My blog has been quiet for a long while now as other priorities have dominated my time, but some things are on my mind that I'd like to share. It's Giving Tuesday, a "holiday" fabricated to counter the rampant consumerism of Black Friday weekend. My social media feeds, like everyone else's, have been filled with ads all weekend encouraging me to buy. Today as my feed turned from buying to giving, it made me reflect on how my minimalism journey has affected my mindset towards abundance and generosity.
It's very easy to focus on the things that we lack. There are things we wish we could afford but can't. Things we hope to have someday, and constant advertisements in our consumer-focused culture are ever present to remind us of things we don't have. We continually write shopping lists, grocery lists, wish lists, and this naturally creates a feeling of need. My husband is currently in his fourth year of medical school and we have three young kids. I won't give you the details, but our financial situation involves a mountain of unavoidable student debt and a lot of dreaming about the days when all of this work will pay off!
Minimalism has switched my mindset from lack to abundance, from "we're so poor" to "we have so much!" And to me, one of the biggest purposes to minimalism is to be able to channel your time, energy, and resources away from the meaningless to the meaningful. That could mean being able to financial contribute to charities, freeing up your time to volunteer or many other things.
This concept kind of clicked for me when a vlogger I followed went on a spending fast. She committed herself to going a certain amount of time without spending any money, and whatever money she saved, she gave to charity. The purchases she typically would have made were not big sacrifices to forgo, but they made the difference between her being able to give to others. For some reason, this illuminated the concept of fasting for me. In my religion, members are encouraged to fast one day out of every month. We skip breakfast and lunch, and the money we would have spent on those two meals, we donate to those in need (there is deeper spiritual purpose behind the practice, but the charitable benefit is something of a bonus.) In a very physical, tangible way, this is giving up something you want (or need) for someone who needs it more. And in our society, there are many things we don't necessarily want or need, that we have just because, that if we were willing to live without, others who are suffering could greatly benefit.
It's kind of a no brainer that if you become more intentional about your spending and stop spending money on things you don't need, you'll have more freedom to give, but I'll give you a couple other examples of how minimalism sparked an abundance mindset for me.
Like many a minimalist, the early stages of my journey found me engaging in the great initial purging of the closet. I can't tell you how many times I had said or felt "I have nothing to wear!" But there is a certain absurdity that accompanies that statement when every item of clothing you own is piled on your bed and you're staring down a pile of all the shirts you own and its number is pushing triple digits. Turns out I did, in fact, have plenty to wear. In fact, I surely had enough there to make it through three lifetimes. My wardrobe still isn't nearly as small as I hope for it to someday be (turns out I'm a baby-stepper in this realm) but I will never again say "I have nothing to wear" unless I don't own enough shirts to make it Sunday through Saturday.
The sister to that statement is "there's nothing to eat!" Oh, how many times I have said this as I scanned a refrigerator full of alleged food, wondering "what is all this stuff?" Applying minimalism to my fridge and pantry has proved to require a lot of planning and creativity (and involves much eating of the last two inches of cereal and chips) but is seriously satisfying. In September I participated in a food challenge -- for a whole month, eat only food you already have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry, supplementing with only about $25 worth of fresh groceries a week. I very quickly went from thinking "there's nothing to eat, we need groceries" to "we have SO much food!" I realized it would literally take us months and months (and much strategizing) to eat entirely through the contents of our fridge, freezer, and pantry. Unless the fridge is truly empty besides condiments (which has, um, never happened since the day we moved in) there probably is, actually, something to eat as long as I'm willing to get a little creative.
In so many areas, minimalism has demonstrated to me that what I have is not only sufficient, but often far exceeds my needs. Deciding that I myself need less enables me to see abundance in my own life, leading me to find I have more to give.