What is Minimalism–Really?

The Things You Own

The past couple of years have brought with it a desire to live fully by minimizing not only my possessions, but other areas of my life as well. With that desire came the discovery of The Minimalists. I’ve listened to numerous podcasts and read articles galore and always come out on the other side with a better, deeper understanding of life, happiness and contentment, these leading to a better life.

I’ve learned that minimalism isn’t about depriving oneself of any “thing” or it’s not about getting rid of everything except one utensil, one pair of pants, one shirt, one book…you get the idea. It’s not even about buying the cheapest of something or spending a minimal amount of money. It’s about only buying–or doing–what adds value to yours or someone else’s life. Minimalism keeps me aware of what I’m buying and why I’m buying it; what I’m doing and why I’m doing it; who I’m spending my time with and why.

For me, minimalism has never been about deprivation. Rather, minimalism is about getting rid of life’s excess in favor of the essential.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, A Day in the Life of a Minimalist

New things are always fun, but will it still be fun and add value to your life once the newness wears off? It’s not wrong to buy that new dress, that new car, or even that ATV, just know why you’re buying it. If the reason for the purchase is because so-and-so has one or because you want to look good, there are deeper questions to ask yourself. Such as:

  • Why does it take a new dress (or whatever the purchase would be for you) to make you feel better about yourself? Maybe some time for self-reflection would be a better option.
  • A week from now, a month, or even a year, whatever length of time it takes for the newness to wear off, will the item still add value to your life or just become another useless item on the shelf?

By cutting out the things that don’t add value to your life, you’re making room for those things that do, whether it’s “things,” people, time, etc.

Minimalists don’t focus on having less, less, less. Rather, we focus on making room for more, more, more: more time, more passion, more experiences, more growth, more contribution, more contentment—and more freedom. It just so happens that clearing the clutter from life’s path helps us make that room.
― Joshua Fields Millburn, Minimalism: Essential Essays

One of the men from The Minimalists team packed up all of his things into boxes and for the next several months only unpacked those items he needed for that day. Only a small percentage of things were unpacked at the end of those months. Take some time to ponder what you really use–what things, friendships, activities, etc, you have/do that truly add to your life rather than take away from that which does add value. Take some time to explore minimalism and see what it looks like for you. I believe it looks different for everyone.

Minimalism

Remembering 9-11

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The attacks of September 11th were intended to break our spirit. Instead we have emerged stronger and more unified. We feel renewed devotion to the principles of political, economic and religious freedom, the rule of law and respect for human life. We are more determined than ever to live our lives in freedom. —Rudy Giuliani

Go forth in Love.

Compassion

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For those who have followed my blog for a while you know I have three sponsor kids from Africa: Alex from Tanzania, Amede from Togo, and Mamounata from Burkina Faso. These kids have enriched my life in more ways that I ever could have imagined when I first started sponsoring them.

A couple of weeks ago I worked at an event for Compassion International called the Compassion Experience. This experience allows participants to see how children in third-world countries live too frequently. While it’s heartbreaking, it prompts one to want to make a difference.

During the Compassion Experience, each participant is equipped with head phones and an iPhone that leads them through a realistic look into the lives of two real children. In the one I volunteered for, those children were Kiwi from the Philippines and Jey from the slums of Nairobi, Kenya. Before I began my shift, I walked through Jey’s life (you can listen to it for yourself here) so I could adequately represent it to those I would be helping with the experience. Let me tell you it was eye opening!

Jey didn’t have a father and they didn’t have food or money. He grew up on the streets begging for money and food. When he couldn’t get anything to eat or drink, he began stealing.

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At just 9 years of age, Jey was arrested and found himself in jail. His cell looked like this. Could you imagine the fear he must have felt? Jey admits to not fearing death, as that was the only way he saw that he could get out. And worse, as a mother, could you imagine knowing your child was in this place?

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The above photo is of Jey’s grandmother’s place where numerous family members shared a tiny space. There was one bed, the one shown here, for everyone to share.

 

 

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The above two photos are areas in the slum neighborhoods where children were often found begging and trying to make money for food.

When Jey got out of jail he went back to the same poverty stricken environment. His mother didn’t have any means to provide for her kids. Jey thought he would have to go back to the streets again to beg and probably die. At that point in his life is when Compassion International came in.

