i’m digging out my desk after a busy weekend of work (40 hours just on friday-sunday). when i get rushed, papers and files just pile up on my desk until i can catch my breath and sort them out. that’s what i’m doing today.

i just cleared 2 stacks of papers from my desk and found an important note scratched on a sheet of paper. it’s a letter of sorts. it was such an important letter that i put it on my desk right in front of my computer so that i would be reminded all day long. but alas, it got pushed aside and buried under piles and piles of papers. and when it “became out of sight,” it became “out of mind” as well.

i found it this morning and was reminded of its importance, weight, and promise. oh, how i wish it had not been crowded out by the accumulation of “stuff.”

too often this metaphor defines me – not just in pieces of paper, but in life’s joy and value. this “find” has become my encouragment and challenge for the day – don’t let “stuff” push aside the important things in your life.

now that my desk has been sorted and cleared, this note and its message has again returned to prominence in my life and attitude. thank god.

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minimalism and happy meal toys

September 16, 2008

lex luthor is to superman as happy meal toys are to minimalism.

we took our two kids to mcdonald’s for lunch today. we like it, they love it, it’s cheap…not a bad combo. and while i don’t mind eating there, i do mind bringing home the two happy meal toys every single time. it’s not because i don’t want my kids to have toys, it’s because i don’t want them to have these toys.

somewhere in the multi-billion dollar research and development department of mcdonald’s, they have been able to recreate a 25 cent toy that is played with once and never touched again. yet, as soon as they are thrown away by parents, the child immediately wants to play with it the next morning – regardless of how long has lapsed since the eating of the happy meal. i don’t know how they do it, but they’ve got my kids figured out.

harder work than i imagined

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.

visit becoming minimalist’s new site.

benefit #15 – less luggage

September 12, 2008

it’s no small secret among those who know me best that when it comes to trips, i am a lousy packer. i pack too much (and still manage to forget something). our family of two adults and two small children (5 & 1 at the time) once took six large suitcases for a christmas vacation to family – and all six were delayed by the airline.

but one of the unforseen benefits of becoming minimalist is that it has made packing for trips much easier and much lighter. plainly stated, we just don’t pack as much stuff. and surprisingly, our vacation wasn’t ruined by taking less items – it became more enjoyable. less luggage to the car and through the airport, more room in the hotel rooms, and less time repacking to come home were just some of the things that made this summer’s vacation better by packing lighter. and now that the airlines are charging extra for the second bag (and sometimes the first), it has also become cheaper as well.

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wedding napkins

September 11, 2008

over the past 2-3 weeks, we have been using our old wedding napkins at meals. while cleaning out the basement, we found a box of several hundred and promptly decided to use them until they were gone. to be honest, i’m not sure why we kept them in the first place. believe it or not, over the past 9 years, we just haven’t found the right occasion to use light blue napkins that read, “joshua and kim, june 12, 1999.” so we have decided to use them during our family meals.

using the napkins has had several benefits:

  1. we’ve been able to tell our kids about our wedding.
  2. we minimalize every time we sit down to eat.
  3. we are being good stewards of the environment.
  4. we’ve saved like $1.30 in napkin expenses from this month’s budget.

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christy’s story

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.

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note to self – the atlas

September 9, 2008

it’s best to leave at least one atlas in the car. the next time you get lost in new york city, your wife will have one less thing to be upset about.

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