Why do I write so much about minimalism?
Are we just riding a trend started by Marie Kondo?
The answer is no. Minimalism is just a small piece of me and Josh’s overarching goal of simplicity.
Our family mission can be broken down into three pillars:
Simplicity. Generosity. Hospitality.
These three things follow a natural progression that leads to growing community. I write more in-depth about hospitality here, and I’ll write about generosity in an upcoming post.
Here’s some reasons why we’re so excited about simplicity!
Simplicity is what we’re called to.
1 Timothy 6:7-8
For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing we will be content with that.
Simplicity is the opposite of greed. It’s not denying ourselves everything, but it’s about not taking more than we truly need. It’s being content with food and water and clothing and shelter and giving thanks rather than worrying about the future. It’s common in our culture to spend money on “necessary” things to make us “happy.” In reality these things waste money, time, and resources and make our lives more complicated. As crazy as it sounds, a simpler life is actually more fulfilling.
Simplicity breeds contentment.
The book Affluenza points out that Americans have bigger houses, nicer cars, and more gadgets than anytime in our history. In spite of this, people are not any happier. We are more stressed and dissatisfied than ever before. All these possessions hang over our heads, needing to be maintained and fixed. People are so busy working to pay off their “toys” that they rarely get the free time to enjoy them. It’s a depressing reality that we’re probably all a bit familiar with.
When Josh and I did an experiment to see how little we could spend on groceries one month, rather than feeling deprived at the end of it, I felt truly grateful. We went to the store to buy our usual staples after running out of them. Those “normal” things never felt so luxurious! What a great reminder that getting to choose between having an apple, cheese, grapes, or a banana is awesome!
…the core of successful frugality is rooted in disrupting the psychological pleasure cycle involved with buying new things. The association we have in our culture that buying = happiness is firmly entrenched in our lizard brains. We’re told, and hence we believe, that spending money is a means to bring jubilation into our lives. So if we spend and don’t experience a resulting jolt of euphoria, then the solution must naturally be to spend more. This approach then puts us on the never-ending treadmill of hedonic adaptation whereby we must continually increase our spending, and our acquisition of stuff, in order to commensurately increase our pleasure. When we conversely embrace the joy that comes when less is enough, we’re able to liberate ourselves from this cycle.
Hedonic Adaptation is a phenomenon meaning “no matter what happens to you in your life, you’ll very quickly get used to it.” This is for good and for bad – but we’re talking about the good here. Why spend money on new gadgets that will just inflate your lifestyle? You’ll only adapt to them and they will set a new standard – the newness will wear off quicker than you think. You’ve entered into a cycle of dissatisfaction.
Simplicity means more to give.
Since we generally save money by living a simple lifestyle, our finances are freed up to help us achieve larger financial goals. The less we spend on ourselves, the more we have to share with others.
Josh and I make an effort to live our life in the “Before.” For example, let’s spend like we did before the raise. Let’s act like we didn’t just gain square footage with the new house. Let’s live on less than we can rightfully “afford.” It keeps our home less cluttered and gives us margins in our life.
Intentionally giving ourselves margins means we’re not working constantly to keep up with our lifestyle. All of this adds up to a less-cluttered life with more time to focus on important things. I gladly took advantage of nearly 4 months of maternity leave with each of my boys. It wasn’t all paid time off, but I was able to do it because Josh and I are used to living on less than we make.
Simplicity is beautiful.
Owning less means my house is a peaceful, restful place. Clutter has a way of stressing and weighing on my mind. The less we own, the easier it is to clean. No stepping over piles of dirty laundry. I’m not claustrophobic in my own home. White space is lovely.
Simplicity doesn’t waste.
If you’ve ever seen the show Hoarders, you’ve seen the extreme cases of people who don’t know how to simply let go of things. Rooms and rooms filled with wasted resources! Letting go can result in a cleaner, less stressful home. Letting go can give you breathing room. Letting go can bless others. By donating my excess clothes, baby stuff, kitchen utensils, and furniture, I know someone is getting it who needs it more than I do.
Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Consuming less and reducing waste is also better for our planet! We strive to use as little of the earth’s precious resources as we can.
Simplicity is about more than possessions.
It’s about a lot more than just what we do or don’t own. Josh and I are also interested in the metaphorical form of simplicity – not overbooking ourselves and remembering to relax and take care of our bodies. A core reason we moved to the city was to be closer to areas where we could serve – downtown, North City, South City, and East St. Louis. The hour it took us to drive to Oasis International every week could have been spent actually serving! We also liked the idea of being closer to our church and being intentionally involved in that community. We can now walk to our church, which is awesome!
While I would personally consider it far more important than even the salary or the work performed, most people put commute distance below house price, perceived school quality, and neighborhood preference.
We very intentionally bought a house within biking distance of Josh’s job so we could get down to one car and simplify that area of our lives. On the rare occasion we do need to sit in traffic to get somewhere at rush hour, we can laugh about it because we don’t have to deal with it every single day.
We also wanted a smaller yard with less yard work. Neither of us ever enjoyed yard work – it was just something we had to do that took up valuable time and effort. We now have a yard so small that Josh can mow it with an old-fashioned reel mower in about 15 minutes. And we don’t worry about our children having space to play. We’re within walking distance of a nature preserve, a community garden, and some really nice parks. These are all our “yard” without the work.
Simplicity reminds us how abundantly blessed we are.
Having less means we take less for granted. Spending less money on ourselves means we not only have more resources available to give, but also have more mental and physical energy to actually apply those resources. Simplifying our schedule means we actually have time to enjoy those things. We are content and very thankful.
Have you taken steps to simplify your life either materially or metaphorically? I’d love to hear about it!