I believe that less is more: less busyness, fewer possessions, a smaller house, fewer time commitments. More stuff equals more clutter, more upkeep, more stress. So over the years but especially in the last two, I’ve worked to dramatically simplify my life. Our move from North Carolina to Indiana last year provided the perfect opportunity to evaluate possessions and priorities, and to make a series of adjustments in these areas. Here are a few specific ways we are intentionally pursuing a minimalist lifestyle:
- We built a new house that is smaller than today’s average suburban “starter home,” although still more than enough space for our family and for entertaining guests. (Ours is just under 1900 square feet, which honestly is a little bigger than the 1500-sf bungalow, Cape Cod or log cabin of my dreams.) I am a fan of the “not-so-big-house” philosophy that you should use most every space in your home, every day.
- If our stuff can’t easily fit in our existing storage space (garage, closets, cabinets), we get rid of something instead of cramming it in or adding more storage space.
- We choose the lower-maintenance option whenever possible: lower-tech (who really needs a washer with 20 cycle options?), smaller (yard, house), and most reliable (cars, computers, appliances).
- I made multiple trips to Goodwill last year to donate piles of possessions that we did not use on a regular basis.
- We keep countertops and shelves clean and free of clutter. Everything has its place and usually ends up there by the end of the day, or certainly by the end of the week.
- To that end, I ruthlessly guard the amount of stuff that comes into our home. If we’re not going to use it, it won’t stay. This applies to junk mail, catalogs, misc. paper, email, clothes, decorations, electronics, food, books, sporting goods, dishes, kitchen gadgets, even gifts.
- We continue to practice regular “possessions review.”
- A smaller house and fewer possessions means much less time spent cleaning. I can clean my whole house, top to bottom, in less than two hours every other week with a quick touch-up the other week.
- We are working to simplify our finances and financial commitments so we do not feel stretched in either expenditures or the time spent managing them.
- We control our outside activities, generally keeping commitments to one main activity per family member per season, in addition to Sunday worship services and church community (youth group and/or small group). There are times when there is some overlap among seasons or family members, but generally we feel our pace of life is quite sane.
- I say “no” to many more work and ministry opportunities than I accept. I focus on the things I do well and protect my time so that exercise, adequate rest, time with God, ministry, and relationships with family and friends get my first time and energy, not my leftovers.
I’ll admit, this kind of lifestyle is counter-cultural and challenging, especially to someone just starting out. It’s hard to know where to begin, and contemporary culture provides constant opportunities to overextend ourselves in any number of ways. As I write this, we have just decided to not pursue AAU basketball for our younger son at this time because it presents too much of a conflict with our minimalist and ministry values. That was a difficult decision, especially in our current community. Maintaining a minimalist lifestyle definitely requires vigilance, but it becomes easier as it becomes second nature. Now, I can’t imagine living any other way.