Do every act of your life as if it were your last
I just finished reading the e-book Inside-Out Simplicity, by Joshua Becker. Mr. Becker is the author of Becoming Minimalist – a popular blog “dedicated to inspiring others to pursue minimalism and simplicity.” What I like about Mr. Becker’s blog, is that I can relate on a personal level with what he has to say, in that his typical family of four has managed to simplify their life while living in the suburbs. I have a family, I live in the suburbs and I have simplified my life as well. It’s possible folks - no need to be mainstream or mundane if you don't want to! His family and my family are living in the same type of place as a lot of other people, yet our lives are far from ordinary and we are minimalists.
Now don’t get me wrong – I am fascinated by persons who can live with less than 100 items, work for themselves, from anywhere in the world, move at whim, etc., (Everett Bogue I worship you) and I just might try it myself one day. But for now I am content with the comfort of our modest, cozy home and, as a musician, the convenience of having my recording/rehearsal studio on premises. It is also a great place to live with my dog, cats, bunny, beloved husband first and foremost of course, and our darling 19 year old daughter who is going to college and has not yet left the nest. Right now, with all of my minimalist heart, this is where I want to be.
In Mr. Becker’s words, Inside-Out Simplicity “. . . goes well beyond the external fixes to our complicated lives and focuses on the heart issues required for a simplified life. It is based on the premise that a truly simplified lifestyle begins in a person’s soul.” I know from personal experience that no amount of budgeting and un-cluttering is going to make you happy if you are emotionally and spiritually all out of whack, which is why I bought it in the first place. If you are interested in buying it too, the link is conveniently located in my right sidebar, under "Books you might want to check out."
The focus is healthy relationships, the most important relationship being the one that we have with ourselves. Mr. Becker speaks of our potential to do great things with our lives, by living intentionally and on purpose rather than allowing ourselves to slip into mediocrity and being just like everybody else. He offers some practical advice, from his own experience as to how to go about doing just that. Bravo.
He also talks about simplifying our relationship with others through generosity, kindness, service and forgiveness. With the exception that I am leery of being of too much service to others, I think the foundations he sets forth are sound. He also encourages us to compete less and encourage others more – that it is the experience, not the winning or losing that counts and that in encouraging others, we share in their success, much as he shared in the success through the companionship of his fellow runners in a recent marathon.
There is a great chapter entitled “Our Relationship With Our Spouse.” He outlines the essentials of a healthy marriage as being love/commitment, sexual faithfulness, humility, patience/forgiveness, time, honesty/trustworthiness, communication and selflessness. I feel he is spot on! He also talks about keeping simplicity from driving you apart. What do you do if one of you is a minimalist and the other is a hoarder/pack rat? I agree with him as well when he says that “50% minimalism is better than 0.” He encourages us to refuse to allow stuff to separate us, to start with ourselves – purging our own personal items, to set an example, to find common ground, to be patient and to tread wisely in that one’s insecurity in giving up certain items may be indicative of some “deep heart wounds.” When it comes down to it, my husband’s feelings are a lot more important to me than whether or not we continue to store a couple of boxes of stuff that he feels is important. (You also might want to check out Tammy Strobel's blog on How to Negotiate Downsizing).
Some parents envision what they want their child to be, only to be terribly disappointed when they end up being an anthropologist rather than a professional baseball player, after all that money they spent on batting lessons and all that time spent coaching their little league team. Other parents are too busy chasing the mighty dollar and spending it, or too consumed with their addictions, to pay their children any attention at all, allowing the world around them to shape them. According to Mr. Becker, “parenting is 100% parents trying to shape lives and 100% children choosing their own life. Strategic parents give time, energy, and intentionality to raising their children, but give them the freedom to make their own decisions. It is a difficult balance that varies from child to child with no set rules.” His chapter on “Our Relationship With Our Children” provides some practical advice on being intentional, giving them what they really need – love, encouragement, stability, opportunity, laughter, discipline, a lap to sit on, room to make mistakes, and lots of hugs and kisses. He also speaks of teaching them the value of real things over material items and lists 15 things that children should value over material possessions – encouraging them to embrace minimalism, and of the valuable lessons that we as parents learn from them. Right on!
In his chapter on "Our Relationship With Money", Becker provides some guidelines to help you own money rather than having your money own you, how NOT to allow advertisers to control your life, and how to counter consumerism. He speaks poignantly of the impact on society if people wanted less rather than more – less hunger, less poverty, less war, less environmental pillaging and less crime too. Unfortunately, through our life experiences, the desire for more is often ingrained in us from the time we are born. But are these desires innate in us? In my opinion no, and I agree with Mr. Becker when he says “even if we cannot change the rest of the world we can change our own lives” with the end result being more happiness, peace, gratitude, friendship, less stress, and less jealousy. Whew.
One of my favorite chapters is the one on “Why Our Words Matter”. It never fails to amaze me how some people don’t think about the words that come out of their mouth – spewing horrendous, harmful, hateful and rude things, which I can only classify as “verbal vomit”. I often wonder if they feel terrible about it later, I know I would. I agree with Mr. Becker whole heartedly when he recommends that you keep your words simple, kind, gentle, pleasant, honest, and wise. Embrace honesty, avoid gossip, encourage others.
Mr. Becker also has chapters on “Why Our Sexuality Matters” and “Why Our Spirituality Matters”. These chapters are both thought provoking, but I am not going to go into depth on his discussions, as these areas are personal to all of us. In his own words:
“At some point during your reading, you are going to disagree with me (I assume the chapters on sexuality and spirituality will be particularly debated). Or at least, it is my hope that you disagree at some point along the way. This book is meant to challenge your heart at its deepest levels. It is meant to make new ideas plausible. Therefore, I hope you disagree at some point . . . and that new ideas cause all of us to think harder about this journey called life. And may we all become better because of it.”
The final chapter is entitled “Stop Chasing Success and Seek Significance.” Well I am all over that one! Mr. Becker encourages you to consider the limitations of success versus the advantages of significance, pointing out that success ebbs and flows, success ends on the day you die, and the thirst for success is never satisfied, while significance carries on and satisfies the soul. He provides some practical points in seeking significance, and in the perfect ending to his book says,
“Rarely do people look back on their lives and savor their professional achievements. Instead, they celebrate the impact they have had in the lives of others. Give yourself much to look back and celebrate. Stop chasing success. Start seeking significance”.
If you haven’t already guessed it, I am giving this book the thumbs up! If you are interested in purchasing "Inside-Out Simplicity", I have conveniently posted the link in my right sidebar of my blog (under the picture of me playing the piano.) You might also like Mr. Becker's other book "Becoming Minimalist" - the link for that book is there too. Incidentally, the books in my side bar are all recommended by me and a whole lot better for you than watching TV.
Now go on out and live your extraordinary lives, and remember that I love you,