No matter what our age I believe there is always more to learn. I also think approaching any topic with a beginners mind is an excellent way to set that in motion. So although I’ve been reading and writing quite a bit on the subjects of simple living, sustainability and minimalism since I began this blog five years ago, I know there is certainly more to discover. So when I read that fellow blogger Joshua Becker from his site, Becoming Minimalist finished a new book, it captured my eye. After finishing the book, I wanted to share a few things I found there that could help us all live a more minimal and SMART life.
The More of Less details the journey of a young man and his family as they discovered that they really didn’t “need to own all that stuff.” Fortunately, there are a lot of us who already know that, or are just becoming aware of, that very basic fact. Ultimately everything we own and collect carries an ongoing price of time, energy, and attention that often stifles the very life we hope to enjoy. So when we take the time to get rid of all the extraneous stuff we accumulate, we usually end up with “more” of everything that gives our life value.
Here on SMART Living 365, I call that idea rightsizing and write about it from all sorts of directions. The good news is that it doesn’t really matter what we call it, what’s important is that we come to an understanding of what gives our lives real value.
One of the most compelling elements of The More of Less is Joshua Becker’s personal story of minimalism and how it transformed his life. Another thing that his book offers that is equally beneficial is several different stories from others who have also tackled the subject in their unique way. As Becker says, “Minimalism is about what it gives, not what it takes away. It’s the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from them.” Obviously, that is different for each of us, and although not always easy to do, it is essential for the payoff.
It was through these stories that I found the most inspiration in the book. I’ll call them “jewels” and here are the ideas I want to remember. While most are presented in the context of minimalism, I believe they work equally well for anyone looking to rightsize their life.
- By getting rid of excess possessions, minimalism allows us to “celebrate a new life of decreased distraction. “ Once we become unburdened by our stuff, space is created in our lives for renewed passions.
- Is it possible that pathological hoarding is actually “…a rational response to external turmoil”? Many people who can’t seem to let go of their stuff often cling to the security and safety that all that stuff mentally provides. Also, according to Becker, “researchers concluded that those who do not feel internally secure in their personal relationships will often put a higher value on physical possessions.”
- Excess does not automatically equal success. As I’ve said before, just because we can buy, or do something, doesn’t mean we should. Perhaps it is time to stop celebrating excess and instead applaud and appreciate the right amount at the right time.
- Real freedom is liberation from the need to possess anything. That freedom, as Becker says, is “the ability to rejoice at the sight of all the things we do not need. And to have our lives finally freed to pursue the things we want to do.”
- A good first step toward minimalism is, “Eliminate redundancy and get rid of repetition.” In other words, get rid of any duplicate items you own as soon as possible. How many towels do you have in your closets? How many spatulas? How many face creams? Don’t even get me started on shoes!!! We often delude ourselves into thinking we need several versions of the same thing. But then we end up with so many choices it makes us crazy. Get rid of duplicates!
- Another valuable strategy is what Becker calls, “only the best.” In other words, why have anything in your house that isn’t useful, meaningful and of quality?
- Rightsize your vehicles. Okay, Joshua Becker didn’t call it rightsizing, but he did mention how important it is to recognize that, “often, car ownership is about status and reputation.” And that, “We seek to prove our success in society by the cars we drive.” But is anyone else really paying that much attention to our cars? And if we are slaving to pay those monthly payments, who are we fooling? Far better to accept yourself and what’s important and save your time and money for those things you love.
- If you are having a difficult time letting go of things, try “leveling.” Leveling is the practice of putting something you’re not sure you can live without in a box for a predetermined length of time—say a month or six months. Chances are good at the end of that time you’ll know if those items hold real value to you or not.
- Don’t try to sell the stuff you are releasing. Most of the stuff, the little stuff that really clutters up your life will be a big hassle if you try to eek out any money from it. Give it all away to people who want and need it. Embrace the freedom from the stuff as the ultimate payday.
- While the “more” you get from living with less can save you lots of money and time, never forget to share that new “more” with those you love and those in need.
The More of Less is an easy book to read and likely most valuable for anyone who is getting started on the path to a more simple and minimal lifestyle. However, some readers might want to know in advance that Joshua Becker is a minister and he does tell a number of Bible stories to illustrate some of his points on the subject.
However, what I found most surprising about the book is that there is a complete lack of mention about the environment or how minimalism relates to our planet. I come from the perspective that all the decluttering in the world won’t add to our lives if we can’t breathe the air, find healthy food to eat, or drink the water. Writing about anti-consumerism with a focus on what’s really important without relating to the natural world seems odd to me, especially in a book with such a strong emphasis placed on helping others and being of service.
I think by now you know that I’m a big believer in learning whatever we can from everything we encounter. Depending on where you are on the path, The More of Less could be a good place to start. Just remember, the SMART approach might not always be about getting more or having less, but resting in a peaceful and happy place of just enough.
Question of the week: What is one thing you could let go of that would give your life more?