I am blessed to have a guest blogger today – Evie Davis. She is a wife, mother and my daughter in law among all the roles she has. I love what she has to say about a simpler life!
As a novice minimalist (so new, that I am not even certain I can claim that title yet), I find myself asking if the pursuit of minimalism is really worth it. To expend my energy toward the goal of simplifying my life seems almost counter-intuitive. Trying to understand what minimalism is and how to go about it, is, in itself, a daunting task. So before beginning on the endeavor and as I go through it, I come back to the question of “Why should I do it?”. The answer for me, and hopefully for you, will help to guide you in the process and give you encouragement to continue the pursuit when facing difficulties. For me, the answer is that I want to direct my energy toward something that I have determined is worthy.
Healthy Diet = Healthy Body
The idea of the body using energy and how it is replenished is a good analogy for our personal pursuits in life. It is a matter of expending energy and replenishing it. For our bodies, energy is used to maintain organ functioning and to keep us alive. Further, more energy is used when we are physically active in any way. This is not to speak only of exercise, but just performing daily tasks. Getting up and getting ready in the morning or walking into your office building for work, expends energy from your body. The body’s energy is replenished with the food that we consume. The calories from the food we eat, give the body energy to complete the physical task of living. Without diving too deeply into the realm of the advantages of a healthy diet, I hope we can all recognize from personal experience that the quality of the calories we consume vastly changes how our body’s energy is replenished. When you eat fruits and vegetables and whole grains, generally, you feel better than if you eat candy and potato chips and other processed foods. Consequently, over a long period of time, bad dietary habits lead to huge issues with body function. Diseases like diabetes and heart disease have a direct correlation with the lack of a healthy diet for the individual suffering from such illnesses.
Healthy Choices = Healthy Lifestyle
Just as the body consumes energy to function, we all expend our energy toward gaining the lifestyle we desire. I fear, that often, people are not even consciously pursing a lifestyle they desire, but are impulsively making decisions without any real thought to their true goal. Decisions are made based on what is momentarily going to make us happy, rather than thinking of the long-term consequences of the choices we make each day. This holds the same idea of maintaining an unhealthy diet. The choices sound good in the moment, but can have devastating long-term effects: massive amount of debt in the pursuit of materialism; shattered marriages in the pursuit of passion leading to adultery; or loss of familial connection in the pursuit of career ambitions. Often, it is not one defining decision that was made that led to such a state, but many decisions made over a long period of time. It is not one slice of pizza, but many years of eating nothing but pizza that leads to loss of proper body function.
In order to consciously live my life, I had to determine what I wanted as my long-term goals. I had to stop focusing on what I wanted in the moment and decide what I wanted out of life. Minimalism is a philosophy that I was introduced to by my mother-in-law. She started giving me books that she had enjoyed reading on the subject and from there I did further reading online and self-reflection. Again, maintaining full disclosure, I am very new to this and would hate to make a definition of minimalism that is opposed to what the movement is really all about; but what I decided for myself is that minimalism is the pursuit of joy in simplicity. Coming to that understanding, I consciously decided that that is a goal I want for myself and for my family. I have determined that my pursuit of minimalism includes a change of mind in seeking contentment. I am hoping that the results include freedom from finding happiness in possessions, which ultimately means less financial burdens; and that satisfaction can be found in the simple, everyday events of living. It is these goals that I have chosen to expend my energy in pursuing. My decisions are made with these goals in mind. I have determined that rather than indulging in momentary, impulsive desires, I can choose a “healthier” ideal, that in the long-term will lead to a more fulfilled life. Just as consistently choosing to eat an apple rather than a piece of candy will yield healthier body function. And not just the functioning of the body, but the way it feels when I choose the apple over the candy. Making the healthier choice, results in me feeling better physically. Likewise, choosing to pursue minimalism makes me feel better than pursuing other lifestyles and especially more so than making decisions without any real pursuit in mind.
When I look at simplifying my life, I have found very often that I feel I am making progress only to turn around the next second and feel overwhelmed at what is left to do. I clean out my closet and I feel good looking at how much open space there is; then remember the storage bin under the bed that is still filled with clothes that I just wasn’t ready to get rid of yet. Or I think I am doing well maintaining my daily goals of keeping the house tidy just to pass by the kids’ rooms to see yet another mess that needs to be cleaned up. Or I consider all the stuff that my husband owns and has absolutely no desire to get rid of. How do I cope with the feeling that comes over me in these moments? Should I just give up on this pursuit of minimalism because it seems so discouraging? At these times, I remember that even if I don’t consciously pursue simplicity each of these challenges must still be addressed. Energy must be consumed to manage all the clothes, the messes have got to be cleaned up, and my husband will still want all of his stuff. I must remember this is a long-term pursuit toward a goal that I believe will make me happier, that I perceive as a healthier lifestyle. Just like choosing to eat healthy food takes determination and discipline, so too simplicity will not happen overnight and it will not happen without effort. In the end, however, a healthy diet gets easier to maintain over time (I know this from personal experience) and so my hope is that minimalism will also get easier and will yield me much more satisfying results than just giving up on it.