Find new purpose

Love-1At the very core of a minimalist lifestyle (and most lifestyles for that matter) is the necessity for purpose. As human beings most of us have the urge, and the drive to have something to feel passionate about, and pursue it. Once we have that something in our lives that we are passionate about, and we cultivate that passion, it gives us a very real sense of purpose.

For some of us that purpose is clear early on in life, and we spend our entire lives cultivating that passion. For others, we have many passions, many purposes that we pursue which we have at different periods in our lives. Either way, for those of us that have that need for purpose, it can be miserable to be caught in a phase in our lives when we have no purpose. Often times when we are in this situation, we are too bummed out to even pursue a new passion. I’ve seen many people, of many ages, who have been at exactly that phase of their lives. It usually follows a huge life changing event:

  • A parent who’s last child just moved out on their own.
  • A divorce.
  • Graduation.
  • Death of a loved one.

Once the majority of the grief or excitement of this phase has passed, we often feel emptiness inside that we mistake for just more grief. It’s not grief; It’s lack of focus, lack of passion, lack of purpose.

The first step in overcoming this is to recognize that this is the reason why we are so empty, so numb, so miserable. This is not so easy to realize in the wake of a major life change. It has been my experience that most people don’t realize this, at least not quickly; so I was inspired to write this essay. It is my hope that this will reach many going through this right now.

The second step is to find something we can be passionate about.

For some, after step 1, step 2 is easy. We just pursue a passion correlated with the life changing event. Graduation leads to a career in your field of study (Duh). If our husband/wife died of cancer, we may be driven to a career in the American Cancer Society, or start a foundation of our own. If our last child moved out ……… “let’s get pregnant again.”

For others, we may not have anything that we would feel passionate about doing. Maybe a graduate no longer has any interest in their field of study. Maybe the widow/widower has no urge to “fight the good fight.” Maybe the old parent is “done with kids.” Well I am here to tell those people: You better find renewed purpose, or the empty feeling inside will just grow. Not only that, but you will grow old quicker, get slower.

There was a time in my life when I was left without a fulfilling purpose. When this happened I considered many potential directions to give my life meaning. I would like to share some of these ideas. As not only are they very noble fulfilling purposes in general, but they also lend themselves to a minimalist lifestyle.

  1. Military service – Serving our country is considered one of the most fulfilling purposes there is.
  2. Volunteer in the Peace Corps – Building communities. Saving lives. Acquiring knowledge one might not otherwise acquire. Getting hands on experience. Excellent job and real life experience. Free room and board. This is still my plan “B” if I am ever at the crossroads again in life.
  3. AmeriCorps  – Basically the same as Peace Corps, only confined to America.
  4. Work/volunteer at a local United Way chapter – An excellent way to make a difference in our community.

When I was at this crossroad, I ultimately ended up choosing to become a husband, and a father soon after. Now I have very fulfilling purpose as a husband, father, and minimalist promoter/educator. I am also a cyclist, but I would not go so far as to say that is a purpose; definitely a passion though.

It is a big world, and there is a whole plethora of opportunity for purpose. One need merely look for it. And of all the opportunity, there will be at least one that will spark our interest. As long as we are alive, God still has purpose for us. It’s just up to us to find that purpose.

Minimalists come in all shapes and sizes

On-TargetWe all know that the minimalist pool of possessions is limited to only the things we use on a regular basis, the things that we value. Things, such that ownership of these things is necessary to use these things at the capacity we wish to. Therein lies the two factors that determine exactly that the size of our possession pool is going to be: Value and accessibility (or availability).

You see, there are all kinds of minimalists out there. Some live in apartments, some live in houses, some have multiple vehicles, some have none, some live in the city, some are country folk. But what they all have in common is that fact that they use everything that they own. That is what makes them minimalists. What makes the quantity of their possessions vary greatly from one minimalist to the next, is the fact that they have wildly different values. Also, their accessibility to the tools and resources needed to serve those values is a huge factor too.


