Editor’s Note: This is a guest post by Richard Dahlstrom of Fibonacci Faith.
“Teach this triple truth to all: A generous heart, kind speech, and a life of service and compassion are the things which renew humanity.” – The Buddha
The other day, in my ongoing commitment to simplify, I cleaned out two drawers. I literally pulled them out of their cabinet and turned them over on the kitchen table, creating one big pile of junk. The sense of liberation was visceral, as a deep joy took root in my body. I could feel the endorphins, feel the elation! The joy continued as I relentlessly tossed mystery keys, dead batteries, broken pens, software from computers I no longer own, and so much more.
When it was over, all that remained were my passport, a few gift cards, my comb, keys, and some thumbtacks. Whew! Done. Liberated. Free. As I sat looking at the clean table and the clean drawers it dawned on me once again that we who practice minimalism are not only gaining peace of mind by relentlessly simplifying – we’re also creating space. As I sat and looked at that empty space I realized that they’re metaphor. As a minimalist lifestyle liberates us from the cluttered prisons of our former lifestyles, we find ourselves asking: “What will I do with all that space?” and by space I mean not only the spare drawer or the spare room, but the extra time we gain, and the extra money too. What are we going to do with all those riches?
While I don’t want a life jam packed with obligations and possessions, I do want a life ripe with meaning, and my new found space has enabled me to pursue meaning in some practical ways. Here are some ideas:
I’ve been privileged to be on trips to Africa, Asia, and Central America for the purpose of serving people. The groups I went with are providing clean water, medical care, and housing. They’re empowering people in these parts of the world by serving them, but the funny thing is this: every person who steps out of their comfort zone and goes on trips like these end up feeling as if they receive more than they give, as the generosity and hospitality of the locals fills their lives with a richness that changes their lives for the better.
You don’t need to buy a plane ticket to serve others because the reality is that there are likely people within walking distance of your house that are lonely, afraid, tired, overwhelmed. Jesus said the whole complexity of religion could be reduced down to two simple commands: “Love God” and “Love your neighbor”. How ironic, then, that so few of us even know our neighbors names because our lives are so scattered. You could start a book club with the people on your street, a monthly barbecue, or a weekly tea time.
I’ve recently written a book in which I show how all of us are born to create beauty in our world. Whether we’re painting pictures, writing poetry, building a bird house, or serving people with acts of kindness and generosity, it’s all art, making our world beautiful. With the space I’ve gained in my life by breaking my addiction to watching sports on TV, I’ve been able to take up writing and invest more time in my kids, as we climb and hike together.
My wife and I donate $30 each month to World Vision, and this helps a village in Albania move out of poverty, as it contributes to a larger fund that provides clean water, access to health care, education, and economic development in that area. When we went from a two car, to a one car family, we gave the money from the sale of one car to a group that provides clean water to villages in Africa. I could tell you more stories, but I’ll just summarize this way: Giving is fun! It’s an absolute joy to have financial space in my life through simple living, so that I can give more resources to empower people who want to move out of the grip of poverty.
Simplifying life is plenty enriching and liberating all by itself. But I’ve found that investing a little bit of the time and money I’ve freed up in some of these ways has made my life even richer! I now have friends around the world that I’ve been able to know because of serving, giving, creating, and listening.
What are some ways you’re using the space you’ve freed up in your life through minimalism?
Richard Dahlstrom writes at Fibonacci Faith: Changing Everything where he blogs about simplicity, sustainability, and faith. His new book, The Colors of Hope: Becoming People of Mercy, Justice, and Love is available on Amazon today.