5 Minimalist Truths: A Labor Day Story

I’ve always wondered why people say they are “so blessed” (#blessed).

The truth is, we are very much in control of our choices and their impact. We shape our lives when we make simple decisions — whether consciously or unconsciously.

But gratitude is one of my favorite expressions, so I was very grateful that, when I called my best friend Sean to tell him we needed to have an adventure soon, he replied with, “That’s funny you should mention it…”

The cabin where I was to spend Labor Day, several miles from civilization (and away from wifi).

As it turns out, he’d been planning a vacation with another friend who had to cancel unexpectedly, and there was an available spot. This was a lifetime opportunity, too — a secluded lodge nestled in the mountains of Oregon that could only be accessed via a nine-mile hike, and once there, the place offered unlimited fly fishing, breathtaking landscapes, and some very peaceful moments for quiet meditation.

In my old life, I would have had to politely decline — there was no way I could have covered all of my shifts as a retail manager, found a housekeeper to cover any flips for my three Airbnbs, or found someone to respond to clients for my startup.

Although my life is much simpler these days, the week ahead still presented challenges. I had just returned to town from a yoga retreat in Stanley, Idaho and had plenty to do. There had just been a major shift within my company, and anxious thoughts ran through my mind. How was my vision going to change? How could I possibly get everyone up to speed while I was out of town? What emails needed to be sent?

But in this moment of gratitude for my friend’s generosity, I recognized what should be a priority — and what would have to wait. I needed time for self-care, I needed time to close a chapter. I needed time to reflect on my intentions and my passion for this endeavor. And I needed to quench a desire for some serious outdoor adventure.

After all, after my recent trip to Stanley, I had said, “I hope I can always find a way to get somewhere without wifi once a month.”

So, I agreed to an adventure that was very much off the grid. And I decided to do what I could in the next 72 hours; everything else would happen Tuesday after Labor day.

In the past year, I set out to live a simple life so I could have experiences versus just possessions. Yet this lifestyle remains a constant challenge. Yes, I minimized my possessions, but I am often still in work mode.

The reality for most Americans is that we work harder than we play — which often leaves us unfulfilled. We might enjoy a Sunday afternoon hike, but to be honest: how often do the responsibilities of Monday creep into the corners of our thoughts and distract us from our joy of living in the now?

We mistakenly think self-care means getting a pedicure while we answer emails and catch up on social media. We might enjoy a trip to our favorite retail store or shopping center, but these activities are usually only a quick fix — they may bring us happiness, but this kind of happiness has a very short shelf life.

The truth is, a life that depends on possessions isn’t one that brings lasting fulfillment.

While a handbag lasts as long as the bag is functional (and the bill for it may contribute to an overwhelming amount of debt), experiences last a lifetime. And our experiences, when carefully chosen, may calm and comfort the soul — leaving us refreshed and enthused about our lives and our passions.

That was the case with my trip to the secluded mountains of Oregon.

While on this trip, I met an endearing couple who asked what I do for work. Whenever the subject arises, I respond that I’m a minimalist coach but usually remove the focus from me so no one has to feel awkward or think that I have been assessing their belongings. However, the conversation quickly turned back to my profession, and they asked some great questions.

The wood-fired hot tub where we spent many nights looking up at the stars.

One I frequently hear is, “How do you get people to give up their stuff?”

The fact is, I don’t.

I simply help my clients establish their own truths and empower them to walk their own journey — while being a support or guiding hand. Each person is working at their pace and discovering what works for them.

In minimalism, there is no end destination.

Rather, once you start down the path, you begin to peel back layers of habits and behaviors that do not support your truths. This process is ongoing and requires constant self-assessment: Why are you purchasing? What purpose does this bring? etc.

Here are some truths I’ve found are important to establish when I begin working with a client. On my own journey, I am also constantly reminding myself of these things.

  1. Intentional experiences help mold who we are. They can take us to our happy place and can bring a lifetime of joyful memories. They can also help us identify what is important in our lives. On the flip side, possessions have a limited life span — and sometimes require us to carry both literal and figurative debt in order to have them. In other words, you may have felt giddy when you purchased an expensive handbag, but how do you feel after you’ve owned it for a year or longer?
  2. Try to create white space for the mind to rest and reflect. A good way to do this is by traveling to a new place, where you’ll have accommodations in a hotel or in a room that is not yours. During my recent trip to the mountains, we brought only what we could carry on our backs. Even as a minimalist, I found areas I had overindulged. In each cabin, there was a chair, two nightstands, and an armoire that housed towels and other extra linens. There were no paintings or shelves — not even a closet, just four hooks on the wall. And yet the space provided us with the essentials. The experience reminded me how little I really needed.
  3. The value of our possessions lies in their purpose. It’s a good idea to ask: if something is not being used, then what is its purpose?
  4. Let go of things in a timely manner — while they are still relevant and someone else can utilize them for their intended purpose. My favorite example, as a women we have our thin clothes and our fat clothes we keep these two wardrobes (just in case). Here is the deal. You may think you are going to lose 15 pounds, but if you have no real plans to make that happen, those skinny jeans are losing style relevance. This means that, by the time you get around to wearing them again, boot cut jeans are back in style. Instead, consign what you are not wearing today and know that you can replace items if you need them down the line. (Please chose consignment clothing for these moments.)
  5. What does your freedom look like? Is it more time with your family, is it a lazy morning, travel, outdoor adventure, leaving civilization for three days a month? Establish what it is that really fills your cup then set your goals around that.

Recalling these truths helped me to align my choices with my priorities when I was presented with an unforgettable holiday weekend.

I hope you also had an opportunity to share a few moments with friends and family — or maybe you were able to celebrate your life’s passion or simply enjoyed a quiet space to express gratitude for all your hard-won accomplishments.