For years, my family and I struggled with overloaded schedules, overwhelming debt, and being far too enslaved to our four bedroom, three bath home and excess physical possessions. The things we thought we “owned,” really owned us, and living in bondage to them rendered us physically ill, mentally exhausted, and existing from day to day in an underlying state of misery.
To be honest, we didn’t even know exactly how much we owed or how severely our lives were being affected until a very unexpected identity theft crisis sounded a much-needed wake-up call and forced us to face reality. Since then, we have sold our home, released about 90% of our physical possessions, eliminated 100% of our debt, and found a rare measure of deep-seated peace.
We are now three years into this continuous journey, and here are ten things our minimizing quest has taught me.
1. Sometimes the hardest trials produce the most desperately needed change.
When we found out someone had stolen our identity, we felt blind-sided and extremely violated. The trial was alarming and long-lasting, but it forced us to stare our indebtedness in the face and was the very catalyst that propelled us from a life of abundance to a more abundant life.
2. Embracing reality is the first necessary step to changing your life.
Fear of knowing where we stood kept us from asking the hard questions and facing the facts. Once we owned up to what was real, the truth set us free and gave us the necessary courage to take the next step.
3. No one can change your life except you.
Change is hard. Sometimes it is easier to perpetuate what is familiar and feels safe regardless how much misery “the same” is inflicting into our lives. As much as we would all love to have someone come in and do the heavy lifting (pun intended) of minimizing for us, we are the only person who can make those decisions and let go of what is burdening our lives.
4. “The American dream” doesn’t have to be your dream.
Just because the world around us dictates its definition of “normal” does not mean we have to conform to its demands. When living the dream of expected behavior requires us to go deep into debt, overburden our lives with excess, and keep our noses to the grindstone, the dream can become a nightmare. We no longer own a home but rent instead, and that is okay. Being debt-free means far more to us than knowing we are fitting into someone else’s mold.
5. Hoarding is not necessary.
Both my husband and I were born to parents who were born in the 1920’s and early 1930’s. They grew up in an entirely different time when supplies and money were scarce, and they well-meaningly raised us with the mentality of “you better hold onto it in case you need it someday.” What we have learned is that God is faithful, and there is no need to hold onto things we do not need today. If tomorrow comes, our faith has taught us that we will always have what we need.
6. The freedom of owning less quickly eases the pain of letting go.
As difficult as it is to release certain things, the sting only lasts a short time. The dread and separation anxiety ahead of time is the most vexing part, and we have found that once it is out of sight, we don’t even miss it. The relief of being rid of emotionally and physically heavy baggage is very liberating.
7. Peace is a trustworthy guide.
The process of minimizing generates many conflicting emotions. Making the right decisions often requires careful, intentional consideration and soul-searching. Take your time to identify choices that calm your spirit, and always follow the path to peace.
8. You only need to see the next step in front of you.
When we started out, I wanted a flashlight to illuminate the whole road ahead of us. What I found is that I can’t take step two before step one anyhow, and the only thing I need to see is the next step in front of me. When it is time to know more, the guidance will be there. Leaps, when taken in faith, will land you where you need to be.
9. There is a huge difference between a want and a need.
On our journey, it became necessary for us to live in tight quarters for a span of time after we sold our home and were waiting for our rental to become available. We learned real quick that we only needed a small handful of items to survive each day. Most of what we had surrounded ourselves with was entirely unnecessary to the essentials of life.
10. Physical possessions are not the only things that need to be minimized.
Unhealthy relationships, excessive obligations/commitments, a cluttered mind, and emotional toxins are equally detrimental to our lives, and they need to be pruned until balance and wellness are achieved.
Though we are all different and our paths are diverse, I believe the desire for peace is common to us all. Wherever you are on your journey, I wish you well.