I think sometimes when people start trying to change their lives for the better by making intentional choices and downsizing they get caught up in all the labels, numbers, and monthly challenges that are floating around.
They start reading blogs, looking for ideas, learning about a lifestyle that’s relatively new to this generation. And there are so many great blogs out there right now, there really is a simple living movement going on (more on that in a future post!).
But it’s easy to be overwhelmed by all the stories of people doing awesomely cool things and having so little to tie them down. And everyone seems to have their own name for what ‘it’ is… simple living, voluntary simplicity, minimalism, no one is the same. Which is perfectly fine, it’s a beautiful thing that we don’t have to conform to one certain way of living.
But for someone just diving into this world there might be more questions than answers at first – Am I a minimalist or do I just believe in voluntary simplicity? Is there even a difference? Do I have too many pairs of pants? She only has one outfit… I look like a hoarder in comparison. Could I fit everything I own in a single suitcase? I could see how a person might even give up before they make any real change in their own life.
There may be a feeling of perceived peer pressure… if you can’t get down to 100 possessions, or 33 items of clothing, or cut off your cable, what’s the point of doing anything at all?
Or inadequacy… If you aren’t going to quit your job, move to Guam and start a school for orphans, then you might as well just stay right where you’re at. What’s that? You don’t want to sell your house and live in an RV? You like your dishwasher?! Well, you’re just in the whole wrong place then.
There are so many distinct and amazing stories of people changing their lives available in a single Google search that it can be really easy to start comparing yourself to these people, your stuff to their stuff, your life to their life, and get frustrated.
Monthly challenges like Project 333 are a fun way to expand your mind and help you realize how little you really need to be happy… or maybe that you really like having more than 33 items of clothing. I love taking on a challenge that pushes me out of my comfort zone, just to see what I can do.
Reading blogs is another one of my favorite things, it’s a nice way to see how others live and get tips to apply to your own life. I learn something every day from some of my favorite bloggers.
But challenges and blogs are not definitive guides to being minimalist. There is no one right way to change your own life.
The thing is, minimalism/voluntary simplicity/intentional living/zen living/whatever you choose to call it is never the goal. If your goal is to own nothing while not improving your life in any way then you need to reevaluate.
Simple living is the means to an end, and both the means and the end will be different from one person to the next.
Maybe your end goal is to quit your job and start a lifestyle business, or maybe you love your job and you just want to have more free time on the weekends because there’s less to maintain.
Maybe you want to be able to spend more of your time or money helping others, or maybe you want to travel the world while you can.
Maybe you like to kayak every weekend, or maybe you’re perfectly happy at home watching a movie.
It doesn’t matter what your goal is.
Intentional living is the act of removing the unnecessary so that you have more resources available for the things you love, whatever those things may be.
Its about having an extra healthy respect for moderation. Understanding that you have a finite amount of resources available to you – time, money, energy, space. By choosing to focus those resources on what improves your life you are helping those things grow in your life. The catch is that to do that you have to take something away.
If you’ve spent all your time working a soul-draining job to pay for a house that demands too much from you than there’s no time or money left to devote to enjoying a hobby that feeds your spirit, or to just relaxing and enjoying your family.
If your closet is stuffed with clothes you don’t really like then you can’t appreciate the clothes that make you feel great.
It’s about keeping what you love and clearing away the rest.
If you dearly love your wedding china then by all means keep it, and use it! But if you haven’t opened the cabinet since before the honeymoon maybe you can let it go and make room for something better to come along.
I’ve kept all sorts of things that other people won’t understand. I have a seashell on my desk that I found on the beach last year… it’s a perfect conch shell. To some people it would be clutter but I find it beautiful, and it makes me feel a certain way when I look at it. It’s also one of only a very few things I have sitting around. And because of that I get to look at it nearly every day and remember walking on that beach and being so happy to find a perfect shell. How many of your favorite things do you look at every day?
On the other hand, I’ve gotten rid of countless knick knacks, most of the pictures hanging on my walls are now in a box waiting to go in albums, and I have a total of two coffee mugs, but other areas of my life are improving so much because I’ve made room for them to.
It’s amazing what starts showing up when you clear a path for it.