“The best way to get something done is to begin.”
A number of years ago, we decided to begin living a minimalist life. The exact moment in time I can still recall with sharp detail. It includes a beautiful spring morning in Vermont… a typical suburban neighborhood… a long morning of cleaning the garage… a 5-year old son patiently waiting for me to play… and a short conversation with a neighbor who said, “You know, you don’t need to own all this stuff.”
At the time, the lifestyle of minimalism was completely foreign to me. It was entirely new. It was counter-cultural. The thought of intentionally living with fewer possessions had never been introduced to me. Yet, it sounded surprisingly attractive. It resonated with something deep inside me. And was quickly embraced by both myself and my wife.
It was a decision that found its roots in our finances, our family, and our faith. Simply put, we had grown weary of living paycheck to paycheck, weary of trading time with our children to tend our possessions, and weary of pursuing worldly gain rather than spiritual gain. Minimalism offered more than escape from the clutter in our homes and lives. It offered the very things our hearts most desperately desired. We jumped in with both feet… and found that the water was both warm and refreshing.
Over the next several months and years, we sought to discover what minimalism meant for our family. We knew that minimalism was always going to look different for us than it would for others. After all…
- We lived in the suburbs, so we were going to keep personal transportation.
- We lived in Vermont, so we were going to keep shovels for the snow and rakes for the autumn leaves.
- We had kids, so we were going to keep some toys and books and games.
- We enjoyed company, so we would keep 8 plates and 8 bowls and 8 glasses to show hospitality.
Minimalism became a journey of experimentation, exploration, and trial-and-error. We were forced to identify our values – to clearly articulate what was most important to us. We began to define minimalism as the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracted us from it.
Over the years, we have noticed countless benefits. We have more money available to use as we desire. We have more time to be with each other and our kids. We have found more freedom to pursue our greatest passions. We have discovered a joy that possessions could never provide. And we have more opportunity to live the life we have always wanted to live.
Since then, I have had the opportunity to speak on minimalism and simplicity in a number of different venues across the US. Each time, I have been asked to give practical help on how to live with less and specific instruction on how to live a more simple life. But each time, I rarely do (or at least, not until the very end).
Because I have found that the lifestyle of minimalism requires far more inspiration than instruction.
Minimalism is always going to look different from person to person and family to family. Our passions are different. Our personalities are different. Our pasts are different. Our presents are different. As a result, the essentials of our lives are going to change. The principles remain the same… but the specific instructions of minimalism will always look different.
But we have all been told the exact same mistruths. We have all been tricked into thinking the more we own the happier we will be… the more joy we will experience… the more fulfilled we will be. We’ve all been fed the same lies countless times since the day we were born. And only the truth about the joy of living with less can counteract that faulty premise.
As a result, the invitation to minimalism is always going to require more inspiration than instruction.