Minimalism is the growing trend of downsized life; to simplify, get much more enjoyment from life, with much less debt. It is best defined this way;
At its core, minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality. And as a result, it forces improvements in almost all aspects of your life.
I recently read Joshua Becker’s book on minimalism called “More Of Less.” Having originally a family of five, which included three foster-boys, we once needed a large townhouse. Having settled into a family of three with one adopted child, it was now time to downsize life. After I had asked around about what to do with all my stuff if I downsized, several people overwhelming recommended Joshua Becker’s book “More Of Less” and now I understand why.
On a technical level, I love Becker’s writing style. When I started reading his book, I did not realize he was a Christian until he mentioned it, promising not to get preachy because his target audience is not to people of faith but secular Millennials. Yes, he kept his promise, writing a secular book on minimalism. Yet, almost magically every single page of the book is spiritual because Becker gently teaches his secular audience that to live more simply, creates more order, less stress, and leaves a reduced footprint in the world. He teaches us that to live simply is to be less selfish, gives more away, and to even be free from the bondage of over-consumerism that prevents us from doing good deeds in the world. Becker, left me wishing he did write religious books of the theological nature because he knows exactly how to reach the millennials of our world with his tone and sincerity.
The core of the book is simple, logical, and hard to refute. The time has come to downsize because when we do we find meaning and purpose that consumerism robs us of. Millennials don’t have the money of the baby boomers and don’t need the debt of Gen X-ers, and so, they, by nature need to and are embracing a more simple existence. When they do so, they create their generational space that defines them. Ironically baby boomers have ended up joining them, many times, as they too need to downsize because they are living longer than they ever thought to live.
Becker expands the audience of who should downsize by making a compelling case of how many Americans mortgage more square footage than they ever actually live in. The point is, most of our homes are nothing but giant storage lockers for belongings we often forgot we even had! Becker points out all the right in the world our belongings could actually be in the hands of those who actually would use them and not just store them.
There were simple things that gave me a quick philosophical sync with his concepts. For example, he pointed out how much more likely people who watch TV with commercials were to be over consumers versus those who watched reduced commercials on prescription content providers. He also had profound stories that advanced his ideas of people who really impacted the world using income once dedicated to debt and storage, to fund orphanages, clean water, and to do incredible good acts for others! Becker even includes several chapters on how to even get a resistant spouse to join your quest by starting slow and having open communication. What more could you ask in a book on minimalism? I was all in!
I followed his advice to a tee! I went around my house deciding what I really needed and did not need room by room. What could I get rid of and not be harmed by its disappearance? I considered did an item actually enhance my life or hurt it? Was it a source of joy or hassle? Why did I still hold on to certain items and was the sentimental value still worth it to me or not? Sometimes it was, and so I kept it, and sometimes it was not so I gave it away. Things that were sentimentally on the fence, I followed Becker’s sound advice, took a picture and chucked the item itself.
“I realized I am more than books and space, I am a servant of the Lord, and I must follow the leading of the Lord lest my books become my idols.”
Admittedly the hardest was getting rid of my whole office, and its books too. After all, I am a Pastor, and what am I without tons books and an office? But maybe, just maybe, all those books were just vanity? That cut to the core of my being but I realized I am more than books and space, I am a servant of the Lord, and I must follow the leading of the Lord lest my books become my idols. And that led me to honestly ask why did I keep two offices; a home, and a work office? It made no sense at all, especially if I was going to live closer to work. I now live 10 minutes from my church; I just can’t justify a home office anymore! I can just jump in the car and work at the church. The fact was the more I looked at my books I realized that at least 75% of them I already had on Kindle or some other E-format, and I no longer needed the paper versions. Plus, the 25% I did not have in E-format could be absorbed into my actual work office, where I’d need them, anyway. The embarrassing truth was that before this change, all the books in my church office, I had inherited because other Pastor’s had abandoned them there in previous generations of leadership! If I had not used them in the last seven years maybe it was time to remove them and move in books, I would use!
When all was said and done, I went from about a 1700 square foot to a 900 square foot home. We gave tons of stuff away to the Veteran’s Society and the Good Will and other worthy places. I gave boxes and boxes of great spiritual and theological books to my elders, members, and church library. It turned out that Joshua Becker was right, it felt great to give people things you really did not use, but they would!
I remember, after being In the new place a few weeks and having just settled in, my Pastoral supervisor asked me how I liked the change. I honestly said, without thought, “I have never been this happy in all my life, and I hope it never ends.” It feels so good to be free! It feels so good to know where your stuff is because it is not buried under other stuff. If I need my headphones, I can turn my head and likely find them. As unbelievable as it is, I can’t recall the last time I misplaced my house keys. Because all I have to do is a 360 turn to find them! But even above all those blessings it just feels so empowering not to define yourself by what you own but rather who you are!
I am still a work in process but here is to making the best out of small places!
And just when things were going great in our new small living space the unthinkable happened! The one thing I never planned for. The other two foster children, who we once had, went into crisis and needed a place to stay. They are the biological brothers of my adopted son. We could not say no, but our living space is so small now! Still, I did not want to say “No” because we love them so much.
So we took them in and this small 900 square foot home for three, became a home of five! Admittedly it is a bit tight, but you know what? Joshua Becker is right when you have more of less; you have more to give. It turns out that having a family of five in 900 square feet is way more manageable than in 1700 square feet where layers of unused junk separate you! It sounds crazy, but it is true!
We fit tight, but it makes us tight. It creates community and fosters relationships. Plus, when the boys ask for a new toy, I can simply say, “Are you guys crazy, we have no room for it!” And they we actually reply, “Ahhh, yeah, that is actually right.” Just try that with 1700 square feet!