This easy-going introduction to minimalism by Joshua Becker came into my life right at a time when I needed to hear its message. The clutter of our growing family was growing into an overwhelming problem, so much so that I would rather spend the day at the park than look around my house.
Here are of the reasons I kept too much and what to do about it:
- “Nice” stuff and Being Frugal
I had a lot of “nice” stuff like antique china I had collected before I had children for the day when I would have a house to put it in. And lots of things had sentimental value, and I had baby gear. I was “frugal,” so I was saving everything that I might one day find a use for–like stacks of fabric for making a quilt…for the day I learn to use a sewing machine.
Becker deals with all of these tendencies we have to keep things that we don’t actually need. He makes the case that not only do we not need them, but they hold us back from doing the things that we actually do care about. That was the part I needed to hear.
“When we embrace minimalism, we are immediately freed to pursue our greatest passions. And for some of us, it’s been a long time since we’ve had access to the resources required to chase our hearts’ greatest delights–however we define those delights. Living with less offers more time to spend on meaningful activities, more freedom to travel, more clarity in our spiritual pursuits, increased mental capacity to solve our more heartfelt problems, healthier finances to support causes we believe in, and greater flexibility in the careers we most desire” (11).
And in addition to making space for the things we do care about, Becker emphasizes the moral benefits to battling back consumerism and dedicating our time and resources to others and causes we believe in.
I had long been against rabid consumerism, but I bought into it more than I realized. I was frugal, but that meant that I was saving tons of things, in hopes that I would frugally reproduce a beautiful pinterest picture rather than recognizing that the simplicity of light in a neat room was all I really needed to have a lovely living room.
2. I was too distracted; but I want More Time for Priorities
He encourages the reader to make a list of priorities about stuff and time. So I did. And I started right away. That day I cleared off my bedroom dresser. Most of the stuff I thought I might need or use “someday” distracted me from the things I actually use and like.
I loved the idea of getting rid of the distractions in order to make space for the things I really did care about and enjoy doing and wanted to do more of. For me, those things are:
- enjoying my husband and kids (and friends and other family)
- prayer and faith
- being in nature (and the home extension of caring for our yard),
- exercising, and
- reading and writing.
So everything else can fall by the wayside.
3. Fear of losing out. Aiming to replace it with trust and goals
To me, reading this book activating something I had long been wanting to act on: releasing the financial fear and the survival mechanism of hoarding just in case this or that happens. It means relying on God and my friends and community and ending the practice of putting faith in belongings. It means asking for help when I need it and releasing the illusion of always being self-sufficient.
But forward motion is hard to maintain, so the book recommends writing down goal benefits of minimalism and shoring up momentum early by starting with some quick wins like cleaning out a bathroom cabinet or your car.
These are my goals of minimalism, and they encourage me to keep going:
- Spend less time cleaning because there is less stuff
- Be unafraid to invite people over because my house is too messy
- Have more time for my kids and my writing
- Relax consumerism’s strangle hold on my life
- Learn trust in God and friends
- Have more space in our home for playing
4. Stages of Life Items and Hobby/Craft Things
I gave away tons of shoes, clothes I hadn’t worn in over a year. I got rid of my knitting stuff especially and old things I was saving for potential use in crafting like jars of buttons. I had enjoyed knitting in college when I reading and writing were full time activities and knitting was a hobby. But now that I am a mother, and my kids are my full time, I still have hobbies and passions, but I choose reading and writing, and not knitting. So all those projects that I never began or never finished, and all those beautiful skeins that I never unrolled became a bunch of clutter.
Then of course there are the stages of life items: pregnant clothes, baby gear, clothes etc. But the space opened up by getting rid of these has been wildly worth it. I was able to give gear to people who needed it more. And I pray that if/when God sends us another child, that he will also send another high chair. Becker’s book deals with this issue and lots of other thorny ones like hobby gear that is little used, sentimental items, photos and keepsakes, and other stuff.
5. Social Pressure
Lastly, one section did help me a lot in releasing the social pressure of owning, you know that sort of irrational embarrassment that comes from having a smaller house than your friends. In contrast, Becker asks: “What if excess was considered embarrassing?”
“Our world applauds success…unfortunately, however, our society is also fixated on praising excess.” (55)
“What if, instead of being embarrassed over the brand of our clothing, we became embarrassed over the enormity of our walk-in closet.” (73)
Turning this idea of embarrassment around helped a lot for me. Believing in ethical living is a strong motivating factor for me, but putting kids in second-hand clothes can still seem socially tenuous–will people think I’m a bad mother? That we don’t care enough or have the resources to outfit them well?
Honestly though, kind people don’t judge you or often even notice the brand name of your clothing or that of your children. Thinking of excess as embarrassing in a world where so many people don’t have the basics covered challenges me to put my money (and property) where my mouth (and pen) are. There is much work still to be done, but I like having a grander moral principle to motivate me–though the idea of cleaning less helps t00.
And it’s a heck of a lot easier to decorate my house. Just keep it bare and simple; the pressure is gone; no need for it, because “Hey, I’m a minimalist.”
Note: I got this book for free from Blogging For Books. The book was my own selection however and all thoughts are my own. I recommend it whole-heartedly.
Now for you: Do you have clutter? Any special problem areas? What priorities and goals would motivate you? Do you agree that clutter and junk connects to wider moral issues and consumerism?