Oct 08, 2019 • Written by Katie Long
In the spring of 2005, my husband and I were thrown into a state of forced minimalism. Having made some major life changes so I could stay home with our first child, we moved from a beautiful, 2000 square foot farmhouse in the country to two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Yep...just let that sink in for a minute. Three humans (one being a sleepless newborn), two bedrooms and a bathroom, totalling roughly 400 square feet.
Why? Because, quite honestly, those were the only rooms in our newly acquired fixer-upper that were safe to live in at that time. Our kitchen consisted of a microwave and dorm fridge set up in the hall. I did dishes in the bathroom sink. All of our earthly belongings, aside from what we were using in our two bedrooms, were crammed into the one other room of our dilapidated fixer-upper that was somewhat livable.
We lived in those two bedrooms for nine months while gutting and renovating the remainder of our house. While it was a joy to finally have room to spread out and live like real humans again, I also came to an important realization during that time: I hadn’t missed our stuff. We had an entire room packed to the gills with furniture and items that I hadn’t seen in a year...and I had hardly missed any of it.
If I hadn’t missed it...then why was I keeping it? At the time, I had a one-year-old and another baby on the way. I had plenty to keep track of in life without keeping track of possessions that we didn’t even miss...so I started getting rid of it. The more I got rid of, the more manageable life slowly became. Minimalism had unconsciously become our way of life.
What is minimalism, anyway? Does it mean you have to have a capsule wardrobe, a tiny house, and a signed copy of Marie Kondo’s book? Absolutely not! According to Joshua Becker on the popular website Becoming Minimalist, it is defined as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it.” That is a very powerful definition, if we put that in perspective of Christianity.
What are the things I value most? This answer will vary depending on the person, but the things I value most are Christ and my family. (And coffee. I do place great value on coffee!)
What are the things that distract me from Christ and my family? Where do I even begin with that list? My distractions include social media, late night Hulu binges, good books, too many commitments, overthinking...the list could go on and on.
Now...here’s where it gets really powerful! Using the definition above, I replace the words “the things we most value” with the things I value most, and the words “everything that distracts us from it” with my list of distractions. This is how it reads:
[Minimalism is…] the intentional promotion of Christ and my family and the removal of social media, late night Hulu binges, good books, too many commitments, and overthinking.
Pretty powerful, isn’t it? It’s also a pretty impossible statement to live up to! If I held myself to that standard, I would fail every day.
But what if I just started working on one of those distractions?
For instance, the school year has just kicked off. I dread looking at my September calendar every year. After a summer with few commitments, I’m suddenly faced with a barrage of art classes, orthodontist appointments, gym workouts, and youth group commitments. It is overwhelming and makes me feel like I want to hide under my bed until the end of the school year. Can I handle one small change, though? What if we replace the gym workouts with family walks or bike rides while the weather permits?
Or what about those late night Hulu binges? It feels so good to enjoy a child free hour or so while relaxing and laughing with my husband. That’s not a bad thing, but it becomes a distraction when I stay up too late and oversleep the next morning, and in the process ditch my quiet time with God and become a grumpy mess because I’m running late. But...if I cut that Hulu time in half, I still get some relaxing time with my husband, a decent night of sleep, and can start the next day off on the right foot.
Minimalism doesn’t have to be about extreme choices. Rather, it is about freeing life of distractions. It can include more drastic measures, such as a capsule wardrobe (which I personally love), living in a tiny house, or owning less than 100 items. However, it can also be as simple as making better choices in order to focus more on what really matters.
Interested in learning more about minimalism? Here are a few of my favorite reads:*
Notes from a Blue Bike by Tsh Oxenreider
Cozy Minimalist Home by Myquillyn Smith
The Best Yes by Lysa TerKeurst
Finding Spiritual Whitespace by Bonnie Gray
Present Over Perfect by Shauna Niequist
*These are just my personal recommendations, and are in no way being endorsed by AAC Women’s Ministry.