness and liberality in giving away one’s money, time, etc. When the selfish, hoarder-based mentality is removed from our thinking, we are free to use our resources for other purposes. We are allowed (and have more opportunity) to redirect our energy, time, and money elsewhere.

3) Gratitude: a feeling of thankfulness or appreciation. One of the most important steps that we can take towards experiencing gratitude is to think less about the things we don’t possess and more time focusing on the things we already do. Intentionally living with less (minimalism) provides that opportunity.

4) Self-Control: the ability to exercise restraint or control over one’s feelings, emotions, reactions, etc. Many people go through life having no clear sense of their true values. Instead, their desires are molded by the culture and the advertisements that bombard upon them each day. As a result, they find no consistency in life. No self-control. The decision to live your own life apart from an ever-shifting culture provides opportunity for self-control to emerge.

5) Honesty: honorable in principles, intentions, and actions; upright and fair. Many – not all, but many – of the lies and mistruths that are told in our society are based in a desire to get ahead and possess more. Finding contentment with your lot in life eliminates the need to be dishonest for financial gain.

6) Appreciation: the act of estimating the qualities of things and giving them their proper value.As the desires of our life stop focusing on others and what they have that we don’t, we are more able to appreciate their accomplishment, their success, and the beauty that they bring to the world. We are able to fully appreciate others without being jealous of them (or worse, hoping for their downfall).

Now, please don’t misread me. I am not contending that minimalists are necessarily more content, generous, grateful, or honest than others. I know many incredibly generous people who would not describe themselves as minimalist. I’m sure there are some self-defined minimalists who would chart obnoxiously high on the selfishness meter. And I would never self-confess to have arrived fully in any of the categories listed above.

But I do believe with all my heart that the intentional rejection of possessions does allow greater opportunity for these positive heart habits to emerge. What you do with that opportunity is up to you.

Photo by 55Laney69, via Flickr

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Some Reflections on the 100 Thing Challenge

Dave Bruno is an author and advocate of simple living, though he sometimes describes himself as ‘a restless wanderer on the way home’. Through his book, The 100 Thing Challenge, he gave rise to a movement focussed on breaking free from consumerism and materialism – breaking free from the sense of being stuck in stuff.

In the guest post below Dave reflects on the publication of The 100 Thing Challenge, just over a year ago, and the lessons learnt.

Readers of my The 100 Thing Challenge book have had at least one positive reaction, I think. Many readers have commented online or contacted me directly thanking me for my honesty. In the book and on my blog and as often as my courage does not fail me in person, I attempt to be honest about my experiences with stuff. It has not been only a story of victory over consumerism and rallying the world to a simpler way of life. We all are a work in progress and I insist on making that point in my writing and in my advocacy for simple living. Simple living is not a way of life that leads to perfection. Simple living is a way of life because we are not perfect and never will be this side of eternity.

I hope my short introduction is not just justification for any complaining I might do while reflecting on the 100 Thing Challenge experience. I do not intend to complain only. The one-year anniversary of the publication of The 100 Thing Challenge is drawing near. That prompted me to write about it. Maybe this will be interesting to those who have followed my journey. Maybe it will be interesting for those who want to publish a book about their experiences.

The truth is that I did not want to write about the 100 Thing Challenge, at least not in a book. I have mentioned this before. The oddity of the worldwide interest in my 100 Thing Challenge has never normalized in my mind. Why is an exceedingly average middle-aged man who is living a comfortable life in the earthly paradise of San Diego but without much stuff interesting to so many people? The fear I had about writing a book detailing the 100 Thing Challenge was that it seemed almost impossible to avoid patronizing my readers. People are fascinated by living with less. Why? I believe it is not because they are interested in what things I kept and what things I got rid of. Sure, there is some curiosity about that. But the real reason, I think, so many people were drawn to the 100 Thing Challenge was because they were hurting after years and years, even generations of being let down by consumerism. I hurt. And I was frustrated nearly to tears about being stuck in the cycle of endless consumerism. And I do not cry much. (Though as an aside, now that my daughters are growing older I find myself tearing up more often. And my hair is thinning. But I digress.) So I took this stand to live simply, and people paid attention to it. I agreed to write a book about it.

The moment my squiggly signature raced across the dotted line of the very long book contract, a new challenge began. As I tried to reach below what appeared to some to be the shallow gimmick of the 100 Thing Challenge and unearth my readers’ grief over bad consumer choices, my hands were switched by the editorial ruler.

Hold on. I want to make something exceedingly clear. Editors are absolutely necessary. Not just to find all the typos and misplaced punctuation and sentence fragments and the overuse of polysyndeton. Editors help shape a book. Writers should have editors. I truly believe my book was better because of my editors.

The challenge I had with the editorial ruler was not that my editors were bad editors. Hardly. It was that they had a different vision for the book. So my hands got slapped each time I reached below the surface of the 100 Thing Challenge. In the end my knuckles were bruised and probably the book was a little beaten up, too.

Now this does not mean that I would have succeeded in writing a book about simplicity on a deeper level than the spectacle of the 100 Thing Challenge, if I had no editorial intervention. Personally, I feel satisfied that I came near the goal of avoiding fluff in chapters like “Purging Things and ‘Things Past’” and “Imprecise Goods.” Both are better for the work of my editors. Yet both of those chapters and a few others were not really what my editors wanted. And we only worked through them while misunderstanding each other. At one point as we refined “Purging Things and ‘Things Past’” I felt stuck, going back and forth with an editor.

I asked, “What do you think this chapter is about?”

“You got rid of the trains you liked,” was her answer.

The chapter is about faith. It is about what we put our faith in. My publisher wanted a book about what I got rid of. The life I am wholly committed to is about what we all put our faith in. We just cannot keep putting our faith in stuff. It is killing us to do so. It has ruined the American economy and damaged America culturally. It will make the entire world miserable, if American-style consumerism makes its way across the Pacific, as is already happening. We must have faith and we must put our faith in the right things. God rest his soul, but we should never have put our faith in Steve Jobs and the hope that a more colorful iPod would be available for purchase each year. Of course not everyone did that. But too many people did that.

In the end, I suppose it is my fault. The name for my personal living project was thought up on the spur of the moment. I am responsible for that. The “100 Thing Challenge” does not sound very intellectual. It sounds kind of like reality TV. And once I started accepting calls from media, it began to kind of become reality TV.

Leanne and I made a decision a couple weeks back. No more camera crews in our house. A news station wanted to come by to interview me and film our closets. (Our house, by the way, does not look anything like the way TV reporters think the “100 Thing Challenge” looks, which is why Inside Edition never aired the segment they filmed. He says with a hint of bitterness.) But we are done with the looky-loos. The 100 Thing Challenge was never about the stuff.

I would like to invite people into our home over the years. People who want a safe place to talk about what they have been putting their faith in. People who want to talk about not being stuck in stuff – who want to break free from consumerism. We will not spend our time looking at all the things I own, less than most Americans though far more than most people on earth. But we will look honestly at our hearts. That is where the best stuff can be found.

 

Photo by Puuikibeach via Flickr

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