I often get asked to write about my minimalism. I have touched on it here and there over my life as people ask about my ways. But, trying to define it can be quite difficult.
Generally, people have very specific ideas of what minimalism looks like that are more misconceptions than reality. The book craze that you see all around us today can be so misgiving and misleading to the person making an attempt. These books are trying to teach people to have less, when minimalism is about so much more than just purging your house of mere things that don’t serve you any longer.
Minimalism is a mindset.
Minimalism is a way of life.
Minimalism is freedom.
Minimalism is choice.
Minimalism is awareness.
Minimalism is gift.
For those who know my story well, my minimalism was finally accepted and understood in deeper ways in my fourth treatment program for Anorexia in 2001. The counselors and doctors would continue to tell me that my need to ‘purge’ or live with less was solely connected to my eating disorder and need for starvation. But as time would continue to pass in my healing, the realization became much wider and deeper as to how it manifested within my life.
I grew up in a house where stuff mattered. Things were status. Looking like we had more than we actually did was a common ground. This specifically would be a leading cause in my eating disorder, for it became about the image and appearance of what I wanted to look like that was unachievable. Having moved out immediately after high school graduation, I was now schlepping my stuff from apartment to apartment in San Francisco. With each move, I dropped more and more. I was saving journals, papers and items that had memories attached to them that did not bring me happiness. I realized that this collection of items I was saving clearly came from the childhood and familial mentality in which I was raised.
Each move that passed, I let go of a little more of my past. My simple way of life was becoming a way for me to find my freedom within and to become who I was meant to be. The things I then moved from new living arrangement to the next would have deep meaning and purpose. Enter religious life. Somewhere in my early 20’s I began discerning an unexpected call to the monastic life. One would see the obvious nature of that of a religious to own nothing and have less. I believe at one point I lived out of a duffle bag for three years. I had no need for things as much as a desire to find peace. It became more natural and I was at ease with this way of life.
Today, as a single mom, I learned how to find my peace with some of what I cannot control. My two nearly teenagers understand minimalism and live this life with me to some extent. I am grateful that they understand the precious moments, stories and meanings behind the things they choose to keep. While we love our memory books and photo wall, it is our practice to continue to tell the stories as if we did not have those things. Those stories and memories live on within us rather than those things that remind us. In turn, they then find they don’t want to hold onto as much. I have let them gently navigate this path for themselves.
It can be true that our entire life has an ability to fit into our SUV as we rent homes furnished with no wish to purchase a home. As it adds to our adventurous living, it strengthens our gratitude. We each have a memory trunk that carefully fits our most precious items that tell each of our stories. It is as simple for myself asking ‘Do I want this, or do I need this?’
You can imagine that need is the correct answer, while at times I do appreciate self-care and have found myself with the occasional want which can be bring me joy, we hold no judgement. My children I give a lot more leeway as they are growing and learning needing to discover who they are as young people. Essentially, their thought process is being molded to this understanding. For this, I am grateful to engage and watch their journey.
The process is simple. Look around your life and ask what gives you peace?
What are you searching for?
Do you find yourself with things that have no story connected to them?
These are the important lessons that I have learned, to which I can offer, and you can try to embrace simply within your life. The world is filled with so much everything. We can leave our footprint kindly, gently while living our story more fully.
Why not discern the path you are walking more closely, to be able to live freer than you could have ever imagined living?