September 22, 2008
i once taught a seminar on “the personal benefits of serving others.” actually, i called it “the joy is in the serving” which is not all that more catchy now that i see them side-by-side. regardless of the boring title, it was good information and a good seminar. i especially enjoyed teaching it because i really do believe that there is personal joy associated with serving others.
this weekend, we received an opportunity to continue our minimalizing and mix in the personal satisfaction that comes from serving others – both at the same time.
at my son’s bus stop (of all places), my wife struck up a conversation with a lady who volunteers with Vermont Refugee Resettlement Program. they help refugees and immigrants gain personal independence and economic self-sufficiency. the volunteer mentioned the desperate need the organization was having for donated towels, linens, and cookware. knowing that our household (along with most of America) has more towels, linens, and cookware than we need, we offered to help and quickly compiled several boxes of the desired items to be donated.
of all the minimalizing projects that we have done around the house, there seemed to be a special joy associated with this one. the special joy of knowing that our stuff would be going directly to people who need it. there is a satisfaction and sense of purpose that comes from serving others… almost like we’re not truly living unless we’re living for others. look up your local chapter of the USCRI and see what needs your local chapter is experiencing. you just may enjoy minimalizing more than you ever have before.
September 19, 2008
thursday evening is garbage day around my house. knowing that the trash collector and the recycling truck would take away anything i put out on the curb tomorrow, i got to minimalizing as soon as the kids were put to bed.
first, i spent some time in the fridge – i’ve posted about my condiment failure previously (and apparently raised quite a stir with the “condiment table” that i posted just for fun). i got the condiments a bit more under control now.
after the fridge, i went to the basement and continued going through old boxes of memories picking up where i left off. the old boxes of memories always slow me down – as well they should. they are filled with people, events, and places that bring back many memories to relive. and secondly, deciding what to do with the stuff can be very difficult depending on my mood. tonight, i kept more than i should have…
all in all, i ended with 2 large bags of garbage, 2 full containers of recycling, and one small pile of ebay items. magically, when i wake up in the morning, the garbage/recycling will have disappeared forever. the garbage man does bring a certain sense of motivation, doesn’t he?
September 14, 2008
this evening i was talking to a friend. during the convesation, he asked how the “minimalism” was going. i replied, “i feel bad. it’s been so hectic at work the past couple weeks, i haven’t been able to do much around the house.”
something hit me as i finished the sentence – for the first i recognized fully that becoming minimalist is not an easy thing to do. it is hard work! it takes time and energy to sort possessions. it takes effort to decide what we truly value. it takes time to determine if an item is necessary to keep or can be removed. it takes time to sort, sell, recycle, or discard. it takes time to reorganize and find “homes” for every belonging.
stuff… takes your time when you own it and takes your time when you try to get rid of it. i think the best solution is to not buy it in the first place. and that’s something i wish i knew 10 years ago.
September 10, 2008
yesterday, christy shared her personal journey with me as a comment on this blog. her story is similar to ours. i found it encouraging to me as we continue to become minimalist. and because one of the purposes of this blog is to encourage you to minimalize, i thought i’d post it here for you to read as well. so with christy’s permission, here it is:
“I have spent the last 10 months de-cluttering and simplifying our home and lives. I did one round of simplifying and when I started looking at my things more critically, I realized that the first go-around was really the tip of the iceberg.
It all started rather unspiritually last Halloween. I was schlepping to the door for trick or treaters. I was embarrassed at the state of my house and thinking about Christmas and it all just came to a head internally.
The thought occurred to me – - I live in a darling little victorian house that could be the epitome of home and warmth, but it feels cramped and messy. And I knew Christmas would be here before we know it and that will mean *more* decor and clutter. Talk about missing the point and skipping the whole peace and reason for the season.
So I decided that night to start the next day removing as much clutter and reorganize so that in a few weeks when the Christmas season hit, I was going to enjoy my little house and cramming it full of people and things I really loved.
I worked my TAIL off and it made a huge difference in our Christmas and in my mental clutter. I started to look for things that had meaning in my stash of Christmas decor and somewhere along the process, I started to see *all* my things in a new way….I wanted to be surrounded by things I love and not by stuff I should keep. I re-thought what I wanted our living spaces to be like and how they could serve our family better. For example…while a rocking chair emotes a feeling of warmth and comfort, how practical is it when my wrestling little boy gets it in the head and floor space is at a premium?
And in the 10 months since, I have kept at it…paring down our entire house- – basement to bathroom – -every drawer and corner. I’ve taken countless overflowing carfuls of possessions to the thrift store and there isn’t a single thing I wish I’d kept. That concept has been sobering to me say the least…I had *that* much stuff that was “out of sight out of mind”. Oy…no wonder we’re consider the “haves” of the world. And I’m still finding things weekly that I can purge.
To me, this isn’t about if I have 100 things or 1000. It’s about living on the least I can. It’s about spending less time thinking about stuff and more time loving people. It’s about living in the present and not being caught up in the past or waiting for the future. It’s about seeing everything I have as a huge blessing.
Am I down to the bare minimum? Probably not, but I’m working on it. But I feel like I’ve discovered a new way of living that involves real thought and priorities and creativity. I ask myself questions now when dealing with my things…Will I really use this thing (and not just in theory!)? Is it in the most sensible place for it? Would it mean more to someone I love to have it? And most importantly “Just because I CAN buy something, does it mean I have to”?
And this desire for simplicity has spilled over to how I spend my money and my time too.
