“Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” — Antoine de Saint-Exupery
I heard Rob Bell say once when he is editing a book he knows he’s making progress when he starts to cut out really good stuff. I wondered why he would cut that of his book? How would leaving out the good make his book better?
It occurred to me that as an aspiring minimalist I spend a lot of time analyzing the clutter in my life, mind, and home and little time assessing the usefulness and purpose of the good that I choose to keep. It’s silly really, because isn’t that the point of removing the clutter—to enjoy what remains?
Minimalism questions everything. We remove the obvious clutter and then we are left to challenge what we believed to be good and worthy—all that made the cut. The answers can surprise us.
Sometimes the good is not great all the time. It sounds counter-intuitive, but we often have to edit really good stuff in our lives in order to tell our best story.
A simple life tells the biggest story.
You’ve heard of “less is more”, and the “cutting room floor” and how the best of film and TV is lying on it. It’s not an uncommon theme, but we rarely apply it to the way we live.
We bring good things into our lives with the hope that they will solve a certain problem or desire. Books, clothing, machines, furniture, events, people etc are all at one point good things to add. But at some point down the line some of those things no longer fulfill that need or desire.
When Rob Bell wrote the first drafts of his book, he added certain good material because at that time it was useful. Later during the editing process the need changed for that material. That doesn’t make it less good. Editing revealed the story he was actually trying to write.
Minimalism is deeper and wider than keeping the good stuff.
It strips away our outer layers and exposes the inner parts of ourselves that we haven’t tended to for far too long.
It exposes the sneaky ways clutter disguises itself. It reveals our insecurities and all the characters we create to navigate life in a fickle culture. You may have good things but for the wrong reasons or at the wrong time.
Minimalism is keeping the right good at the right time.
Editing the good from our lives isn’t permanent. It’s a practice of intentional choices that serves us in the present. The present is always changing so what may have been good in the past might not be now. Or what is not good now might be good in the future.
Perhaps it’s a good thing that doesn’t fit in with our new simple life. We are paring down to live our best life, and some good doesn’t fit in with our new lifestyle. Simplicity is about subtracting the obvious and adding the meaningful.
Experience a Better Life
If you’re looking for a simpler, better life, here are a few changes you can make:
1. Edit your wants.
When we want only the simple, practical, and best things in our lives, it means changing the things we want. Consider the desires you have and if adding it to your life is worth the time, effort, space, etc.
2. Unsubscribe from good, but not currently useful email lists.
Edit your inbox of what’s not adding value in a practical way. That may mean foregoing really good information for the sake of your time, focus, and productivity. When it’s relevant to you, re-subscribe.
3. Reduce the social media platforms you use.
Choose your favorite platform and follow your favorite people, blogs, companies, and celebrities. More than likely they will be on most platforms posting the same information to each. You won’t miss out and you’ll be more present in your own life by narrowing your attention.
4. Donate your good books.
You can keep some books, but of those you’ve read and know you probably won’t read again donate to your local library or thrift store. Or, if it’s a particularly good one, share with a friend.
5. Cut back on good commitments.
Learn to say no. My husband and I decided to not continue leading a small group Bible study for this current season of our lives. Through our process of editing we recognized the desire and need to spend our evenings at home while our kids are so young. Choosing to say no to this particular commitment was not easy, but it creates much needed margin to enjoy our daughters and protect our family boundaries.
6. Cut back on social spending.
Save money by entertaining at home rather than weekly happy hours with friends or coworkers. Or drop the food and drink all together and suggest a different activity such as hiking or checking out a local (free) tourist attraction.
7. Downsize your home.
I’ve seen people move to smaller homes to simplify their life. They discovered the reduced living space increased their intentionality concerning what they allow into their home and how they use the space they have. Large homes can be good, but could a smaller home be better?
8. Set boundaries with family and friends.
Family and friends usually have great intentions and we certainly love them, however there are those times when it’s necessary to ask for space. Pay attention to your needs for space and where those boundary lines are crossed. When boundaries are challenged resentment builds. Be honest, but gentle.
Minimalism is a paradox of addition by subtraction, adding to our lives by removing the excess. Consider taking your minimalist journey deeper into the good stuff. You might find that less is more even there.
Design a simpler, better life. Start here. Start now.
Every day, more stuff comes into our lives: stuff in our houses, stuff on our calendars, stuff on our minds. All that stuff gets in the way of where we really want to go and who we really want to be—it’s time to make a change.
*Note — This article was originally published at Simple & Soul.