Simple living, or minimalism, is my new lifestyle. It has always been alluring, but it didn’t take hold of me until a couple of years ago. Until then, I was always feeling stressed and I didn’t know why. I didn’t do as much as so-and-so, so I didn’t think I had the right to be as overwhelmed as I felt.
I actually felt guilty for feeling overwhelmed all the time when I had three kids to take care of and a husband who needed me. It took a lot of self-reflection and exploration to figure out what the problem was.
I really began to think about what was causing me stress and what I could do about it. I knew that cleaning up after my family was causing me unnecessary amounts of stress. But, how could I get them to stop leaving messes around the house?
And I knew that I was always in a hurry and exhausted, but what parent isn’t? It’s easy to compare yourself to those around you and either think, “This is just the way life is these days“, or “Why can’t I keep up like everyone else?“.
How can we live more simply?
The truth is, there is much I have zero control over. But there’s also much that I can control. I can control how we spend our money, how much we own, how much we put on our schedule, and how much time we spend on priorities vs. non-priorities.
There are many reasons why we sometimes think we don’t have control over our lives. But they are our lives aren’t they? We might think that certain people expect certain things from us. Or we might think our kids will hate us if they don’t have ALL the toys.
But the truth is, people’s expectations of you will gradually change after you change your expectations for yourself. If living more simply is something you really want, something you need, you shouldn’t worry what others will think. The people who love you will support you even when they don’t understand.
So, what does simple living mean? As this website mentions, you might call simple living minimalism. Because being a minimalist has many assumptions and sometimes negative connotations associated with it, I want to address what minimalism is, and what minimalism isn’t.
What is Minimalism?
In short, minimalism is living with less. How much less is up to you. Minimalism is living simply. How simple is up to you. Minimalism is about getting more out of life. What you want to get out of life is up to you. And minimalism is about only having and doing what you love. What you love and need in your life is up to you.
Minimalism is NOT necessarily having a practically empty house with white walls. You decide how much stuff you need. Being a minimalist does NOT necessarily mean depriving yourself of any of life’s luxuries. You decide how to spend your money and time. Being a minimalist does NOT necessarily mean having no job and traveling the world. You decide what you want to do with your life. Minimalism is NOT a set of legalistic rules. You set your own rules.
Although being a minimalist can sound too difficult of a goal to attain, it doesn’t have to be. This is why I repeat over and over that it’s up to you. Only you can really know what you need to give up in order to live a life more fulfilled. Only you can know what you need to start doing in order to get more out of life.
If I could sum up the benefits of being a minimalist in one word, it would be contentment. Minimalism is all about contentment, and contentment is the only thing that truly brings you joy in life.
The Benefits of Minimalism
So what about being a minimalist causes you to learn to be content and experience more joy? Here are just a few benefits of minimalism that lead you to contentment and joy:
- Being a minimalist leaves you feeling less stressed because you don’t have more or do more than you can reasonably handle.
- Being a minimalist saves you money because you buy less and are intentional about what you spend your money on.
- Minimalism causes you to have more energy because you aren’t wasting energy on unimportant things.
- Being a minimalist allows you to give who/what you love more of your time because you aren’t wasting your time on unimportant things.
- Minimalism gives you more space to live your life and be you because your house, schedule, and mind aren’t cluttered.
- Minimalism provides you more freedom because your money, possessions, health, or other people aren’t dictating your life.
Minimalism in of itself doesn’t make you happier, states the Northwest Earth Institute. It’s a means to an end. What it does is frees up our most finite resources. It frees up time, money, energy, and removes stress. It frees up all of these resources that you can now start investing in what brings you purpose. The pursuit of happiness is empty. We find happiness when we find purpose, a life of fulfillment, and our greatest passion.
What’s curious about the desire for simple living is that it didn’t just arrive with the 21st Century, nor the 20th, nor the19th. According to Wikipedia, simple living has traditions that stretch back to the Orient, resonating with leaders such as Buddha, Laozi, and Confucius, and was heavily stressed in both Greco- Roman culture and Judeo-Christian ethics.
The scholars may be correct, but in my mind “simple living” brings to mind Henry David Thoreau, and the Amish people. I have to admire the Amish commitment to living simply. By refusing technology and modern machinery, they face a life of hard work and separation from the rest of their fellow Americans. Yet their numbers are growing, so there may be something to their ways, but not for me.
Thoreau, on the other hand, lived before modern technologies and conveniences, so everyday life was already rather simple when compared to our lives today. Yet, he was compelled to spend two years at Walden to illustrate the spiritual benefits of a simplified lifestyle. He also dreamed of an existence free of obligations and full of leisure. Maybe he was onto something there, but it strikes me that a life without obligations and meaningful work would be empty and flavorless.