Earlier this week I was given an accidental gift. It was a reminder that living a minimal lifestyle is about living with fewer things that weigh us down. You see, when I read an interesting article or come across information that I can use in my business, I leave the window open on my iPhone. It becomes a sort of to-do list for me and had grown to about 20 open windows.
One day my husband picked up my phone to text our daughter and, thinking he was being helpful, closed every one of those files.
At first I was in shock. How would I ever remember what was on that to-do list? Some of them had been there for months. And then I realized… not one of the items on that list was life or death. I put them there myself and was being held captive by them. The fact that they went away, was actually a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. My husband just removed 20 items from my to-do list instantly. It truly was a gift.
Feeling revitilized by the relief, I proceeded to delete 4000 emails cluttering my mailbox. I have at least another two thousand to go. But in doing so, I came across an article I was saving from Minimalist Joshua Becker titled What I Learned About Minimalism in Poland.
I really enjoy Joshua’s weekly articles and save them to read during my down-time. I enjoy them because Joshua is able to put into words the concepts of minimalism and living with less to enjoy life more.
I was so moved by the message in this one particular article and the connection to my Polish heritage that I had to share it with you.
Joshua was invited to speak on the topic of minimalism to a group of people in Poland. To understand the full setting, you first need to understand a little about the past lives of the people sitting in the audience. So this story begins with a little history lesson which I’ve summarized from Joshua’s original article and which is important for you to understand the full message.
WWII began when German and Soviet armies advanced into Poland, each from opposite sides of the country, taking over each area as they advanced toward eachother. In an attempt to further destroy Poland’s identity they proceeded to kill Polish influencers (clergy, noblemen, Polish intelligence).
In Hitler’s later attempts to defeat the Soviets, the city of Warsaw was tossed back and forth between the two powers, which left the territory completely destroyed. Warsaw’s population dropped to 150,000 from its original 1.3 million.
Following WWII, Poland continued under Soviet influence and Communist Party rule. By now, you can imagine how little those families that survived had. In Joshua’s article he tells you of his conversations with his Polish interpreter and how as a child he remembers people standing in long lines waiting for loaves of bread.
It wasn’t until what seems like yesterday to me, 1991, that Poland moved to a democratic, free-market, capitalism-based society and things began to change for the wartorn country.
As you read through Joshua’s article about this country that was ripped apart and destroyed and of families who had nothing, you begin to wonder why Joshua was there speaking of the benefits of minimalism. These people lived it without choice.
You can feel Joshua’s struggle with his audience as you continue to read and I wanted to jump through the page, shake him by the shoulders, and tell him to look deeper at who you’re speaking to. Look at your audience.
But, as you continue to read, you realize Joshua also recognized the vast difference in this audience from Poland who lived minimalism without a choice and those of us here in the USA.
You can almost hear him sit back in his chair, take a deep breath, and turn the page.
Here in the USA, our oversized homes are filled with thousands of possessions, most of which are never used on a daily or weekly basis. We collect and store things and our homes become so over-crowded we have to have garage sales just to make space for new things.
The similarity and obsurdity of the first Hunger Games movie where the artistocratic characters show how they drink a liquid that makes them vomit just so they can stuff themselves with more food is too real.
So what was the new message Joshua portrayed to this audience? This audiece that had lived minimalism, without choice, and was now moving into a free-market era of new entrepreneurs? This audience that would now be able to accumulate items because of their new-found wealth.
I’m sure you can hope, as I did, that he wouldn’t disappoint.
His message that day…
Take every advantage of your freedoms and entrepreneurial opportunities. However, in so doing, do not lose sight of the things that matter most. And keep your passions centered on pursuits that matter in the long run. – Joshua Becker
The organizer of the event added to that in explaining that the people of Poland had their identity taken by force. But many of us here in the USA (and other countries) loose it because we are held captive by our possessions.
Remember how I was telling you how I felt I was held captive by my to-do list?
Imagine the creativity and personality that would flow out of each of us if we didn’t have so many material possessions or to-do’s that define it for us. Wouldn’t we go on more adventures or have longer conversations with our families and friends? I like to think so.
So MY message for you as we move through this holiday season is be aware, be thoughtful, and be intentional about the gifts you give. Choose items because they are necessities and add value to a person’s life and not just because you feel the need to give a gift. Because sometimes giving too much can hold us captive in our own homes.
Stay with me as we talk more this week about choosing gifts and creating a cozy home even as you lean toward a more minimal lifestyle.
Have a wonderful day!