For me it’s an obedience thing. I have been given by God a huge heart for the less fortunate of the world. So how can I possibly justify being excessive and wasteful if I care about the poor?
I am really enjoying reading your blog from start to finish and thank you for your transparency. Blessings to all of us as we find explore this journey we’re on and God’s best for us.”
thanks for sharing your story, christy. the comments on this blog are my favorite part… in a small way, i feel like i get to meet new people. and it’s my privilege to meet you. God’s blessing on your journey as you strive to focus less and less on the material and more and more on the eternal.
August 18, 2008
August 18, 2008
yesterday, i gave away a book to a friend named jenna. it really wasn’t that big of a deal. i overheard her mention that she was planning to go buy a certain book. i knew that i had a copy of the book on my shelf that i had already read. the next time that i saw her, i grabbed it and gave it to her. she was thrilled. i had saved her money and communicated the value that i place on our relationship.
the whole episode got me thinking, “as a minimalist, what should i do with my books?” i’ve seen the same question asked elsewhere. here are my thoughts on the subject:
- books that i have never read nor plan to read – get rid of them. examples would include books that were given to you or books that were recommended to you that no longer interest you. these books are just taking up space, creating clutter, and distracting you from the important things in your life. donate to a local library, goodwill, or garbage dump.
- books that i have read and have no use for anymore – get rid of them. examples would include fictional books or self-help books that weren’t all that helpful. again, get rid of them. there’s just no reason to keep them on your shelf or in your life.
- books that i have read that have become influential in my life – lend them out. these are the books that have helped shaped my life. they have made a difference in me and made me a better person. if so, these books woud make the same positive difference in someone else’s life. holding on to them would be a shame. put your name in the front cover and lend it out to someone who be equally challenged - and keep track of who you’ve given them to so that you can get them back.
- books that i have read and use often – keep them close. examples would include reference books, inspirational books, devotionals, etc. if you are drawing knowledge or inspiration from them on a regular basis, keep them handy on your shelf. and you should be able to find them easier with the other three categories removed.
happy reading. and minimalizing.
July 27, 2008
July 26, 2008
reader caron recently asked:
“how do your children feel about living the minimalist lifestyle?”
my simple answer is “very well. better than i expected. and better than their parents in many regards.”
to give you a little background, my son is 5 and my daughter is 2. my daughter has had little input in our minimalizing, but we have worked hard to include my son in the process. we feel that it is important for him to understand what is happening and feel included in the process. wefirst noticed his better-than-expected attitude when we minimalized his bedroom. he loves reading and we were dreading the process of going through his books. but we were shocked when he pulled out far more books to sell at our garage sale than we envisioned. next, he picked out more stuffed animals than we had pictured. thirdly, he cared little about his clothing and didn’t object at all to removing the things from his dresser top. after his bedroom came the big test when we moved downstairs to his toys. again, we were surprised that he had little hesitation in getting rid of many toys that he no longer uses. i even wrote about it here.
the only hiccup that we have encountered was when we removed the toys from our living room and moved them downstairs in the newly formed toy room. as a compromise, we decided to keep some of his books on a shelf in the living room and reminded him that he could still play toys in that room – he just had to return them to their new home downstairs when he is done.
the thoughtful question from caron has caused me to ask the follow-up question: “why exactly has it gone so well? why has my son adjusted so much quicker than his parents?” and i think there are a number of reasons.
he didn’t pay for the things that we’re discarding.
he’s still got more stuff than he could possibly use in one day.
his security is not found in his possessions. his security is found in his stable family.
his memories are not wrapped up in his possessions but in the people he loves.
he doesn’t look for joy in his possessions. he finds it in living life to the fullest.
which makes me think that we’ve all got a lot to learn from 5 year olds.
July 24, 2008
here are 7 things that could be minimalized in your living room today:
- books (on the bookcase or in the magazine rack)
- old family photos (do you really need 2 photos of your cousin displayed?)
- cds/dvds (remove the ones you don’t use and put the remainders in storage out of sight)
- decorative items (keeping just the items that you want people to notice will help them get noticed)
- entertainment center (remove old components and organize cords)
- children’s toys (put them in storage out of sight – “everything gets a home”)
- furniture (remove and rearrange – you just may fall in love with the extra space)
do you have anything to add to the list?
July 18, 2008
over the past 45 days since we intentionally decided to become minimalist, i have had scores of conversations with people about our decision. and it usually happens the same way…
my wife and i are sitting at a table with a group of people when one of our friends will say, “joshua, you should tell so-and-so about your minimalism decision.” i am usually reluctant, but often oblige when so-and-so reiterates the question. i try to begin as close to the beginning as possible (read it here) and take them through our journey while the parties ask questions along the way. somewhere about half-way through, i inevitably find agreement on the part of the listeners.
typically, they will respond with statements like, “i have so much stuff that i need to get rid of too,” or “you should see my basement, it’s a disaster,” or my favorite, “i can’t wait to get home and start throwing things away.” a smaller percentage will email or post a comment the following day journaling the boxes of junk or bags of clothes that they have removed from their lives.
the attractiveness of minimalism (to date, only two men have outright determined that they would never get rid of their stuff) seems so universal that i can’t help think that this is the way life is meant to be lived and when a soul hears the invitation, it responds favorably. we were never meant to live life accumulating stuff. we were meant to live simply enjoying the experiences of life, the people of life, and the God of life – not the things of life. i just wish it hadn’t taken me 33 years to figure that out.