The Best Thing Minimalism Teaches Us

It took months and months before I was sure about my decision.

My old boots were wearing down pretty significantly and I knew the time was close. I considered a few different brands and styles, but as soon as I became familiar with one particular pair of boots, the competition faded from my mind.

I am rather frugal about the clothes I buy. Over the past few years, I’ve become more interested in owning less things that last longer rather than buying lots of things that wear out quickly. Cheaply made sweaters that stretch or tear after a couple seasons didn’t create a quality wardrobe. Shoes didn’t need to become a cycle of buy, wear, wear out, and toss in a landfill. When it comes to eating, a larger amount of food is cheaper but pay a little more for less quantity and get higher quality.

After 2 years absolutely tore up my old boots, wearing holes in the soles and scuffing down the fake leather exterior, I grew increasingly excited about the quality hand-made, Minnesota-crafted Red Wing Heritage Iron Rangers, a style that’s been worn over 100 years by farmers and miners in the Northland’s Iron Range. The thought of wearing something handmade in my home state made them all the more appealing.

I could have gotten another pair of trendy boots that would have worn out in another couple years, but I wanted something that could last.

Life is full of trade-offs:

We can choose a quick fix or we can search for a long-term solution. (tweet that)

It took a while to break in the sturdy leather boots and cork sole. My feet were pretty uncomfortable for weeks, actually. But it seemed fitting that a little temporary discomfort was required to get to a better experience eventually.

Collections Of Convenience

Maybe you’ve realized something about your life, how you tend to go for what’s convenient or easy at the time. Saying yes to more stuff is easier than saying no to the wrong stuff. Yet before we realize it, we’ve amassed belongings, beliefs, and habits that don’t do us any good. Having more seems comfortable for a while, but having what’s best is the most useful to us long term.

The things we collect—whether possessions stuffed in our closets, beliefs that we’re only as valuable as our performance, or habits that keep us chasing pleasure without fulfillment—become more like burdens than treasures. We can’t carry everything through life without the sheer weight of it all sapping our strength.

We can only carry so much.

I’m not saying we all must buy only high-quality, super-expensive cars, houses, wardrobes, and we must get rid of anything inexpensive. And I’m not saying we should never own anything at all. Maybe we could stand to release a few of those things and ideas and behaviors, like shedding heavy winter clothes in the heat of summer. We simply don’t need all that anymore. There is freedom beyond the weight we’ve carried. The decision to say “no more” rests in our hands.

Don’t Live For More; Live For Better

“A special kind of simplicity happens when you leave behind all things unnecessary, and even some necessary ones. There is no noise, no chaotic motion—just silence. All of a sudden feelings start to rise to the surface you didn’t even know you had. You start to think thoughts you didn’t realize you were capable of thinking. There’s an incredible clarity of mind that comes to you when you leave everything comfortable behind.” – Allison Vesterfelt

The point of life isn’t to gain the most things or to get rid of the most things. Life is about experiencing great moments and great things, seeing that God is the one providing everything we need and more. And in the end, it’s not really about the things as much as it’s about the people with whom we’re connected. [More on that another time.]

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What’s one thing you’ve learned to let go and one better thing you’ve picked up—whether a product, a belief, or a habit?

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Learn more about my book, which explores embracing change, holding things loosely, and learning to understand yourself and others through conflict and relationships. Subscribe to updates here.

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6 responses to “The Best Thing Minimalism Teaches Us

  1. John, I am familiar with Red Wings. I started wearing them in 1978 and have owned over 35 pair. Anymore I usually average one pair per year. They are not worth much when I get rid of them. My trade is tough on them, but they are good. I can wear out a lesser boot in just a couple of months.

  2. Great article! I have let go of a lot of bad habits and false beliefs and am aware of a few other things that I need to evaluate. My eating habits most specifically. When I am fasting on a fairly regular basis I don’t over eat or eat the wrong foods. I think its because when I complete separate myself from food for a time, my body realizes how much food it really needs and what types of food it can completely to without. I am contemplating starting a fast soon.

    • Thanks for reading and sharing, Emily. It’s refreshing to reevaluate the things we have, do, and think every once in a while to see what still works and what doesn’t.

  3. John: Just a week ago I was thinking about buying a new pair of shoes. I own a pair of Timberlands and a pair of Colombian version Crocs (really good ones). Since I wrote a post about Less is more if it is better, wanted to be consequent with my statements and bought a pair of 1460’s Dr.Martens. I’m still in the process you walked already adapting the leather but, I feel real good, I know they’ll last for years and will fit like cotton on my feet!

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