The embrace of minimalism, for me, grew out of a lifelong pursuit of simplicity. It was around 1999 when I first began to get serious about minimalism, systematically reducing and eliminating my possessions. I was a minimalist even before minimalism was cool, though I lacked the vocabulary to easily describe my philosophy; usually it ended up lumped in with simplicity.
“Minimalism is a tool to get rid of superfluous excess in favor of focusing on what’s important in life so you can find happiness, fulfillment and freedom.”
I long understood that there was at least room for minimalism (and simplicity) in religious expression, perhaps even a necessity for simplicity and minimalism. It was not until I read Richard Foster’s The Freedom of Simplicity that I began to appreciate just how central simplicity was to the Christian message. Later study of the Church Fathers would further reinforce the conviction that the related disciplines of simplicity and minimalism are an inescapable part of a Biblical worldview.
Thoreau is my hero – minimalism as philosophy
Minimalism does have its challenges, but it also provides opportunities and benefits not otherwise available. Some of the benefits of minimalism include saving money (not buying stuff you don’t need anyway), easier travel or relocation (I literally own less stuff than most people take on vacation, thus moving is rather simple), and reduced stress from having fewer possessions to maintain and care for. Minimalism can also facilitate new opportunities as it becomes easier to experiment and risk failing without the excess baggage and commitments so common in our culture.
Ev Bogue, famous famous from his now-deprecated blog Far Beyond the Stars and several e-books on minimalism, recently described it this way:
“I like living this way. It gives me a lot of flexibility to go where I want.
“It also lets me take bigger risks, and fail harder than most people. It lets me succeed bigger, and enjoy my successes more than most people, too.”
My journey toward minimalism occurred as a series of steps.
The first step was my embrace of the philosophy of simplicity and simple living.
The second step occurred as I began a cross-country move in 1999. This move encouraged (almost required) downsizing and reducing possessions. There are few things as effective as moving your family more than 2,000 miles in a small station wagon to force a careful evaluation of which stuff is really important (and which is just junk).
The third step occurred as a result of frequent travel, and the desire for more frequent travel. I did not want to be burdened by a bunch of stuff back home that I needed to worry about; less stuff makes it easier to move or travel on a whim.
Finally, I learned quickly that putting extra stuff in storage is a powerful motivator to minimize. Renting storage space wastes hard-earned money. Storing stuff for any length of time also proves just how little we need the stuff as it is nearly impossible to even remember what is in storage after a little time has passed. I also learned the hard way that things left in storage tend to deteriorate, whether due to water leaks, rodents, or other factors.
Ultimately, it was not any single event or decision that prompted me to embrace minimalism, but rather a series of steps along a journey to minimalism that started with a quest for simplicity.
Pursuing minimalism is not nearly so difficult as many people would have you believe. The decision to embrace minimalism may be the hard part; the actual implementation of that decision is rather simple. If you are ready to implement minimalism in your own life all you have to do is throw your crap in a dumpster.