Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Thoughts on Minimalism

For the past several weeks, I have been fascinated with the idea of minimalism = the concept that by living with the most minimal amount possible (of material things as well as unworthy time commitments), you bring much more satisfaction into your life.

Come to think of it, I've been drawn to the idea of simplifying my life for about as long as I could reason independently. This fact is totally made ironic (or maybe not) if you study what my life has been filled with for as long as I can remember: clutter everywhere, way too many demands on my time, and the constant feeling like I *HAVE* to do everything, all the time.

Interestingly enough, although our society tends to revere the idea that constant busy-ness and the idea of ever accumulating more and more "stuff" lead to a more fulfilling (and accomplished) life, pretty much every single religion or spiritual theory teaches the exact opposite.

While trying to think of all the ways to simplify my life, I've been drawn to many different stories that are inspiring and tutoring me:

*In the Bible, Daniel is taken (as a young man) into the king's house and offered rich foods, meat, and wine. Knowing that these things held as much spiritual damage as physical, he asked for the servant attending him and his friends to bring them simple foods (grains, seeds, water). The servant expressed fear that Daniel and his friends would be found lacking in strength and intellect due to the diet, and that he (the servant) would get into trouble. Daniel proposed the new diet as an experiment for 10 days, and when the experimental period was over, Daniel and his friends were clearly the victors, not only physically, but mentally and spiritually as well.

*The great philosopher Henry David Thoreau decided that he wanted to reduce life to its simplest terms and see what came of it: he built himself a small cabin in the woods, hoed beans and caught fish for food, and while living with the most minimal amount possible, he came up with some of the most beautiful thoughts ever written. Some particular thoughts that have been haunting me:

“Our life is frittered away by detail. Simplify, simplify.”

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.”

“I do believe in simplicity. It is astonishing as well as sad, how many trivial affairs even the wisest thinks he must attend to in a day; how singular an affair he thinks he must omit. When the mathematician would solve a difficult problem, he first frees the equation of all encumbrances, and reduces it to its simplest terms. So simplify the problem of life, distinguish the necessary and the real. Probe the earth to see where your main roots run. ”  

*Siddhartha Guatama (the Buddha) lived an extravagant lifestyle due to his royal upbringing (this was around 500 BC). However, he grew tired of these indulgences and sought a higher way of thinking. He basically chose to forsake all of his earthly possessions and devoted his life to meditation and solitude, where he discovered that the way to alleviate suffering wasn't by buying more luxuries, distracting oneself, or ignoring the world around you, and that those who relentlessly pursued pleasure and luxury were only putting themselves on a road that could never satisfy (because that thirst for more can never be satisfied).

These stories, in addition to some blogs I've found and loved (like Becoming Minimalist), have started to really affect the way I'm shaping my future. Isn't it crazy how much what we read and view affects us? When I was regularly reading multiple fashion blogs, I had a constant desire to go shopping for new clothes all the time and felt like I never had enough(and also like I wasn't pretty enough or skinny enough). On the flip side, now that I'm constantly studying and thinking about simplicity, my urge to buy and acquire is becoming less and less, and I am learning to see myself much less shallowly.

I'm definitely not even close to becoming a true minimalist, but I guess what I'm trying to say is that I've really been thinking about what I want in life and looking at where my life is actually going, and they're not really in sync. It's not that I'm not happy, but it's just that my ideal and my current reality will never overlap until I start making some changes.

I know I've mentioned it before, but I'm really learning so much from my experiment this year of totally de-cluttering my household and getting rid of stuff. I've realized that I spend so much time ad money collecting MORE---clothes, decorations, memorabilia, movies, games---but that I never really examine WHY or if those things are really even bringing me happiness.

The more I've studied about people living minimalistic lifestyles, the more inspired I am to seek a different way: not only have I found myself joyously getting rid of just about everything that comes through my hands (it seems), but I've discovered myself wanting to spend my time differently.

Usually when I come home from work or wherever I've been, the t.v. is immediately on and I get online immediately to check social media, play mindless games, and check email. Before I know it, hours have passed, and I'm no happier or better than when I started.

