I do get asked “why minimalism?”
Most Americans simply don’t understand the concept. It’s built into us that more is better, that bigger is better, that he who dies with the most stuff wins. This lie is not going away. And this is a belief that is being ingrained into the next generation. We watch shows about rich people out of an almost morbid curiosity about how the other half lives. We read magazines to find out how many cars this celebrity owns, or how much this other celebrity’s house costs. Wealth, stuff, glitter, sparkle, lies. We eat it up.
And it owns us. We gather and collect and hoard stuff like chipmunks storing up for winter. We tell ourselves things like “I need at least two weeks’ worth of work outfits.” “I need a set of exercise equipment.” “I need a big library.” “I need a matching bedroom set.” We say the word “need” so often to describe what we own that we really do begin to need it. We all know those people – the ones who find their value in their Coach bag, or their Gucci sunglasses. The ones who live in a tiny run-down apartment because it’s all they can afford after pouring all of their money into their pimped-out car. We have all, at one point or another, watched an episode of Hoarders and marveled at the ludicrousness of it all. And some of us even sit smugly in our modest dwellings and feel superior about the fact that we shop at Goodwill and live in a two-bedroom instead of the three, never considering that our closet overflowing with “thrifty” clothes and years-old knickknacks makes us just as bad.
I know this probably sounds severe. For what it’s worth, I’m describing myself, just a few short years ago.
Shortly after my husband and I were married, we got jobs 1,000 miles away from where we’d been living. As childless newlyweds, we packed out a 14′ moving van and a car to transport everything we owned. The saddest part? We brought exactly one piece of furniture in that truck. The rest was just stuff. Stuff in boxes and crates and bags. When we reached our destination and moved into our new place, 70% of that stuff was put into a storage room, where it sat, untouched, until we moved again.
We’ve lived in five apartments since that first house. Every time we moved, we joked about just throwing it all out and starting over at the new location. Our possessions were becoming a chain around our necks. So each time, we downsized a little. By the time we moved into apartment number four, we could fit everything (including the furniture we’d acquired) into a 10′ truck. That felt like progress. Still expensive, still a headache, but progress.
Almost two years ago now, I met someone. We’ll call her Eloise, for the sake of anonymity. Eloise is the freest spirit I’ve ever met. She’s had her fair share of struggles, but she’s bright and strong and inspires everyone she meets. She’s passionate about Jesus and loves to love people. She told me once that her favorite thing was to hear other people’s stories.
Eloise, along with her two roommates, decided to start a small church in their home, and they invited Jack and I to be a part of it. The first night, she and her friends gave us the tour of the apartment. One friend had a room to himself, and Eloise shared a room with the other girl. Walking into Eloise’s bedroom, I was taken aback. While the other girl had a beautiful bed, bedside table, dresser, mirror, and a closet full of clothes (in my mind, nothing unusual), Eloise had a single twin-sized mattress on the floor. On the mattress was a blanket and a pillow. Beside it, stacked against the wall, was a Bible, a journal, two or three books, and her phone charger. Just inside the closet door was a tiny pile of basic clothing, and a pair of shoes. I began to think back to what I’d known of Eloise before this, and recalled that I had never seen her wear any other sweater than the one ugly green one in her closet. She wore the same couple of outfits every day to work, and when she wasn’t wearing her work shoes, she was chronically barefoot. I had once joked with her about needing to take her shopping for more clothes, and she said me she wasn’t interested. She told me she didn’t need anything else. I thought she was crazy at the time.
I get it now.
Minimalism isn’t about having less. It’s about needing less.
I don’t think it’s a coincidence that one of the happiest, freest, most impactful people I’ve ever met is also the most minimalist. I don’t believe it’s coincidence because I’ve watched my own happiness grow as I’ve climbed out from under the weight of the stuff that owned me.
And for the record, when we move again on April 30th, we’ll pack only what we need into our tiny car, and drive away, truely free for the first time.
That’s why minimalism.