The two photos below are of the school in the Compassion Project that gave Jey hope.

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Jey finally had a place to go where he received food, learned music, and a new way of thinking. That’s when things started turning around for him. The first time Jey heard “I Love You” was from his sponsor. He was told he was special, and that we was going to end up to be somebody. Words that forever changed him.

Today Jey is a DJ and a youth minister. But even more importantly, today Jey is free from prison, hunger, poverty, and destruction.

Jey’s is just one of so many heart wrenching stories. As a mother, I couldn’t imagine a horror so great as watching my child starve or be put in jail as a result of trying to get food or drink.

Tonight as you tuck your children into bed for the night, or you get that phone call from one of your children needing help or just calling to say “Hi, Mom/Dad,” or you pass by your teenager’s messy room, offer up thanks for having a healthy, happy child. Be grateful that you have the means to support them. And give thanks for the freedom and government programs we all have here in our country. Freedom and government programs children in third-world countries don’t have.

At the end of life we will not be judged by how many diplomas we have received, how much money we have made, how many great things we have done.
We will be judged by “I was hungry, and you gave me something to eat, I was naked and you clothed me. I was homeless, and you took me in.
― Mother Teresa

All Things Gratitude

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Gratitude fills my heart, my home, my life. And I’m so grateful for that. But I also realize that it’s all too easy to get busy with living and default, as human beings often do, to feelings other than gratitude, forgetting to be grateful. Especially for the small, simple things in life that make a big difference.

So I’ve created a gratitude jar that sits on my kitchen counter. Right beside it are pre-cut strips of paper and a pen for easy access. No excuses that there isn’t time to find a pen or “I’ll get to it later.” My husband and I frequently fill out a slip as we pass by the jar, and family and friends who visit are encouraged to participate as they wish.

Our plan is to go through each item of gratitude on New Year’s Eve as a reminder of all that we have to be grateful for in the past year. And what a way to bring in the new year–with hearts filled with gratitude!

Gratitude makes sense of our past, brings peace for today, and creates a vision for tomorrow. -Melody Beattie

Another item of mention that I’m so excited about is that a non-fiction article I wrote titled Gratitude in All Things has been published in an anthology titled Colorado’s Emerging Writers: An Anthology of Nonfiction and has been released this week. Yay! It can be found here and here


May I suggest making your own gratitude jar? Get creative. Got kids? Have them help! Make it a family activity.

And in the meantime, let me know what you’re grateful for last week, today, in this moment.

Gratitude can transform common days into thanksgivings, turn routine jobs into joy, and change ordinary opportunities into blessings. -William Arthur Ward

No Regrets

No Regrets

Why is it that we often don’t realize how much a person means to us until they’re taken from us. Whether it be a move, an illness, life getting in the way keeping two people apart, or death, it’s not until the person is gone, the relationship as we knew it changed forever, that we wish we would have known, would have had some warning, and we stop and wonder what happened. And then in moves the destructive visitor of regret. Sometimes he stays for a moment, sometimes a day, sometimes weeks, months, or even years.

I’ve lost too many people who are important to me, from my grandparents (one grandmother in particular) to my step-daughter to several friends. And each time I look back and wish I would have done something different, said something different, or didn’t say or do something that I did, or simply wish I’d taken more time to give them. Each time I’m haunted by the moments these precious people wanted to spend time with me but I didn’t take the time to give them. And how, afterwards, when it was too late, I’d give anything for another chance, because I would make the time.

When someone wants to spend time with you, it’s an honor. A privilege. A compliment.

It’s all too easy to ponder the moments when that harsh word was spoken instead of being patient, when annoyances caused a hard heart and deaf ears, when things in life that don’t matter stole time right out from under us robbing us from what does matter, and guilt moves in to reside alongside regret.

Guilt and regret will destroy you if it’s given so much as a foothold.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during the most recent brutal cycle of beating myself up after learning a dear friend has cancer that has spread significantly, is that I’m strong enough to not allow guilt and regret to hold me hostage. There’s no room for them at the Inn. Instead, I can let the past be the past, learn to be a better, more loving person, honor her by living a life of humility and kindness that she’s shown me, and devote time to help her travel her difficult journey.

