Moving Beyond Possessions

Minimalism is not just about possessions. It’s about living intentionally in all areas of life: with your time, with your money, with your friendships, and even with your thoughts and your worldview. It’s about doing more than letting the wind blow you through life—it’s about adjusting your sails, about making choices. It’s about questioning the norm, the lifestyle that everyone else takes for granted as being the only way to live. It’s about questioning it and making adjustments to it, to fit your needs, to allow you to live more fully.

For us, it started with possessions. Two summers ago, we purged a great deal of the items that we owned, but didn’t need. And I’ll still share with you, some of the things that we do without, and some of the things we keep.

But, paring down on possessions, but continuing to live the way that you have been living, is pointless. Decluttering stuff is not an end in itself.

I found that it was a natural progression. By limiting our possessions, we were beginning to question the pre-packaged life with which society had presented us. After possessions, the next thing I began to question was time.

Everyone is so busy, so stressed out, so overbooked. To me, this did not seem like a fulfilling way to live, or even the way to contribute the most to the world. I noticed that I was wasting time online (not everything online is a waste of time, but the things I was doing—mainly going on Facebook–were). There were things I wanted to do, that I didn’t have time for. Being more aware of how I spent my time, and getting rid of the useless drains on it, has helped me to be able to do the things I love, and to do my best to add value to the world.

After time came friendships. I noticed, as I strived to be more intentional with my time, that a lot of the problems in the industrialized world today are due to a lack of community. People complain about it all the time, but I wanted to move beyond complaining. Technology drives people apart from each other, reducing friendships to the “fast food” level, with Facebook and other social networking. People pretend that they are “connected,” when they actually aren’t. I wondered if I could use technology to actually cultivate friendships and build community. By deleting my Facebook account and focusing on bringing people together and building relationships online—and corresponding through e-mail with some wonderful, brilliant people who have challenged me and helped me to grow in every way (and I do hope I’ve done the same for them!)—I have actually been quite successful in doing just that.

Friendships in real life are a bit more challenging. We want to have people over, to get together with others, more often. But getting used to that—and getting other people used to that—is not easy. We’re so accustomed to being “too busy,” or to expecting everyone else to be “too busy,” that we hesitate to “bother” anyone. Getting past that line of thinking is key. Spending time with others is something that we should be busy doing. And in challenging society this way, we need to understand that we are taking the lead, in the beginning at least. If our friends don’t initiate get-togethers as much as we do, that doesn’t mean that they don’t want to see us, or that we’re being rude. They’re just not used to doing it.

The next area in which I learned to be intentional was with my thoughts and worldview. I began to realize that the way I saw myself and others was not correct. The labels that I had adopted for various reasons—sometimes they were things that I had been told by others and sometimes they were just things that I assumed about myself—were not necessarily reality. Perhaps I was not scatterbrained, awkward, and immature. I began to view other with more understanding—perhaps the bad things people did were not personal. Perhaps everyone wasn’t judging me.

The biggest challenge I’ve faced, in my efforts to be intentional in all areas of life, is money. In the past, I have made some horribly embarrassing mistakes, financially. Poor budgeting and impulse buying has caused us problems with debt (now paid off) and has led to some very tight end-of-the-pay-periods. Most recently, while we were in Thunder Bay and right after we left last summer, we had to eat many pasta-and-butter and bean-and-rice meals. We didn’t get back in control of the budget until we were in Frankfort. And we’ve remained in control ever since then. We don’t run out of money before payday, and we do have a cushion now. But this year, I need to cut expenses, track our spending, and write an honest-to-gosh budget on paper.

Throughout the next month, I will be sharing ways in which we are being intentional in all of these areas. You’ll be able to see the ways in which we’ve been successful, as well as follow our efforts to improve the areas in which we struggle. I hope that you’ll learn something from the lessons that we’ve learned (and are still learning!).

7 thoughts on “Moving Beyond Possessions

  1. I have learned quite a bit from your sharing and look forward to learning more. In particular I’ve gained more control of my time by staying off of facebook except occasional glimpses and sharing.

    Dan @ ZenPresence.com

    • I think that Facebook can definitely be used for good things, for establishing community, but it tends to be such a poor facsimile for the real deal, in my experience. It can be such a time/intellectual/energy drain. I’m glad you’re finding it valuable, to spend less time there!

  2. Thanks for this reflection. I especially enjoyed the part about taking time for friendships and relationships, not being too busy for that ourselves and also not feeling like we’re bothering people if we invite them over. Here in Paraguay people just sit outside with each other everyday and shoot the breeze for hours. It’s normal and I’ve often reflected on how different that is from our busy lives back home. Make time for what’s truly important to you!

    • We think that we’re contributing more, by being constantly busy, but the isolation that comes with it really diminishes that real, meaningful contributions that we are able to make. I hope you’re able to use that knowledge you’ve gained, from being a part of a community and making time for relationships, to help bring some of that back, once you return home.

  3. I too was reminded of how life used to be from this post Bethany. We used to know all our neighbors, and treated them like family and they us. I’ve noticed since giving up my car that I now have more opportunities to meet more people in the community and have made new friends. One book I read a while back is called Bowling Alone, about how we aren’t connected to people in real life any more. Technology is great, but not when we have friends we never meet that replace friends down the street. I’m looking forward to reading more about your plans.

    • Finding like-minded people online, who are more interested in quality friendships, over the quantity (Facebook and the like), has not been difficult at all. So I’m hoping that our friends in real life want the same thing, and that we’ll have the same kind of success. It’s definitely worth a try!

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