Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Becoming a Minimalist

I am becoming a minimalist. I'm simplifying my life.

A few years ago I read a book that made an impact on me: Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James. Ms. St. James does not claim to be a believer or follower of Jesus, as far as I know, but she has much good to say about "keeping it simple."

It's impossible to implement everything at once, and it's not even logical to try to apply everything on her list into our lives. These are ideas that worked for her and her husband, or people she knows. We are all different. What works for them may or may not work for us. Yet her list will make you evaluate what you do or what you have and also why you do it or have it.

I took notes; here are some things that may help you get started...

Household Simplifying
Reduce clutter
Speed clean
Cut grocery shopping time in half
Buy in bulk
Plant a garden
Run all errands in one place
Cut laundering chore in half (mix and match; basics)
Stop buying dry-clean-only clothes
Leave shoes at the door
Go for patterned carpets
Use food trays
Keep outdoor plants only
Get rid of your lawn
Simplify pets

Lifestyle Simplifying
Move to a smaller house
Drive a simple car
Sell the boat (or other "toy" you rarely or never use)
Build a simple wardrobe (lots of basics that mix and match)
Reduce go-go (going out) entertainment
Rethink your meals with friends (how often do you "hang out" just to "hang out"?)
Turn off the TV
Stop junk mail
Cancel magazines
Stop the newspaper
Drop call waiting
Don't answer the phone all the time
Don't answer the door either!
Get rid of the cell phone
Bow out on some holiday gatherings
Stop sending Christmas cards
Simplify gift giving
Simplify travel (pack only items you will use; don't try to do/see everything!)
Take a vacation at home

Financial Simplifying
Get out of debt
Live on half of what you earn; save the other half
Rethink your buying habits
Change the way you shop
Reduce needs for goods and services
Get rid of all but one or two credit cards
Consolidate chequing accounts
Consolidate investments
Pay off your mortgage
Buy secondhand cars

Job Simplifying
Stop being a slave to your planner
Work where you live, or live where you work
Do what you really want to do (make financial adjustments if you enjoy a lesser paying job)
Turn your hobby into your job
Work less and enjoy it more
Stop the busy work
Include family in your work life

Health Simplifying
Simplify eating habits
Always split a restaurant meal
Fruit/juice fast one day per week
Make water your drink of choice
Eat a muffin
Pack your own lunch
Take a walk
Get up one hour earlier
Be in bed by 9:00 one night per week
Throw out everything but asprin or a multi-vitamin
Create your own rituals (i.e., cup of tea)
Learn to laugh
Slow down to the speed limit

Personal life Simplifying
Clean up your relationships: learn to communicate
Just be yourself as God made you
Trust your intuition (better: trust the Holy Spirit living in you)
If it's not easy, don't do it (Be careful here; not everything God asks us to do is easy!)
Stop trying to change (let God change you)
Spend one day per month in solitude
Teach your kids the joy of solitude
Do a retreat once a year
Keep a journal
Do one thing at a time
Do nothing
Take time to watch the sunset (or sunrise)
Just say no
Learn to reinterpret the past (let it go!)
Change your expectations
Review your life regularly to keep it simple

Special Issues on Simplifying
Ten minutes to drop-dead gorgeous (simplify your primp time!)
Take off plastic nails and throw out nail polish
Reduce size of purse
Minimize accessories

Hard Core Simplifying
Rent instead of own
Get rid of cars
Get rid of phone
Stop making the bed (Wow! I'm not sure if I can do this, but there are days I skip it, in order to simplify.)
Get rid of all extras
Build a very simple wardrobe (everything mixes and matches)

An area in which I personally am simplifying is choosing to display fewer knick-knacks and "things" that I have to clean or dust. Less is more. You'd be surprised how big your sigh of relief is when you just clear off your coffee table completely! Just let it be bare for a few days! Dusting becomes a breeze! Same thing in the bathroom: hair dryer, curling iron, bottles, hairsprays, etc. all hide in drawers or cupboards. Nothing is out on the countertop except the soap dispenser. Nothing is on the back of the toilet except a basket of washcloths and a can of Febreze. It's an amazing feeling to look into such a simple washroom!

The most important way I'm simplifying is by a continual choosing to turn things over to God's control. Someone did not do something I wanted them to do? Can I trust God has a reason for this happening in my life? Or do I get myself all mad and stressed out?

More and more I am seeking to remind myself that it's better to live one day at a time. Does this mean that I make no future plans? Absolutely not; but my future plans are to be made in the framework of yieldedness to His plans.

I don't know about tomorrow, I just live from day to day;
I don't borrow from its sunshine, for its skies may turn to gray;
I don't worry o'er the future, for I know what Jesus said;
And with His loving hand to guide me, I won't fear what lies ahead.
Many things about tomorrow I don't seem to understand,
But I know Who holds tomorrow, and I know Who holds my hand!

A word of caution concerning the "simplifying"

When you decide to simplify, there is a strong tendency to flipflop to the other ditch and completely live for yourself. One can become very self-absorbed. Be sure to pray about each change you implement, and be sure it is something that God will be pleased with, that will help you live for Him, and that your spouse is happy with as well. Don't adopt the philosophy: If it feels good, do it; if it doesn't feel good, don't. This slogan is only another of the enemy's lies.

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