Next Steps… What to do with some of that space you’ve found

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:

1. Serve

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.

2. Listen

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.

3. Create

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.

4. Give

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.

Joshua Becker

About Joshua Becker

Writer. Inspiring others to live more by owning less.
Bestselling author of Simplify & Clutterfree with Kids.

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Comments

  1. says

    Am 100% with you on the ‘drawers’. We’re (slowly) de-cluttering our apartment and it’s amazing how much space – in the rooms themselves – can be freed up. However, and it’s a big however, I have to be really conscious not to just practice ‘out of sight out of mind’ i.e. just stuff the drawers and cupboards. Drawers and cupboards are definitely therefore on the agenda going forwards.

    Love the piece about serving others – and that that begins at home – with neighbours and others that we come into contact with. I always try to leave people in a better space – it’s a good way to approach life.

    Steve

  2. says

    Totally agree with this method: “I pulled them out of their cabinet and turned them over on the kitchen table, creating one big pile of junk.” Sometimes it takes a radical step to make the change; we often need to rip off the bandaid quickly, as it were.

    W/R/T to better utilizing your new found space, We’re especially fond of nos. three and four. Creating (instead of consuming) allows us to grow as individuals, while giving allows us to contribute to others in a meaningful way. After all, giving is living.

    • says

      we get together with some close friends each month, rotating houses between couples, and we’re always treated to a creative feast of good food, which is one of the many creative things that happen when I turn the TV off!

  3. says

    Hear! Hear! beautiful post and I love all 4 suggestions but truly love 2 … this is pure truth … also love 3 … Joshua and Ryan … creating instead of consuming ….

    thank you for being an inspiration!!!!

    LOVE LOVE LOVE

  4. says

    Love this post. I know the conversation was floating around “are we just minimizing for the sake of minimizing, or is there a bigger purpose?” This will look different for everyone, but one thing I have chosen to do at this point in my life is be more available to assist my oldest daughter. She has 6 children and is trying to get a business off the ground. I now have time to spend helping her research and by physically taking a day or 2 a week and going to help her.
    I also serve by trying to take the best care of my husband and home that I can right now. I went through a period of time when I was working 80+ hours a week. He was doing laundry and cooking on top of working 60 hours a week. I am enjoying the space to serve him so we have more time to just enjoy being together.
    I saw a quote by Mother Teresa recenlty. It said something like “Want to know the quickest way to bring peace to the world? Go home and love your family.”
    Thanks for this post!
    Bernice
    What is Living a Balanced Life?

    • says

      I love seeing people who’ve created a spaciousness in their lives turn around and use that space to bless others, and of course, the truth is that when we bless others, we find ourselves in some sort of incredible “life giving” stream of energy – the place we’re meant to be.

  5. says

    Thanks to almostbohemian I have completely cleaned up and made some space. I used to have a slight spending problem and since then I have learned the joys of living with less and I can shift my energy in other ways. I think giving back to the community and the world is an amazing way to shift that energy. I love that you and your wife are active in contributing to those less fortunate. I plan to teach free yoga classes (starting this weekend) on the beach for anyone who can’t afford to spend loads of $$ on yoga classes but still would love to practice. Eventually, I will offer this as a donation based class where I can donate the money to Soles4Souls a charity that donates shoes around the world to those who can’t afford them. GIVING IS GREAT and is so much better then a day at the mall. Thanks for the post! It’s uplifting!

  6. says

    I think your first point is the most powerful… serve. And as you say, you don’t have to go far from home to do so.

    Some of the most valuable experiences and relationships in my life have been born out of my volunteer work.

    It’s so true that the volunteer is often the one who benefits most from helping others.

  7. says

    I looking forward to not needing to go back to work when my kids get to school age because we won’t need the money (at least that’s the plan), and using the time to volunteer at school and at church and to write to my heart’s content.

  8. says

    My minimalist practices have created room and momentum that I’ve filled with new sustainable practices or challenges that before just seemed like hassles, despite their increased care for our world. It’s really exciting what a challenge can in turn make more room for.

  9. Sue says

    For the last week or so, I’ve been thinking, “I’ve cleared out my stuff and found myself.” I’m in the early stages of becomming minimalist, but I’m finding that the empty spaces give me more room to breathe, to clear my mind and just be. As stuff matters less, other things matter more. I love the natural evolution of it. Simple.

  10. Laura m. says

    As a retiree, I ‘m amazed at so many people near or in retirement are addicted to too much “stuff”…the recent tornadoes in my state motivated me to purge even more and donate, and to encourage others to do so. People have stuff they never wear or use; too much of things they don’t need. Otherwise, several times a year I declutter and give to several group homes (children’s group homes and adult handicapped). Stuff is given to us or we buy things we don’t want later on for various reasons. As for giving money overseas, I say the free market eliminates poverty. Haiti and other third world countries living in poverty need to adopt the free market economy; simple enough .

  11. says

    Over the past few months I have been realizing that I would be much happier living a minimalist lifestyle. It came on the heels of getting ready for a yard sale in our neighborhood. We just had the sale on Saturday and I wish I would have taken the time to look at all the stuff I had for sale before the shoppers started coming(6:30 am!). I am not a big shopper, don’t consider myself a hoarder but periodically over the course of the morning I would look and feel almost embarrassed at all the stuff I had for sale. Despite the fact that many items were probably gifts given to us over the years..even 17 years ago for our wedding, I was responsible for buying most of this stuff and just couldn’t believe I had done this! It felt so liberating, but sad to say, I bet I could take a second sweep of this house and end up with enough for a second yard sale. Hoping to embrace this lifestyle, and praying I can convince my husband and kids to follow along…that will be the hard part.

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