I recently posted about my Essentialist approach to parenting. How I don’t do a lot of “normal” things other parents do because I’d rather focus my time and energy on the things that matter more to me.
Essentialism is ultimately admitting to yourself that you can’t do it all. You can’t be it all. You will tire yourself out from trying, and end up feeling like a failure if you’re sights aren’t focused like a laser on your true mission.
I thought I’d go a little deeper today and list some of the things that I gave up in order to zero in on the things that truly matter to me.
The thing with non-essentials is that they are marketed to us as essentials by companies who are trying to get a hold of our resources.
Good marketing doesn’t make them essential. But it does make it harder to tell what’s essential and what isn’t.
It’s important to take a step back and look at these things as an outsider. I’ve heard it said on a podcast, that you should pretend you’re an alien visitor when evaluating your life. (Weird example, but it works!)
Would an outsider with no cultural context think your daily life and your values aligned?
How you spend your most valuable resources – your time, money, and energy – should reflect your life’s mission.
But does it? Or are we simply wasting our time running in the hamster wheel of mindless routine rather than walking out a life of meaningful purpose?
Things I No Longer Do:
Drive places I can walk
Pay for haircuts (bought my own good scissors)
Pay for convenience
Go to the mall
Shop anywhere without a list (except thrifting occasionally)
Spend a lot of time cleaning my house or doing laundry (cleaning is easy when you own less)
Commute to work or school
Bathe my kids when they aren’t dirty
Dress my kids in cutesy outfits (they’re cute no matter what they are wearing!)
Eat fast food (these days it’s all slow food)
Cook everyday (I batch cook a few times a week)
Buy meat on a regular basis
Buy paper products (other than toilet paper)
Buy single-use items
Buy pet supplies or products (we prefer houseplants and our friends’ pets right now)
Buy kids clothes (we live on hand-me-downs)
Buy things I don’t need
Buy storage to hold those things I don’t need
Buy books (the library is a wonderful place)
Buy the latest technology
Go to movies (we wait for DVDs at the library)
Keep my home the “perfect” temperature year-round
Things I’ve Started Doing:
Shopping online for necessities
Visiting refugees and writing letters to prisoners
Unschooling with the outdoors as a classroom
Letting my kids learn at their own pace, out of curiosity and joy
Traveling and camping (here’s how we do it frugally)
Going on hikes, runs, and local adventures
Losta library trips
Volunteering my video services to nonprofits
Embracing the used market when I need to buy or sell something
Practicing intentional self-care daily
Saying no to things when my schedule starts to feel crowded (aka “calendar clutter”)
Saying yes to simple, slow, and sweet (Borrowed from Grace Not Perfection by Emily Ley)
I realize that our lists are unique, and won’t look the same as yours. That’s perfectly okay.
What’s essential non-essential will vary from person to person and family to family. This is a good thing, and helps give each individual a sense of uniqueness and purpose.
The goal isn’t for your list to look exactly like mine. The goal is to purposefully step back and decide what matters most to you. To stop doing those things that don’t matter so you can devote your energy to more meaningful things.
It’s worth noting that the majority of non-essentials will cost you money! Cutting out these things will give you extra money in your pocket to put toward your life’s mission. These things were never essential, but are marketed smartly to consumers, making us feel pressure to conform. Is isn’t until we step back that we realize how ridiculous, expensive, and unnecessary these things are!
It’s also worth noting that some of the simple things on my list actually take more time! Yes, it takes longer to walk or bike than it does to drive. But when I choose to walk, I’m also gaining fresh air, a gentle workout, and some quiet meditation time. I’m saving emissions, the stress of traffic, the gas money and the wear and tear on the car. I’m forced to slow down when I choose the less-convenient route.
Just like less is often more, faster isn’t always better. Take into consideration all of your resources – not just your time – when simplifying.
I hope you’re inspired and ready to make your own essential and non-essential lists – if you’re a list-maker like me, anyway!
Even though there are so many things in life that are beyond our control as humans, deciding where and when to devote our resources and energy is one of our greatest privileges!
Dream big, make those changes, and little by little we will change the world around us.
For more of my thoughts on Essentialism, check out this post.
The book Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown can be found here.
Photography by Daiga Ellaby