I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist. Some of the hoarders amongst my friends and family would refer to me as that, but I don’t think that quite describes me.
What even is minimalism? For some it is white walls, only a few pieces of simple furniture and few decorative items on the walls. For others, minimalism is about owning a certain number of possessions and never gaining more than that. There are people who own only what they can carry on their back and travel, never calling one place home for long. Then there are people who downsize their possessions to live in a ‘tiny house’, just keeping the essentials and a few comforts.
I don’t fit into any of those categories, and whilst our house is on the small side, tiny house it is not. If you were to look at our walls, you would see murals, bright colour feature walls, framed artwork and family photos. Pigeon’s room is definitely not an exercise in minimalism! It is a teenager’s room and the floor is only found when I threaten to come in to ‘help’ him tidy up with a black bag! He has mastered getting dirty clothes into the wash basket and clean clothes on his shelves; but the carpet is adorned with Lego bricks, Lego models and half-finished books (he is usually reading 4 or 5 at any given time). Parrot’s room with just a bed and some soft toys, is more of minimalist space. This is not by design; he just destroys anything that is left in his room, so his clothing, furniture and toys are spread around the rest of our house.
Researching minimalism in recent years has led me to take on some of the ideas, but not all. We have downsized our possessions, to gain space and for the safety of Parrot moving around the house as he falls easily. We have gone through our memory boxes and decided which items could be donated or recycled after taking a photo of them. We are more careful about the ‘one in, one out’ rule, not accumulating things just for the sake of it. Objects that are really special to us no longer sit in a box in the loft gathering mildew, we make room to display them and get pleasure from seeing them. An example of this is my cuddly, yellow dinosaur from childhood that sits at the end of my bed. Items matching our décor that didn’t ‘spark joy’ for us, have been donated; someone else may really enjoy them and benefit from them. There is less ‘stuff’ around, with boys this means less to knock over and damage when they get hyperactive. Less furniture has given us the space to put up a gymnastic bar or a climbing frame in the lounge for a few days at a time– very useful during lockdowns!
For Parrot, less really is more. He cannot cope with visual clutter. The fewer books he has, the less that get ripped or thrown. The fewer toys he has to choose from, the higher the likelihood of him playing with them. Less clothing means that he can choose what to wear in the morning more easily, without throwing clothes everywhere and shouting. Less stuff equals less mess, less damage and less sensory overwhelm; what’s not to love about that?
Pigeon has grown in his creativity since having less to entertain him. He has always been creative, but his music compositions and self-designed Lego models have grown to new skill levels. He has a new appreciation for the things that he has: only books that he wants to read again sit on his shelves; he wears all of his clothes now, instead of wearing the same three t-shirts; he enjoys the extra space on his floor to have Lego spread everywhere when he is creating something; and things in his memory box are truly special rather than just everything that he has ever been given or made.
As a family what we have gained from minimalism is intentionality. Intentionality about what we do with our time, our money and what we are aiming for in life. It has freed up time to go out walking or running, read, write, pray, paint, or to watch a DVD together. I am not just spending my free time cleaning stuff, maintaining or fixing stuff and trying to organise stuff. I believe that God didn’t create us just so we could organise our belongings! In fact the Bible says that life is more than possessions, that we have a purpose beyond material things. That purpose can get lost in the material things of life, in the busyness and chaos in our homes. Minimalism is one way to find what is left when you remove the unnecessary and surplus things in life. For me it has not been an end in itself, which is why I don’t call myself a minimalist. It is a merely a tool to be used to make my choices more intentional.
Intentional living is different for each person, just as minimalism is. What would it mean for you to be more intentional in your life?