As minimalists, we strive for less stuff to experience more life. We learn how to detach from our possessions, limit technology, set boundaries with our commitments, and manage our finances with more intention.
Our schedules get pared down to the most important appointments, we open our calendars for family time, meeting a friend for lunch, reading, or pursing a passion. Simplicity becomes our goal. We learn to ask ourselves important questions before adding any item to our life:
“How can this make my life easier?”
“Will this cause more freedom or hold me back?”
Simplicity takes more intention than renting a storage unit and so we learn to value the weight of every decision. The value of an item or experience becomes more than a price tag or a great story to tell at a cocktail party. Minimalism is not for the half-hearted.
It’s a deep dive into the core of what we believe about who we are, where we find value, our purpose, and our passion. These are incredibly personal and difficult mountains to climb. A compass and hatchet are necessary tools to make the journey.
This matter of the heart requires that we take great care to cut the non essentials, and cultivate the things we should never minimize. It’s how we maximize the benefits of minimalism.
Here are nine things that should never fall victim to our minimalist pursuit:
We should never commit so intently to this outlier way of life that we alienate our family, faithful friends, or the potential new positive relationships. There may be a time when minimizing harmful or unhealthy relationships is appropriate, however minimalism isn’t about living a reclusive or withdrawn existence. We minimize to un-clutter our lives from that which robs our time and energy from investing in the most important people in our lives.
Living with less should never mean less community. In fact, living with less opens our lives to more community and opportunity to live along side others, minimalist or not. Our community, those outside our immediate family but who share in our activities around home, school, work, church, or neighborhood, should benefit from our life of less. The amount of time we gain, the items that can be reused or repurposed by someone in need, and the hospitality we offer in less crowded homes are practical ways to intentionally live in community.
I believe that the greatest expression of gratitude is minimalism. When one is truly grateful for what matters most, no amount of possessions could change that contentment. A room full of gadgets and toys or forgotten impulse purchases steals our gratitude by complicating our lives. To live a life of gratitude, we recognize that the essentials are enough and we can experience how they enhance our existence. Gratitude isn’t being thankful for what you have; its believing what you have is enough.
We don’t like to admit it, but when we have a strong belief about the way we live, sometimes we minimize our empathy for those who live differently. Becoming minimalist is never a destination; it’s a journey of minimizing the outside influencers. But non-minimalists are not outsiders, they are people. They are potential inspiring mentors, faithful leaders, guides and peacemakers. The way we treat others who struggle with the burden of stuff will either maximize their value to us or minimize our value to them. Choose wisely.
Minimalism is not an excuse to not be generous. It is the greatest excuse to be more generous. Ridding our lives of excess offers the obvious opportunity to donate or re-home our possessions that can be useful to someone. But there are other not so obvious reasons we should never minimize generosity: we create more space to offer our home, time, meals, service, and gifts to others. Our unburdened schedules allow more investments in relationships, more family building, and more financial resources. Our minds are free of stressors so we can create more and share more of our talents. Need less, give more.
I spoke with a middle aged woman recently who is, in her words, pursuing a “useless” graduate degree. I felt sad that she perceived her educational pursuit was for nothing. Education in any form, when applied, enriches our lives to greater understanding, empathy, and action. To minimize our education is to minimize our potential to change the world. For any educational investment, we gain, at the very least, a deepened capacity to think and to relate to the world bustling around us.
Our passions and dreams often end up on the chopping block when we are overwhelmed with crammed calendars and suffocated by our stuff. Minimalism should never stifle the life-giving joys in our life. When we release our attachment to stuff and busyness, we have more time and energy to pursue and participate in our passions. If we ever feel the need to minimize the very thing that makes us come alive, we’ve lost sight of who we are. Minimalism creates space for the development of our dreams and passions and we then realize the burden our stuff has over us.
If you’ve ever been in any kind of relationship that has lasted more than a few days, you know that forgiveness is part of life. If we minimize our capacity to forgive, we can never hope to grow or change. Significant relationship demands repentance and forgiveness. Ruth Bell Graham said, “Marriage is a union of two good forgivers.” I believe that’s true of any relationship. Minimizing the value of forgiveness will kill our capacity for genuine connection.
The absence of joy is often caused by our inaccurate source of value. The more we buy the less happy we are. It may seem depressing to live a life with less, but that’s only because we haven’t freed ourselves from the chains of believing our value comes from what we own. Less stuff is more joy. To free ourselves from comparisons and the joy-killing value system of a broken world, the answer lies in the freedom of minimalism.
How are you maximizing the benefits of minimalism?