Minimalism Should Always Be a Choice

This week on his blog Becoming Minimalist, Joshua Becker brings up a subject that has been on my mind a lot lately – how the coronavirus will impact minimalism. If you have a bit of time, which you probably do right now, I’d encourage you to read it.

We are 8 years into our minimalist journey and it is very much still that – a journey. We have gone through all the usual minimalist stages – decluttering, downsizing, reassessing our finances, re-evaluating how we spend out time, etc. and still every year, we find some new way to simplify our life. Minimalism is something that we strive toward…on purpose.

Long ago, Angie and I came up with our personal definition of minimalism. It looks something like this…

We like to think that minimalism is about incorporating simplicity into your everyday life, about learning to live within your means and finding enjoyment in experiences, rather than in acquiring stuff. But most importantly, it’s about understanding yourself and what makes you happy.

I think most minimalists and aspiring minimalists feel this is a fair definition. So, bearing that in mind, let me get to the point.

In his post, Joshua Becker talks about how the economic fallout from this crisis may force people into minimalism. He and I both agree – that is not the way things should be. And that has got me thinking – if someone is forced into minimalism, is it really minimalism?

I’m inclined to think not.

This worldwide crisis has caused life to slow down and in many ways, that’s not a bad thing. We all could use a little break from the chaos that has become our lives of late – a chance to enjoy our homes, our families, our passions, and not worry about keeping up with the Joneses (because they can’t shop right now either). If out of this mess, a handful of folks start to think about what’s really important in their lives and move toward minimalism or voluntary simplicity, then that’s awesome! We welcome you to the tribe!

But when we’re talking about forced minimalism, we aren’t really talking about the people who can afford to take this time for quiet contemplation, are we? We’re talking about the many, many others who find themselves out of work, struggling to put food on the table because stocking up just wasn’t a financial option, and wondering if and how the rent will get paid this month. So yes, this crisis is forcing people into being more frugal, more careful with their resources, more minimal, if you will, but not in the way you’d want anyone to get there. Involuntary simplicity is stressful and doesn’t often lead to anything that resembles a better life.

I would love, love, love to live in a world where people buy only what they need, work only when they want to, and spend all their free time nurturing themselves, their relationships, and their communities. But in order for that – or any other version of the simple life to work – it has to be voluntary.

I do hope that this crisis is a call to those of us who have the privilege to choose a more minimal life to be a resource and an inspiration to others. Share your story. Share your tips. Share your thoughts, your fears, and your ideas. Now is the time to support and guide one another – especially those who are facing tough times – because that’s what we’re really talking about here. A crisis can’t force someone into minimalism but it can force them into debt or despair, and that’s not a road I want any of us to have to take to arrive at a simpler life.

What brought you to minimalism? What benefit does it bring to your life? Do you have an inspiring story to share with others? Just write a post and send me the link at I’ll share the link to your story in our post next Wednesday (4/8/20).

If Every Day Were Sunday…

Our little garden is starting to wind down for the season and I’m already starting to miss it. When we were ankle deep in peas and tomatoes, I didn’t think the end would come quick enough but as we canned the last few pints of salsa on Sunday, it started to sink in. Fall is just steps away and winter is right behind it.

Years ago, those transitions meant little more to me than putting up the appropriate seasonal decor on our front door. My life was basically the same every day, only the weather changed. I got up, went to work, came home, ate dinner, watched TV, went to bed, and repeated it all until Friday night, when I’d go out to eat (like everyone else I knew) and head to the grocery store, Walmart, and wherever else I could spend my paycheck. Why? Because I worked hard and the new fall sweaters (or spring t-shirts) were out and well, I deserved one!

I didn’t become a minimalist overnight, though sometimes it feels like it. Like one day I just woke up and decided the repetitive pattern of my life was not working and I wasn’t going to do it anymore. In reality though, it was more of a process than that. I did wake up one day and decide something needed to change and I remember that day as if it were yesterday.

It was just another Sunday in September of 2011. I was beyond tired from a week of running all over Colorado (some poor life choices at the time meant driving into downtown Denver every day for work after driving Angie half way to Black Hawk to catch a bus to the casino where she worked). I had started a decluttering project but failed to finish it and the apartment was covered in stuff – from bicycles to a bubblegum machine. But football was on and I just wanted to curl up on the couch and veg for the day. So I did. At the end of that day, I took out my journal and wrote one single sentence – if every day were Sunday, I’d be free.

The next day, as I sat in traffic on I-25 once again, those words came back to me. Why couldn’t every day be Sunday? Why did I have to be in this car? Why wasn’t I in control of my time? My life? My choices? On that highway, in the early hours of the morning, I made two decisions – every day would be Sunday if I wanted it to be and we were leaving Colorado.

And we did.

Less than a year later, we were in North Port, Florida, a city we had never even heard of before Googling “best places to live on the Gulf Coast”. The three years that we lived there laid the foundation for everything that was to follow. We learned to live on one income. We learned contentment, the kind that comes from just sitting on the porch watching the birds or making a meal from scratch. We learned to be resourceful. And we learned the meaning of true happiness.

Minimalism alone did not make it possible for me to quit my job last week but it sure helped.

When I look around the room right now, I see Angie sitting on the couch, her favorite blanket across her lap, reading a book. Her cup of coffee is tucked into the fold of the blanket, just to her right. Caesar is on her left. The sun is shining in through the open windows, greeting the new herbs we just planted yesterday in the windowsill. A vegetable soup is simmering on the stove for lunch, while mixed beans slow cook in the crock pot for tomorrow night’s dinner. It is Tuesday, yet it feels like a peaceful and relaxing Sunday.

As I raised my own cup of coffee to take a sip, the realization slowly settled upon me. Almost 8 years to the day that I wrote that single sentence in my journal, we have finally achieved the life I so longed for back then.

Every day is Sunday and I am now free.

If you had asked me in 2011, if I thought I’d be here today, I would have said no. The weight of the world sat on my shoulders then. We were knee deep in years of baggage – both physical and mental – and I couldn’t see a way to wade through. Angie worked 12 hour days at a menial job she hated and we spent our time off with people we had nothing in common with – the kind of “friends” that discourage growth and change. Our relationship was still new but it was tenuous at best. When we sat down that day in September to discuss the direction of our life together, we realized the only way out was to turn around. We need a new path, one that we chose together, and one that was free of the clutter of our past lives. Through persistence, lots of trial and error, and good communication (I can’t stress that one enough), we have come to the place we are today – ready to open a new page, in a new journal, and start a brand new adventure. 

If you are contemplating of your own life-changing adventure, our best advice – just do it. It may take a while to get to where you want to be, but you’ll never regret making the leap.