No matter how devastating the curveball life throws at you, the best thing you can do is learn the lesson if there’s one to be learned. Get back to making room and time for the people in your life by re-evaluating your priorities.  Wake up each morning with a renewed promise to live a life of love and service. Each day is another opportunity to love, be kind to others, and let the people in your life know you love them. Don’t hesitate to give that hug, make that phone call, say that “I love you.” It’s never too late to show the people who are important to you just how important they are.

The only way to make sure you’re happy is to love and care for others, even when they don’t do the same. Spread love in the ways you know how, because the love you give is its own reward. 
― Connor Chalfant

We All Bleed the Same

You know how you can hear a song a hundred times and then on the hundred and first time you hear it, you really hear it? Or is that just me?

I’ve listened to We All Bleed the Same by Mandisa on the radio several times a week and while it always gets my attention, this past weekend it hit me up along side the head. There’s so much truth to the words in this song that it’s painful. Our world has gone so sideways with all the hate, judgement, violence and intolerance. So many groups fight against each other. Why can’t we fight for each other? Why can’t we look for the similarities rather than the differences?

An eye for an eye will only make the whole world blind.
― Mahatma Gandhi

My challenge to you this week is to look deep inside of yourself and see if there’s a cause, or even just one person, you can fight for. Let’s make the world a better place by showing kindness to those who are different than us, tolerance to those who have different beliefs than us, and love to all.

Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.
― Henry James

The Bucket List

Bucket List Post

How many of you have a bucket list? The movie, The Bucket List, with Morgan Freeman and Jack Nicholson is one of my all-time favorites. It’s a 2007 movie in which two terminally ill men (Freeman and Nicholson) set out to accomplish a list of things they want to experience before they “kick the bucket.” I guess I took that movie to heart. Why wait until we’re dying to experience life? Each day we’re all one day closer to the end of our days. And at the risk of being cliché, not one of us is guaranteed tomorrow. That shouldn’t be a depressing or distressing thought, but rather one that inspires you to truly live.

I recently reviewed my bucket list and realized how few of them I’ve accomplished, much less remembered. I updated it, removing things that no longer held interest, adding some items that have piqued my interest over the past couple of years.

And in the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years – Abraham Lincoln

Some of them I’m especially passionate about, namely:

  • Ride on a train,
  • Travel the New England coastline,
  • Perform a random act of kindness every day for a month,
  • Get to know 10 people from different countries.

While I’m an advocate for kindness by everyone, toward everyone, I’ll admit I’m not consistent in consciously looking for ways in which to practice acts of kindness. Work keeps me busy and preoccupied, life gets in the way, the lure of the television set and electronics, and…well, practicing acts of kindness gets placed on the back burner. Until I review my bucket list and remember.

Riding on a train and traveling the New England coastline are dreams that require minimal planning to make come true and are affordable. So there really is no excuse. Except, as with random acts of kindness, life happens and they become a “someday” item on the agenda, if I remember them at all.

And getting to know 10 people from different countries? That one I’m especially passionate about. Not simply meet, but with whom to share life. And, yet…yup, you guessed it…without the reminder, the effort falls to the wayside. So making an effort to meet and get to know people outside of the those that I stumble upon as I go through each day doesn’t happen.

My dream is to prove that love can cross any boundary, physical or otherwise. Nothing can stop love except unloving people. And this past year, with so many issues demonstrating anything but love, it’s especially important. There’s so much hatred, judgement, and intolerance in the world today, that it’s frightening. I want to be part of the movement to bring back love, compassion, kindness, and acceptance. It occurred to me this past weekend that while criminals in our country are considered innocent until proven guilty, those from other countries and nationalities or different race and religion than our own are often not afforded the same benefit. Instead they’re forced to prove their innocence. Where’s the fairness and justice in that? Why have we as a nation gone so far astray by separating “us” and “them.” Why can’t it just be “we?” “All” innocent first.

It’s all about Love. Acceptance. Kindness. Compassion.

I have three sponsor kiddos through Compassion International who I treasure, all three from different countries in Africa: Burkina Faso, Tanzania, and Togo. That’s a start. And I’ll be printing my bucket list and keeping it handy to view frequently, reminding me in the midst of the chaos and busyness of life, what’s truly important.

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When we seek to discover the best in others, we somehow bring out the best in ourselves. William Arthur Ward