The focus of minimalism is freedom, not getting rid of material things
Minimalism is a beautiful lifestyle. It’s a mindset or paradigm for living life abundantly and putting first things first while removing everything else that competes to take the central place.
Yet, we often see minimalism degenerate to the point where it becomes only a focus on material things and how to get rid of them. It’s almost as if those who call themselves minimalists were in a battle to see who owns the fewest things. Obviously, the public wows more at the person who owns the fewest material things. That person gets noticed more and gets listened to the most.
But is minimalism really about owning the fewest things? Are you a better or more mature minimalist if you own the fewest number of things?
Minimalism is about breaking free from slavery to things and living in freedom in such a way that we are content no matter what the situation is.
Mature minimalists aren’t obsessed with owning less. They don’t make a big deal about owning less and certainly don’t make owning less a goal in life. The focus is the freedom to live abundantly and use their lives to make the greatest impact. To do that most effectively, they remove everything that clutters. But even before they start decluttering their physical world, they have first learned to declutter their hearts to the point where things no longer have a hold on them at the heart level. Outward decluttering only becomes an expression of an inner heart state. One of my favorite middle eastern quotes is, “Out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks”. In other words, the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. Actions flow from the heart.
Mature minimalists have learned to be content no matter the circumstances. They know what it is to be in need and what it is to have plenty, yet they are not fazed by external circumstances. They have learned the secret of being happy and content in any and every situation, whether well-fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. They have trained themselves to the point they know they can live in any situation and still be happy. Their joy and happiness are not depended on what they own or don’t own. Their joy isn’t depended on whether they own 10,000 things or 100 things.
That right there is true freedom from material things and freedom to live freely.
Even before getting rid of many things that don’t add value to them in a particular season, mature minimalists at heart are people who’ve learned to live with things without being possessed by things. They are actually able to get rid of things that don’t add value to them without feeling the need to celebrate because they have already mastered the art of living free of the control of things in their hearts.
A good indication of someone being an immature minimalist is that they are focused on reducing the number of physical things they own and celebrates when they declutter.
It’s very easy to trade one slave master for another. It’s very easy to trade getting high on owning more things to getting high on getting rid of things. Either way, you are controlled by things.
Again, minimalism is about freedom from things whether many or few. It’s not only freedom from things, it’s also the freedom to live freely.