Minimalism is about clearing out the clutter and noise in life in order to clearly see the things that really matter. It’s about intentionally removing the excess from our lives in order to be able to focus on what’s most important.
I’ve been thinking about the journey to minimalism, and although people are lead down this path for varying reasons, we all end up in the same place. This leads to a life that isn’t necessarily perfect or easy, but a lot more simple.
Here are two paths that you may find yourself on in the search for simplicity—or perhaps for many people, it is a combination of both.
1. Removing the excess.
How do many people begin? By starting with the stuff. Or perhaps I should say, starting with wanting less stuff. The journey to simple living can begin by simplifying the stuff.
This could be because people are sick of having their things own them instead of owning their things. One day you’re finally overwhelmed by the quantity of stuff and just want to be able to walk through the house without tripping over piles of clutter.
This outward mess could make people want to declutter or purge their belongings, thus reducing possessions down to only the necessary.
When all the superfluous is removed, what is left? Then what? When we are faced with the reality that things don’t make us happy and that things don’t last forever, then it leads to the deeper, more pressing question: what is important?
2. Listening to the heart.
If I’m honest, I began striving for simplicity long before I ever heard of the term minimalist. My experience involved a growing appreciation for what I had in my life, and the realization that so many other people don’t have enough.
I wanted to be able to share my things, but also my time, care, and attention. And by reducing the material things in my life I found I always ended up with more. I somehow had more for myself and more to give to others.
In so many life stages and situations, I found my heart was yearning for fewer material things and more depth to life. This discovery lead me to being intentional about simplifying and slowing down.
As new challenges and phases arose in my life, I found that I was consistently happy with less. This kept me looking to find new ways to simplify the chaos and clutter that surrounded me.
I could choose to have less stuff and be more happy.
Even the people who first exemplified simple living for me weren’t people who are loud or draw attention to themselves. Maybe that’s why I was so intrigued in the first place: why are some people so happy, even when they own so little? As you begin living with less, you will find that more people ask ‘why are you so happy?’ and ‘why are you satisfied with less?’.
This is because clearing the clutter also means clearing the clutter in our hearts. There is freedom found in striving for less stuff and more simplicity of heart.
Simplicity can be something that is manifest outwardly in our lives. Maybe your house looks more organized, or your possessions no longer clutter up the counters. Maybe you’ve managed to say no to letting more things, more debt, and more materialism in your life. But if our hearts are cluttered, it will show up in our lives. And really, if our hearts are cluttered, than what was it all for?
Simplicity of heart is something that is much harder to achieve than a simple closet or a clean house. Webster’s Dictionary defines simplicity as freedom from subtlety. Freedom from artificial ornament, or pretentious style. Freedom from cunning or duplicity. All of these—subtlety, artificial ornament, pretentious style, cunning—these are the clutter found in our hearts.
Think about the downfalls of envy, spite, anger, or pride. Living without these makes life so much more simple. Striving for less clutter in every aspect brings about a more simple life.
So when your heart finally becomes uncluttered, why are you so happy? Because simplicity of heart brings freedom. Freedom from comparison, envy, and unrelenting standards. And the freedom to live in the present.
Go head, take the plunge. Do the huge over-hull of the closet, purge the garage, and declutter your living room to make your house more calm and peaceful. But in the end, perhaps the things that remain most steady and constant in our lives aren’t just huge revelations, but the small seeds that are planted and quietly grow into something beautiful and lasting.
The things that make a lasting impact in our lives aren’t the huge and grandiose created to impress. Instead they are the things that although seemingly small, are very powerful: like simplicity of the heart.