So I've started to make some little tweaks:

*Last night, I went on a solo photo walk and made myself stop and take several pictures of the same things, forcing myself to look at nature with fresh eyes.

*I resolved that I want to spend more time outdoors in the quiet and solitude of the beauty that surrounds me, instead of mindlessly cooping myself up and seeking out "entertainment" every waking hour that I can.

*However, I don't just want to be out in nature wandering aimlessly---I want to teach myself to actually LOOK at things (since anyone that knows me well can attest to the fact that I am pretty much the least observant person ever). On my photo walk, I spent probably ten or fifteen minutes watching these bird feeders fill up with hummingbirds, which sounded like bees as they whipped past my hair. I think it was the first time in my life I've truly really watched a hummingbird.

*I've been seriously debating going on a spending freeze, where I don't buy anything that's absolutely not necessary for 3 months and see what happens.

*I've also seriously been debating cutting my wardrobe in half, and that's after I already got rid of about 30 things just last week (in addition to the 40 or so I parted with only a few months ago).

Maybe I'm crazy for wanting to do all this. But somehow, that wise part of me that's often the quietest seems to be whispering that I should follow this path.

Have you ever considered the idea of living a more simplified life?


  1. This past week I (unbeknownst to my kids) threw out a ton of the dumb cheap toys we've accumulated over the years...and then with the remaining stuff I kept about 90% of that I put up and away with the idea to rotate toys every few weeks. I can't even begin to truly describe how great it has been. My kids have had way more fun playing. The tantrums have decreased. The sharing has increased. The spirit seems more prominent. And the only thing that changed was simplifying the playroom. It makes me want to do that in all aspects of my life and home!

  2. i have grown to love decluttering my closet. while i've still acquired a few new items of clothing (especially since growing a huge belly and not fitting into many things anymore), i love taking things out of my closet, not thinking twice about it (cuz if i do, i just might change my mind..) and putting them in the DI stack, or the give to my nieces stack. it makes me feel so much better to just get rid of it.

    i'm still working on getting jae to get rid of some of his in progress, we'll call it ;)

  3. You can totally do them, you're not crazy! Sometimes it's hard not to want tons of things, but they don't really make you happier in the end. If you live with a more simple closet, chances are that you love the pieces in your closet and will actually wear them instead of sorta liking most items in a large closet, that's something I'm definitely trying to work on lately. It can be really hard to live minimally, but it can also be really nice in some ways, like packing up all of our stuff for DC, not nearly as bad as when we packed up for Cambodia. All the stuff we're storing to make space for the subletters, Hal made a good comment that we probably don't NEED most of it. But it's hard not to want it.

  4. I love moving because it gives me a defined time to get rid of stuff. We got rid of several car fulls of stuff before we left Utah and yet when we moved here...we didn't take all of our boxes upstairs. Now we're seeing which boxes we never ended up using in our garage with stuff that was important enough to move across country at the time, but we haven't used or seen in a year.

    You are totally right though, we become like the people or things we surround ourselves with and that even mean cluttered.

  5. I've been having a these same thoughts lately. My Mom helped me get rid of a bunch of crap before Elias was born and BOY does it feel good! I don't feel like we need to move to a bigger house now :).

  6. I love this blog post because it relates to how I feel so much. Sam is a complete minimalist. He didn't even bring anything home from his mission and threw away a ton of letters from it... maybe too much of a minimalist. My house has 3 family's worth of stuff and so if I did not like minimalism before now I really do. I don't think it is bad to have things, but it is important to not have a love of things. I completely agree with you Eliza! When I have kids I am not filling my house with junky toys. I love your ideas. oh I could just comment on this forever because I agree so much.

  7. Yes, I am leaving a 2nd comment. Torrie, do you find gardening peaceful? I love taking care of my plants and I find that it gives me a break from entertainment and the crazy world. I love watching the bees pollinate my vegetable blossoms in the morning, it is so simple and beautiful.


Thanks so much for leaving a comment! I love reading your thoughts :)

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