When I started reading about minimalism, I was several years into my journey. Back then, there was not an official name for it and terms such as downsizing or ‘right’ sizing were used. But as minimalism started to come into being and I finally had a name to clarify what I was doing, one piece of advice that was stressed was to know your why. I was a little intimated by this question as my why was never really named or neat and tidy like others. My why sprung out of longing for a better, different life and then continually changed as I experienced new things and my life changed.
I am here to tell you that it is ok if your why is not pretty and wrapped in a nice bow or if it changes as you begin your minimalist or simplicity journey or as your season of life changes. It is a sign you are learning and growing. The why I am talking about here is the down and dirty why that creates change in your life and inspires you to live simply, especially in a culture that is so much about more.
My why started with wanting a simpler life and it was not clear to me, at that time, that minimalism and simplicity were connected. I knew they were different but I did not understand how one informs the other and how together, they can bring such contentment and peace and meaning to life. It also seems to open a bit of a Pandora’s box as it becomes something like: “you know too much, you have come too far, you can’t go back” as my teacher Abraham-Esther Hicks says. Once you start to make changes and feel how good it feels, you feel energy and inspiration to experiment and keep going and start to realize that it is ok if we do not have this new journey all figured out.
My why changed when I lived through a devastating tornado that ripped through the United States southwest where some of my friends and neighbors literally only had the undergarments they were wearing as everything was destroyed, including the clothes on their body (from the wind). Many people were without power and water for weeks and it really opened my heart to compassion and a burning desire to serve and answer the call of how may I help. Not just providing bottled water, batteries and money; but how can I help others get back on their feet with the extra stuff I have.
My why changed again when I lost a loved one. The one I held most dear made the transition to non-physical (passed on) and my world was shattered and I learned the meaning of loss and what is truly important in life. And I have to say that things did not even make the list of what is important.
My why changed again when I started to live with intention and an understanding of what is important to me in my life. This is hard to express in words but freedom, happiness and kindness come close as a start. Originally I thought living the “American dream” of a great job, house, car, etc… was important, but it turns out, that was not it for me. I felt like a round peg in a square hole; it did not fit. When I chose freedom as part of my purpose and intention in life, working the 9-5 grind fell quickly to the wayside (spoiler alert).
My why changed again when I started to care for aging loved ones. My heart once again became filled with compassion but also grace as I watched their decline. Grace is a hard word to articulate but in practical terms it means: slowing down, leaning in when you really want to run from uncomfortable emotions and situations, understanding that all is well and there is a plan, having a knowing that all will be ok, listening more than talking (we have two ears and one mouth for a reason), understanding the importance of being kind rather than right, and not underestimating the importance of laughter and lightness as we really do take this life thing way to seriously.
Spending time with loved ones instead of spending time with my possessions quickly became very important as I knew time was precious. I did not want to waste it managing possessions or spending too much time on my playbox (phone or tablet) as that would be a regret. Also, seeing the struggle and setbacks people have because they hold on to material possessions really opened my eyes to what is truly important. Turns out, there is a direct connect between the stuff we own and our health. Heart conditions, especially blockages, are associated with cluttered hallways and houses. Excess weight is often associated with a house and garage that is filled with clutter and things people are holding on to but never use. This phenomenon has actually been studied and documented in the clutter clearing and space clearing literature.
All the while my why was changing over the last 20+ years, it was always shaped and informed by reading books, blogs and websites by amazing authors. One of the first books I read that sparked the idea of simplicity and planted a seed of change in me was Walden (1854) by Henry David Thoreau. A true pioneer for minimalism and simplicity with so many amazing quotes including, “simplify, simplify, simplify.” Other books that really resonated with me include: The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho, Soulful Simplicity by Courtney Carver, The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker and The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying by Bronnie Ware. There are hundreds and hundreds more with so many good nuggets that I have implemented in my life.
It is ok, no, more than that, it is normal and great if your why is not all figured out in the beginning and if it changes and grows as you do. Your why is a tool, a touchstone, a compass in your minimalism simplicity journey because in the end it is all about bringing more love into your life.
Six nuggets I learned along the way that might inform your journey so it is not as messy and filled with so many growing pains and contrast include:
1. taking time to reflect (I find I need more time to process information);
2. giving yourself grace (so then you can extend that grace to others);
3. practicing harmlessness (people, pets, planet);
4. feeling gratitude and appreciation (for the little things and the big things);
5. smiling more; and
6. breathing deeper, take a deep breath in and exhale.
Accept that life is change and maybe the thing you resist the most is your greatest teacher. May your journey be filled with love, kindness, compassion, peace, calmness, grace and gratitude and do not forget to bring the joy!
About the Author: Sunshine Dawn is an accounting professor, yoga teacher and catalyst for change. She lives in the United States with her two Havanese pups, Butters and Benzer.