As we purge our home of clutter and abundant junk I can’t help but feel we’ve chosen a radical way of life. It feels radical to look around at everything we own and remove the expectation of it providing happiness and meaning and acknowledge that our possessions aren’t contributing to a meaningful life.
The desire of more from less is a radical concept if you’ve spent most of your life comparing to and keeping up with the Joneses.
It’s almost impossible to not see the highlight reels spread across social media and believe that must be how the real world lives and that we are being left behind. When all forms of media flood our senses with the unattainable, we feel annoyed that somehow we missed the train to Happy-Shiny-Successville.
We are convinced our friends in our social communities are living less messy lives than ours and we confuse their Instagram accounts for rational ideas of life in a broken world.
Eventually we realize there is no such place as Happy-Shiny-Successville. The more we notice the radical culture we live in, which values performance over authenticity, the more we long for a simpler, honest life. You see, it’s becoming clear to me as I remove the clutter that life according to the standards of our current culture is radically irrational.
Our culture is anything but rational, yet it’s considered as such. It has become normal and expected, even enviable. We watch reality TV and think it’s rational to build apartment sized closets or be multimillionaire tweens. We scroll through our news feeds and believe the well edited selfies and adventure filled weekend posts are evidence of the perfect lives everyone else is living.
This radical irrationality is killing our ability to share in authentic community. Because let’s face it, in today’s world our community is no longer just the neighbors down the street. Our communities have grown infinitely in this era of social media and technology and our face to face interactions are diminishing.
We are pressured to portray perfection. Or at least embellish. Dare I say it’s a matter of integrity? I honestly don’t know.
But I know this journey of minimalism is radical and rational. Sometimes, it’s as radical as owning one hundred items or less, or nothing at all. Or as rational as the counterculture belief that owning more stuff isn’t the key to contentment.
Minimalism is radical when compared to the standards of our society, but when we clear a path to objective reflection it becomes a rational, intentional life that just makes more sense.
We may not be able to turn the tables on the irrational standards of society completely, but here are five ways we can turn radical into rational.
1. Stop comparing yourself to others.
It is radically rational to stop comparing ourselves and live our own authentic and meaningful lives. The standard of a meaningful life cannot be based on the quality of a selfie. It is rational to live a life of unique passion, personality, style, and humor that doesn’t require approval from others
I heard a radio commercial for a car dealership that went something like this, “You want to feel safe, but you also want a vehicle that turns heads.” How did showing off become the upsale to safety?
2. Eliminate as much debt as possible.
It is radically rational to not spend what you don’t have. Budget? Yes, it really is a rational financial tool that somehow is lost on many. Rational spending is living within our means, saving, and careful consideration of whether a purchase will bring lasting joy. Unfortunately, credit cards, second mortgages, and early retirement withdrawals became the rational options to acquire all of our desires and status – except a true meaningful existence.
3. Remove the clutter in your life.
It is radically rational to use what we own and own what we use. Anything more is clutter. Clutter serves no purpose. Junk is junk, now and later. Like school kid crushes, we hand over our hearts to our possessions, even when they fail to give us what we were promised. We hold on it, “just in case.”
There is a house in our neighborhood that, no lie, has two attached garages. The cars parked in the driveway make me wonder what all could be stored away, robbing them of space and freedom. Removing clutter takes radically rational decisions to detach ourselves from the memories, hopes, and financial investment we pour into our stuff.
4. Learn to say “no” and unbusy your schedule.
It is radically rational to say no. I read a quote that said, “’No’ is a complete sentence.” For a long time I believed that if I said no I’d be judged, but a full schedule is torture for my introvert self. It’s irrationally socially acceptable to be busy all the time.
Radical rationality requires the strength of character to put others’ requests for appointments, play dates, meetings, and leadership opportunities at the end of our priority lists. Full schedules do not equal a value-filled life.
5. Work towards a simpler life.
It is radically rational to choose a simple life over a complicated life. We can simplify our budgets by paying off debt. Clean out garages and closets. Simplify wardrobes and calendars. Avoid events or decline invitations. Clean out your email inbox and cancel unread magazine subscriptions.
Some complications are unavoidable, but minimalism is about removing the distractions to focus on the important. Simplify what you can and you’ll manage the rest with the margin.
Minimalism is radical in a complicated, comparison fueled world. However, when we consider the simplicity, freedom, and adventure we receive in return, it seems quite rational to me.