Minimalism, as a lifestyle concept, is something I have only recently begun to appreciate. I had heard the term before, but associated it more with an austere artistic style than simple living; like a black, 12-inch cube almost imperceptibly off center in a 10-by-10-foot white square. Art!
And even before I was drawn into the minimalist blogosphere (an attraction that was probably fated by the alignment of my evolving philosophies with the stories and tips offered up by bloggers like Leo Babauta (Zen Habits) and Joshua Becker (Becoming Minimalist)), my wife was ‘minimalizing’ our lives to great effect.
A garage sale here, a clothing donation there, the occasional ‘junk’ purge. No physical item was safe, and I’ll admit, as a recovering pack rat, I harbored some initial anxiety (after all, “one man’s trash …”).
But just as I felt my materialist tendencies under siege, I also experienced a certain exhilaration as each item left my finger tips, bound for the bottom of a Hefty bag. And I couldn’t help but notice that our collective family sanity was being fortified.
There is nothing quite so liberating as unloading things that hold us back. But until we find the courage to start launching everything from the dusty, ill-fitting corduroys to the “but-what-if-we-want-fondue?” kitchen appliances, the task of distinguishing the necessary and useful from the balls and their chains is an arduous one.
It’s difficult to avoid platitudes about our materialistic world and the inherent technological, physical and emotional junk that looms over, clings to and sucks at our souls. But platitudes become so because they resonate.
The more ‘stuff’ we have in our lives, the less we appreciate. Devoting ourselves fully to every moment and to the loved ones who inhabit them is impossible when we’re surrounded and consumed by gadgets, appliances, cosmetics, accessories, endless wardrobes, holiday shopping lists, Twitter feeds, and imagined needs. There’s always one more email to check, 12 more toys to put away, and 15 minutes until you can have my undivided attention (as long as my phone doesn’t ring).
Given our nearly complete lack of mindfulness amidst this modern maelstrom, it is sometimes a wonder we have managed to maintain the real relationships that sustain us.
So in 2014, in alliance with my inspiring, pioneering wife, I commit to less. Less clutter. Fewer possessions. Smaller budgets. Less grasping for tiny consolations. Less mindless web surfing. Less debt. Fewer obligations for obligations’ sake. I resolve, come what may, to make more room for personal growth this year. To replace diversion with conversation. Speculation with actualization. Aimless worry with mindful purpose.
What’s the hardest thing you have ever had to throw away? What other minimalist strategies have worked wonders in your life?