Some Thoughts on Minimalism

Today is Black Friday — perhaps the biggest shopping day of the whole year — and I’m staying home to re-watch a documentary about living with as few items as possible.

About a year ago, I watched the Netflix film Miniamlism for the first time, and loved it. As a lifelong clutter-phobic, the idea of living with fewer than 300 possessions really appealed to me.

However, I own a lot more than 300 possessions, and I don’t really have the desire to throw away my items until I whittle down the entire inventory to that number. Instead, watching (and re-watching) that film helps remind me that buying more stuff won’t make me happier, and that the more clutter in my house (and my life) the more likely I am to be stressed. Instead of buying stuff on Black Friday, I’m taking inventory of what I already own and deciding what I’m willing to live without.

While I don’t think minimalism is the solution to all of life’s problems, taking a more minimalist approach has benefited me in life, and given incentive to revisit the principles with regularity. Here’s why:

Things I Like About the Principles of Minimalism

  1. Buying less stuff reminds me to be grateful. I was at Target the other day (which is a minimalist’s nightmare) with my best friend, and we ooh’d and ahh’d over all the fun little trinkets and trendy pillows. I very nearly bought a new mug with a turkey on it and a funny saying just because it made me laugh. Pausing for a moment helped me remember that I don’t actually have room for another mug in my small apartment, but I do have more than enough mugs for my husband and I to enjoy any and every warm beverage our hearts desire. God has already provided abundantly for our needs, and then some. I took a picture of the mug and then left it on the shelf.
  2. Less stuff means fewer distractions. While I’m grateful for the many benefits that technology has brought us (especially in medicine, communication, and convenience) I’ve found it also brings a whole host of distractions. I don’t need another self-indulgent pastime like video games, tech trinkets or new updates. My iPhone 7 is probably already more powerful than is good for me in terms of my attention span, creativity, and ability to be present in my life. The last thing I need is an upgrade.
  3. Less stuff means less to clean. If I own less, I need less storage space, which means I need fewer square feet in my living space, and there’s consequently less to clean. Less floor means less mopping, fewer shelves mean less dusting, fewer dishes means less washing. Less cleaning means more time for the other things God has for me in life.
  4. Less stuff reminds me that stuff doesn’t satisfy. Some of the items I own truly bring me joy. Most of those things are pictures, gifts from loved ones, especially cozy sweaters, or otherwise beautiful treasures. But the trendy, high-turnover fashion items like cheap clothing and jewelry, vogue decorations, and whatever else make me feel good for about five minutes, then ultimately frustrate me. The stuff just isn’t satisfying, but God is. The less time and money I spend on stuff, the more margin I have to invest in God through worship and service.

Things I Don’t Like About the Principles of Minimalism

  1. Less isn’t always more. My husband is a musician and can play pretty much every instrument known to man. He is professionally trained and is one of the few who still finds music to be a hobby even after years of music school. To play a variety of instruments, he needs to have access to them. So, to accommodate this, we have more instruments, cases, and paraphernalia than I could ever dream to keep track of. The diversity of instruments available to him empower him to make beautiful music that fills our home, lifts my spirits, and makes my husband happier than most other things in life. More instruments means more joy.
  2. Back to the basics. In his famous transition to minimalism, Joshua Fields threw away thousands of books and movies. I believe he said he still reads, but does so on his iPhone/iPad/etc. Personally, reading on my phone hurts my eyes, and when I’m staring at my phone, I usually am not reading an actual book — I’m scrolling. Social media, random websites and levels upon levels of surfing make me feel drained, exhausted and flighty. Reading actual books with paper pages makes me feel so much better. What I love about books is that in order to be published, they need to be reviewed, edited, and affirmed by others. They are widely understood to be of quality. Web articles on the other hand are more often ridden with bias and opinion, and after a long day I feel much more drawn to non-political, tested and true insight from non-fiction authors, the joy and whimsy of reading novels, and the undistracted delight of sitting down to enjoy something without notifications popping up on the top margin. I like books, so I keep them around.
  3. I like my choices. When it comes to food, I am far from minimalist. For me, the more spices, the better. I like fullness of flavor, not subtle and slight. I also like to keep a wide variety of snack options on hand so that when I need a pick-me-up, it’s the most satisfying choice. To me, satisfaction in my food choices is important for my well-being. The last thing I want to do is minimalize my candy cabinet.

What has your experience with minimalism been? What are your thoughts?

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