There’s a lot of buzz around what’s known as the “minimal lifestyle,” and I have to say, I’m a bit skeptical. I love the 850-square foot home I share with my three kids and our 110-pound dog, but, well, a little more room would sometimes be nice. Especially when two high schoolers are elbow-to-elbow at the dining room table, fighting over space to do their homework (the bedrooms are too small for desks).
But I also recognize the freedom that comes when you have to adapt your life to smaller spaces. I went from having a walk-in closet to no closet at all. Four bathrooms to two. A big, messy garage to none.
Now when I open the door to my IKEA wardrobe in the morning, I’m not overwhelmed by choice. Paring down is liberating, especially for the mind. The insignificant things start to take a backseat in life. And that frees up time and headspace for the significant things, the stuff of life that deserves our focus.
While much of today's minimalist movement centers around decidedly secular ideals, it grows wings when we apply it to a more spiritually-driven life. Not specifically Christian, or Buddhist, or Islamic, but any and all “spiritualities” that practice improving the lot of people, as opposed to simple self-improvement. Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less: Finding the Life You Want Under Everything You Own, doesn’t specifically address the spiritual or humanitarian component of minimalism in his post “The Helpful Guide to Living and Intentional Life,” but he may as well have. All of the spot-on points he makes—framed as advice to high school students—are just the kinds of things Ray Sabin, consummate seeker, would have endorsed. Here are just a few.
Evaluate the culture you’re swimming in: If it doesn’t fit your value system, swim somewhere else (exactly what Ray and his family did when they moved from the Unitarian fold to the Bruderhof of Paraguay in the 1950s).
Set goals and stay focused: What Ray did when he gave up his job to pursue a degree in theology, and then again when he and his family saved for a year to pay for the month-long passage to Paraguay.
Define a purpose and decide to live your life: The motivating, fuel-injected question that drove Ray forward: what is our purpose, and how can we best serve it? He didn’t always get it right. But he never stopped trying.