Example: One minimalist has a passion for re-building classic muscle cars. Well in order to facilitate this passion this person would have to have a large space (usually a garage) where they could conduct their work. They would also have to have a plethora of tools to be able to carry out the re-building process. Oh, and a whole bunch of miscellaneous car parts. This passion, this value, demands tremendous “overhead.”

On the other hand a minimalist that has a passion for writing would not require so much overhead. Their work is more digital than anything else, and everything they need can be stored on their laptop computer.

Does this make Mr Mechanic any less of a minimalist then Mr Shakespeare? Of course not.


Example: One minimalist may live in the deep country. On the top of a mountain, at least 45 min from the nearest grocery store. As a result this person really “stocks up” during the once a month trip to the grocery store. They even have a giant freezer they keep in the cellar to hold giant slabs of beef, chicken, and pork. Big enough to be well stocked for the month and even longer in case access is cut off (natural disaster, snow storm, you never know in the country). This person has adapted well to their environment, and chosen to save a tremendous amount of time by not grocery shopping every week (like most of us do).

Another minimalist may live in a heavily populated city. They pass three different grocery stores on their ten minute walk from their job to their apartment. “Stocking up” is not only completely unnecessary, but an unnecessary drain on their resources (electricity and space), so they don’t even own a refrigerator. They eat their food fresh off the stand from the farmers market located just below their apartment. If they need frozen preserved food, the frozen food section in the grocery store next to the farmers market IS their refrigerator. This person has the accessibility to not require home food preservation and storage.


So a minimalist is not measured by the size of their possession pool, but instead by how they spend their time. Are they spending their time with intention toward a valuable end, or are the working toward a vague or unfulfilling end (just playing “Follow the leader”  their whole life).

Minimizing with children


ToysUshering a child into a minimalist lifestyle can be tough. I also believe that the method used for one child, might not work for another child. So with that being said, I can only describe the method we used (my wife and I) to enforce this lifestyle with our daughter.

Let me start by saying that I do not believe that the material possession limitations for children are the same as that for an adult. Since the world is new to them, and they’re still discovering, they tend to be more appreciative of all the gifts they get. As adults we’ve “been there and done that,” so we don’t hold as much value in Christmas Mug we got as a present from our aunt Jinny. Whereas my daughters eyes glow at the smallest insignificant trinket of a gift. It’s not so insignificant to her, just to me and my wife. As a result, a child’s supply of things (toys …. to be honest) is going to be larger than an adults. This brings us to rule 1:


1. Do not purge the child’s toys based on how we asses their value, but how the child assesses their value.


This cannot be done by merely asking the child if they wouldn’t mind getting rid of a certain toy (chosen at random), as they would no doubt say something similar to “NO daddy, I want it!” Instead we can asses how much a child values a toy by having a general idea of how often they even use the toy. For those toys that are seldom (if ever) used, put them aside for purging.

Ah, but we cannot just dispose of them yet, under their nose like that, as there is still a chance they will notice. This is a common mistake that risks losing the child’s trust, and if that happens we will never be able to get the child to fall in line with minimizing. So:


2. Get the child’s permission to dispose the toy.


Sounds impossible eh. Consider this. Since the child is not playing much with the toy, their concern is not that they will no longer be playing with the toy, but that the toy is being discarded. The concern is for the toy itself, not for the time they spend with it. Re-assure the child that the toy is going to be used and valued for another purpose, and then of course follow through with that purpose. In our case, we tell our daughter that since she doesn’t use it very much the toy will belong to another child that will love it and play with it a lot more than she does; a child that doesn’t have as many toys as she does. Then we either take it to consignment, donate it to a charity, or give it to a friends child. Our daughter has always responded positively to this.


Now my four year old daughter comes up to my wife all the time with a toy in hand and says “Mommy, we can midimize (not a typo) this toy mommy. Give it to the poor kids.”

I’m so proud.