It’s an ideal lifestyle that I like to imagine for my home, my mind, and our environment: uncluttered, leaving space for meaning and creativity, and containing only the stuff that is necessary or “sparks joy,” as Japanese organizing guru Marie Kondo would say. Imagine how liberating that would be!
Living simply and with intention isn’t new, but today the idea is being popularized by people like Joshua Becker and Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, who call themselves The Minimalists, and whose appropriately short book, Minimalism: Live a Meaningful Life, I’ve been reading.
Some involved in advancing this lifestyle encourage followers to reduce their clothing and possessions down to say, 100 items. I don’t strive for that, but what I love about this philosophy is that it’s not just about owning fewer things, but more importantly it’s also about making deliberate and meaningful choices for all aspects of your life. Simply put: less is more.
With a recent change in work status -- from full-time employment to full-time self employment, I’ve been using time this summer, as I work to launch my business (Intown Communications), to finally do a deep and thorough house de-clutter. We bought our house, a compact 1850-square foot “mid-century” (1953) ranch before we actually had children. The driving force in our choice was the neighborhood. The boundary criteria for our home search could not go beyond the zip code where we were already living in a townhouse.
Admittedly, after our two children were born I wished for a larger house for our family to grow in, for when there are kids, there’s so damn much stuff. The ‘50s and ‘60s era families who lived in the houses in our intown neighborhood originally didn’t need space for computers, and they didn’t have collections of videos, cassettes, or DVDs. (Now thanks to the magic of digitization, much of that older media clutter is going away -- amen to streaming!) Nor did their children have drawers full of happy meal toys. And the closets were small because they simply didn’t own so much of anything. In some ways I get why in more recent years people migrated to the suburbs to afford bigger houses to raise families.
But we never wanted to live in the suburbs, and I have never stopped loving our beautiful, established, historical neighborhood, so here we have remained for two decades, with no plans for change. Now the kids are more or less out and, guess what, unlike those who bought humongous houses in East Cobb or Alpharetta, we don’t have to downsize! In the end, it all worked out. But back to the present challenge of clearing out to get as close as possible to the ideal state mentioned above.
I won’t lie, it’s not going particularly fast or easy. It’s a struggle to purge the accumulated stuff -- there’s emotional attachment and it takes a lot of time and energy. So I keep myself inspired by books and podcasts, and when I make progress, the feeling itself is a reward. My mom always told my kids that they would be able to think better if they straightened up their rooms. I believe this.
I have read that Millenials are generally less materialistic and more experience-oriented. It’s said that they are rejecting big house ownership and some are embracing the opposite extreme via the tiny house movement. They are the driving force behind many of the newer city planning models for live-work-play developments and alternative transportation because they don’t want to spend time in their cars for long work commutes. If it’s true (and it’s hard to judge by my own Millenial children), it will be interesting to see what happens when they begin having families of their own.
I hope, whatever the source of its current revival, that the ideas behind this so-called Minimalism movement to reduce excess and focus on a more meaningful and less materialistic lifestyle become a larger trend. Because it’s good for people and certainly better for the planet.