Note: This is a guest post from Cheryl Smith of Biblical Minimalism.
I stood in our son, Zach’s room, staring at his cleaned-out, nearly empty closet.
“The only thing that will be on the floor will be my laundry basket, Mama!” His words were spoken with such pride and excitement, and in that moment, it hit me how grateful I am not only for our minimizing journey but for the timing of it.
I am so thankful we did this while Zach is still living at home with us and that he has learned these hard life lessons alongside us and early in life. He recognizes the worth of uncluttered, unencumbered living, and he understands the enormous value to be found in the coveted realm of something called white space.
Who could have even imagined, just a few years ago, that Zach’s closet would be so empty?
If you could have seen the piles of toys in his previous closet, you would have seen that they literally spanned the full length from floor to ceiling. His stuffed animals’ crate was so packed to the brim, some of those animals had not seen the light of day in a very long time.
The majority of those toys have now made their way into the hands of countless children over the past few years, and Zach’s joy over having a near empty closet is clear demonstration of how far we’ve come.
Looking back, I realize that he has always been a person with few wants and having too many choices has been distressing to him. Though our intentions were good in “blessing” him with more than he needed, it turns out that we weren’t doing him any favors.
He seems greatly relieved to be rid of the excess, and he showed that sparsely filled closet off to me like a medal of honor.
Seeing Zach’s reaction to his near empty closet and thinking about how our minimizing journey has transformed our family’s perspective made me realize that there is great substance to be found in nothing.
At first, it sounds like a contradiction, but carving out blocks of nothingness in every part of our lives has relieved enormous amounts of stress, decision fatigue, and overwhelm. This kind of reward is filled with immeasurable substance.
Here are some areas we are finding substance in nothing:
1. Physical possessions.
There was a time before our minimizing journey that we felt every empty space should be occupied in our home. If the space was there, why not fill it up? It felt incomplete to “waste” space.
Now, we stand back with a sense of deep fulfillment to see space that is occupied with nothing. Closet shelves with nothing that resembles clutter, drawers filled with nothing except what is used and needed, walls with spans of nothing except photos and things we love, kitchen cupboards with nothing except what we reach for and use, cleared-off countertops and tabletops with nothing weighing them down, entire sections of rooms with nothing but empty space—each time I spot one of these in our home, I feel a sense of peace that we have let go of so much and replaced it with nothing.
Before we sold our home, paid off all our debt, and released so much of what we “owned,” my husband had to work many hours of overtime every week just to keep us afloat. He felt tremendous guilt over the fact that Zach was growing up way too fast, and due to our indebtedness, he had no choice but to miss out on so much that was going on in Zach’s life.
Now that we don’t owe a cent of debt, our income needs have been drastically reduced, and my husband doesn’t have to work so many hours. Nothing owed equals less work and more substance-filled time together.
It’s okay to fill your calendar days with nothing. “Nothing” allows for spontaneous adventure. “Nothing” paves the way for the seizing of golden opportunities. “Nothing” grants permission to take the day off guilt-free and indulge in family walks and heart to heart talks. There is wonderful freedom to be found in not filling every calendar block with busyness and intentionally filling them with nothing.
When is the last time you walked outside at night and listened to the sounds of nothing? These days, I do that often. I make a cup of something warm, open our kitchen door, walk out on to our balcony, and I stand there in the silence.
In that silence, I begin to hear the sound of my own thoughts. I touch base with who I am, contemplate the day that just passed, and make up my mind to be still.
All day long, our world is bombarded with loudness and chaos that invades our sense of calm. It is easy to lose ourselves in the process and succumb to the mindset that we have no choice but to participate in the madness. Shutting off the noise enables us to regroup and realign any perspective or priorities that have fallen victim to the demands of the noisy world around us. Silence is healing. It is a good thing to remove clamoring noise and substitute it with nothing.
Following the outsourcing of my husband’s job, our family walked through a 21-month stretch of health issues and unemployment. After depleting our resources and every other back-up plan just to survive, we faced a whole new definition of “nothing.”
The fear and struggle was real, but in those lean moments of severe testing and wondering how we would make it through, we experienced an invaluable epiphany: Contentment is not contingent upon money, job security, or things.
When everything else of “substance” was stripped away, standing in that uncertain, scary place, we still had each other. We are alive, and living this beautiful life together is a priceless gift.
Whether we prosper or have nothing, we have much to be grateful for, and we have everything we need. In this, true substance lies.
Cheryl Smith blogs at Biblical Minimalism. Her family sold their home, released 90% of their physical possessions, got out of debt, and now share their story and their Christian faith on their blog. Her new book, Biblical Minimalism, is now available. In it, she approaches minimalism from a Biblical perspective.