Firstly, what is Minimalism? Minimalism is a value system that at its root is a focus on things we value most and cutting out everything else that does not and that only serves to distract us. In so doing we create freedom, more time for family and experiences. We take away debt, stress and jealousy. It is simply a way of living where we are invited to be more intentional about how we spend our time.
Minimalism is supported by a few common ideals: simplicity, quality and multi function for the possessions we do keep; fiscal responsibility; rejection of consumerism and a high consumer literacy (knowing and recognizing sales tactics that contribute to mindless consumerism). Minimalism is more than decluttering and re-organizing. It is purposeful living. Keeping things that only add value and bring joy to your life. That makes things rather broad. The way people live a life of minimalism can run a large spectrum. Some folks have tiny houses, others a backpack of 51 items, others have 2 cars, essential possessions, and a simple house in the suburbs.
In the summer of 2017, my wife and I both stumbled upon minimalism separately. She read Joshua Becker’s The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own and I heard Joshua Fields Millburn on Tom Woods’ Show (episode 775). We watched Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus’ documentary, Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix (currently still available). After watching the documentary together we both agreed to try minimalism. To be honest, we did not find it too drastic as we already subscribed to some of the tenets. We were always financially responsible. A few years prior, we we began to me more intentional in our buying decisions and in our giving as we felt a need to live a little closer to Jesus’ teaching of simplicity and generosity. We felt like minimalism was a good tool to help us reduce our materialism and align ourselves more fully with Jesus’ teachings on possessions. Having said that we began the process of going through our possessions to determine what to keep, give away, and throw out. How did we decide what to keep and what to give away? In general, most minimalists will say that an item that you keep must contain value, serve a purpose, and bring joy.
We chose to minimize room by room. We started with our bedroom. The easiest things to minimize are duplicates and things you don’t use. Despite thinking we were already living simply, and despite four moves in the previous 5 years in which we donated unused items each time, we still filled 3 or 4 trash bags with clothes and 2 more trash bags with stuff we threw away. And that was just our bedroom. We were in shock. In one way we were shamed by the waste and accumulation, but we were also pleased with what we were able to cut out of our lives. Surprisingly, this past summer we went through our closets again and gave away an additional 2 more trash bags of clothes! How? Well, the other major stumbling block to minimalism is “Just in Case Items”. I found it really hard to let go of just in case items. I didn’t want to waste money replacing something I got rid of it. But the truth is, if an item is “just in case,” it is already unused. It won’t be missed.
The next room we tackled was the kitchen. I largely stayed out of that, but be warned minimizing common areas/possessions without your family or living partners can result in mistakes and anger. Anecdotally, minimalist Joshua Becker relays an episode of minimizing his kitchen without his wife and throwing away a football Jell-O mold only to discover later that his wife was searching all over for the mold because it was for his young son’s sports themed birthday party. In our kitchen, once again, duplicates were an easy item to toss. Why we went through four moves with two rolling pins is beyond me. We focused on keeping items that we actually used. We also looked at replacing some of the things we had with multifunction items. For example, my wife ditched our white and red wine glasses and replaced them with glassware that works for both.
Technology is a great benefit for us on our minimalism journey. I love to read, but rather than have a ton of books around the house, I have a ton on my Kindle. Rather than having boxes and boxes of photos like my parents, I have digital photos and I scanned in my parents’ boxes of photos many, many years ago long before I became a minimalist. It is also much easier to tag and organize digital media. Our kids are not at the point that they are churning out artwork, but when they do Becker suggests takings pictures of any special crafts our kids make that will be thrown out or replaced by their newer artwork. That is a huge space saver.
This Christmas we adopted the need, want, wear, read approach to gift-giving. It helped restrain us and my in-laws from buying things we do not want or buying the kids too much. It’s nice knowing that when gift giving time comes around each of us will be getting only 4 gifts. I think it will help the kids as they get older and make their own lists to be very selective and thoughtful about their requests.
So nearly two years in and minimalism is a keeper for me and my family. We are still working at it as evidenced by the paring down we did again this past summer. It did take some will power to overcome some of our old ways of thinking, but embracing minimalism certainly makes us happier and less stressed. Our house is easier to clean and more organized despite a 3 year old that loves to make messes. The age appropriate toys that we have for our toddler are minimal but treasured by him. None of his toys are gathering dust. And that really helps reduce the clutter.
A Random Note:
-Minimalism also makes it easier when you find a snake in the house to go room by room moving stuff and checking to make sure there are no more motherfucking snakes in the motherfucking house.
The Minimalist.com Podcast
Minimalism: A Documentary about What is Important Netflix, Amazon Prime, Google Play
The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own by Joshua Becker