I’ve talked about some of the epiphanies I had along the way that brought me to exploring a minimalist life, and I’ve talked about some of the challenges to getting started. Today, I want to talk about action. At Somebody’s Mama, the third part of our mission statement is that we "turn ideas into action.” Not only is this a core value at my non-profit, but it’s a phrase that comes up over and over in my daily life.
I’m a dreamer. I am. The visionary side of my brain runs things most of the time, whether it’s thinking about a new story I want to write, planning our next vacation, or organizing projects for Somebody’s Mama. My mental life is constantly churning out ideas about the next big thing, and frankly, living in the ongoing idea cycle can be exhausting. Can you imagine if all the words stayed in my head and I never wrote them down as books or blog posts? Can you imagine if I spent all my time mapping out the best summer road trip but never booked the hotels? Can you imagine if I never emailed the right people to establish partnerships for the Somebody’s Mama community? To put it simply, all that energy would be pointless.
We can talk and think and brainstorm and ideate all day long, but if we don’t actually take the steps to DO something, we end up feeling even more frustrated than when we started.
I’ve compiled a short list of blogs and books that I’ve found helpful along the way. If you are feeling compelled but overwhelmed, learning about other people’s experiences will allow you to pick and choose the action steps that apply to your style of living. What I’ve learned is that minimalism will look different to everyone. My single friends with no kids will have different challenges than me. Someone who lives in the suburbs will have different space constraints than someone living in a big city.
Specific considerations to our different scenarios aside, these resources have all been helpful as I’ve tried to move from “I really wish our life was simpler” to “Look what we’ve done!”
THE LIFE-CHANGING MAGIC OF TIDYING UP by Marie Kondo
I have to start here because this is the book that swept the nation a couple of summers ago. It’s certainly not my favorite of these books as some of the content was hard to envision in my house. However, the root of the message found its way into my everyday living and was the impetus for me to change the way I looked at things in general. Kondo’s main idea is that we should only keep things that “spark joy.” When I started using this as my measure, I was able to let go of things that I’d stared at with apathy and even disdain. You can ask my people—it’s not unusual to see me walk through a room, pick something up and say out loud “You don’t spark joy” before adding it to the current “to go” box.
THE MORE OF LESS by Joshua Becker
Of all the books, this is the one that lit a fire hot enough for me to get moving. Becker’s writing style is very approachable. In addition to the book, I joined a 12-week course he designed to help structure my efforts. I needed this—I thrive when there’s a plan of action—and the Uncluttered Course gave me assignments every week to keep me on track and not leave me feeling debilitated by looking at the big picture. The course also provided a Facebook group of people who were completing the course at the same time. Some people took the course as a first step and posted pictures of crammed pantries and overflowing closets. Others took the course as a check-up and posted pictures of pristine kitchens (by my standards) with very little work to be done. Having a cohort of sorts helped me define what minimalism looked like for our family.
THE JOY OF LESS by Francine Jay
I scoured articles on Francine Jay’s blog for a long time before finally picking up her book, which provides a comprehensive approach to minimalism. The thing I love about Jay’s work is the idea of “decluttering your fantasy self.” This became another mantra in my journey to get out from under my stuff. My fantasy self was holding onto a bunch of serving trays and baking dishes, when in real life I don’t cook that often and honestly don’t enjoy hosting meals in my home. I’m not saying I got rid of everything in my kitchen—I just got rid of the things that I had because of “one day…” My fantasy self also does arts and crafts a lot more than my real self, so paring down those supplies became an act of freedom from that nagging question of “What if I need to use this someday?” Again, I didn’t throw out every marker, glue stick, and pair of scissors in the house, but I did let go of the idea that we needed ALL of it. Sometimes the fantasy self is based in the future (I’m going to have time to do this later), and sometimes it’s based in the past (I was a homeschool mom, so there was a time that all of those supplies really did get put to use). Decluttering the fantasy self allows me to live in the present and enjoy the person I am RIGHT NOW. The last third of this book walks the reader “room by room” with a plan, and I’m currently working through her method as a follow up to what I started with Joshua Becker’s course.
ESSENTIALISM by Greg McKeown
This book was recommended to me after I started posting about minimalism by my dear friend, Belinda Bauman, who was the reason I climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro last March. Her family is in the middle of a big transition—new jobs, big move across the country—and she told me it has been life changing as they move to a new town, a new life really. I picked it up and read it in one sitting. McKeown streamlines the philosophy behind living essentially. While the other books I’m suggesting focus on the practicalities of getting rid of literal stuff, I found this book so inspiring when it comes to using my time and energy efficiently. If you are someone who wishes you had more time in your day or feels tired at the end of every day, START HERE. If you aren’t willing to confront the bad choices you are making when it comes to your schedule and day to day priorities, taking a few bags to Goodwill is not going to bring you peace.
I’ve used all my words for this post, so I guess that means I’ll have to write another one! In my last post, I’ll talk about some of the rewards of pursuing minimalism that I’ve already enjoyed. Until then, happy reading!