No one expects to have their lives completely changed while watching Netflix.
But that’s exactly what happened to me.
On a nondescript day in December 2017, I sat down on my couch and turned on Netflix. One of the suggested documentaries was Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I checked to see how long it was, and I saw that it was relatively short. “Well,” I thought, “If it stinks, at least it’s only an hour and 15 minutes of my life.”
Over the short amount of time watching the documentary, I went from a reluctant viewer to a motivated life-changer. I was so motivated that—when my husband Will came home a few hours later—I immediately told him to sit down and watch the documentary with me. He, too, was reluctant at first.
But after watching the documentary, Will also agreed that God was speaking to us and calling us to live a more minimal lifestyle. We knew our lives had to change.
The definition for minimalism that I attempt to live by is:
A focus on the aspects of life that matter most, and intentionally removing everything else.
A minimalist aims to live life more simply by identifying what’s most important and then gradually removing anything that takes away from what matters most and/or is an obstacle to focusing on what matters most. By doing this, minimalists free up space, resources and lives to focus on what is most important.
There is no “right” way to be a minimalist. This lifestyle is prescriptive rather than restrictive. Minimalists own houses and have two cars. Minimalists own what only fits in a carry-on bag and travel the world. And minimalists are everywhere in between. This lifestyle is about finding what parts of life make sense to simplify right now. Minimalism is going to look different depending on life context—single folks living alone will live out this lifestyle very differently than married folks with kids.
After recognizing what’s most important in their lives, minimalists strive to cut out the excess. For most middle- and upper-class folks, this means shedding the incredible amount of material possessions owned and the extreme busyness cultivated by being overcommitted with time, talents and energy.
Will and I simplified our lives once we committed to minimalism. We donated or threw out 60% of our material possessions in six months. We got rid of our storage unit and downsized to a smaller living space since we didn’t need the extra space to store our excessive possessions anymore. We took steps to break bad habits related to shopping, spending money and consumption. We made lasting changes to consume intentionally. We stopped saying “yes” to everything and culled down our obligations to what was most important to us. And most importantly, we freed up time and energy to focus on our relationship with God and our spiritual growth.
Does the minimalist lifestyle interest you? Stay tuned for part two, in which we will explore the connections between minimalism and the Christian faith.