In the year and a half that I have been pursuing minimalism, I’ve learned that it is a growing trend in America. However, minimalism or simplicity has been a discipline for many throughout the centuries and in all different countries and cultures. After spending a month in Eastern Europe I noticed that there seems to be two kinds of minimalism. One that is necessary due to circumstances and one that is chosen.
Anyone who has visited Europe, or probably anywhere other than the USA has noticed that for the average person there is a smaller scale to life. Houses, cars, meals, rooms, beds, wardrobes, etc, almost everything is smaller. For the country I’ve been in this is paritally due to a less than stellar economy.
I know not everyone in Europe has chosen this “smaller” lifestyle and a simple life will look different for everyone whether they choose it or not. I am not getting into economics or policies here. What I’ve noticed in my time in another culture is that along with the minimalism so frequently found in cultures other than America, there seems to also be some of the benefits of minimalism being lived out as well. Less clutter, less junk, less excess. I would venture to say overall less stress. In the culture I’ve been immersed in there is a huge value placed on family, relationships and time spent together. If someone asks you to coffee, you better count on spending at least three hours with them. These are values they hold highly and with good reason.
I’ve also seen this in my earlier days growing up in eastern Kentucky. But these values seem to be in decline. The pace of just about everyone’s life seems maddening and unsustainable. We run and we rush and we don’t even know why.
I would argue and often remind myself that the quality of life most of us long for is not found in the constant addition of stuff and commitments, but in a paring down, a simplification of our lives to enjoy the things that matter most. To pursue the people, ideals, and creative outlets that mean the most. And this is by no means easy. My month away was one without a phone. I did have access to the internet, but didn’t check in as frequently as I do here. Upon arrival in the states and turning it on, there were immediately demands for my attention, time and money. Some of them are good things, some of them are things I want to do. But I cannot do everything. I am saying no and it is hard. Because I know what really matters most to me. And even though there are exciting things going on and people I want to see and things I want to do. I have figured out what I want to do most and the people I want to love on the most and I am choosing them.