In quarantine, we have the opportunity to examine the state of our lives before all the upheaval and how we want to move and act when things return to normal. Books on minimalism, slowing down, and valuing the simple things in life have gained popularity in the last few years. They all say the same thing: we are living life on autopilot and we need to consciously decide the best way to live. I agree.
The best life you can live is one according to your values. The intentional one. You should choose your morning routine and your night routine. You should choose how you spend your free time. Even if you don’t choose your job or your financial situation, you should choose who enters your life and what enters your life. In order for you to have the life you desire, you choose what best fits your life design.
The books recommended are books that I have read that really get to different parts of being intentional about your life – with your actions and with your things. When you say yes to something, you are always saying no to something else.
The Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
John Mark Comer works as a pastor in Chicago and he was noticing as his work grew and he began having more services, he began to feel less control of his life. When we continue to take on more activities and more job titles, we have less time to relax and assess our daily lives. Given a quote Comer had heard from Dallas Willard, “you must ruthlessly eliminate hurry from your life”, Comer began to take active steps to take control of his life.
The book is split up into four practices for unhurrying your life: silence and solitude, sabbath, simplicity, and slowing. While some might pass this book by due to its religious affiliation, I encourage you to look past that for the insight that it brings. For example, the American culture used to regularly have a sabbath. Before the ‘60s, the blue laws would force stores to shut down for religious reasons. Now, things are open until 11:00 encouraging people to buy and spend time being active.
One of my greater takeaways from this book was understanding how much my world was filled with noise. Think about it. How often do you put on a podcast, listen to music or turn on the TV when you’re bored? It is so easy to teach ourselves not to be so quick to reach for external noise. We can sit still in the midst of something simple, doing laundry or washing the dishes and hear the birds chirp outside. Feel your soul settle. Let it find some rest.
The More of Less
A while back, when I first wrote about minimalism, I watched a documentary called Minimalism and this book feels like a continuation. Joshua Becker had this simple experience cleaning his garage one morning and it launched his desire to declutter his life and make space for the things that matter to him. Think about your garage. Is it full of stuff that you don’t have space in your house for? That’s how it is at home for me.
The book takes you through Becker’s journey – how he and his wife downsized their belongings and created the website The Minimalists. It also goes through other people’s experiences. Your journey of minimalism won’t look the same of someone else’s. You may not want to own only 100 things. You may like having throw pillows and art around your home. This book teaches that you decide what your journey looks like. There is no one size fits all because your life is different and what matters to you is specific to who you are.
We are tempted to believe that once we remove all the extra items that add no value to our lives, we will feel empty. The emptiness is actually freedom. It’s freedom that we haven’t quite yet used to turn into action for what matters in our lives. For example, after decluttering your home of clothes and downsizing your home, you may have an increase of income. Before automatically buying yourself a new car or more clothes to add to your collection, you could add that money to your kid’s college fund. You could save for a new vacation. You could set money aside for your retirement. This money would have never created space for something that mattered to you unless you did the work of decluttering. Decluttering is hard but it makes you consider what is valuable to you and why it matters.
The Common Rule
Justin Earley was a UVA grad who moved to China for mission work and felt a calling to come back to the U.S. and begin to do law. After months of digging into his work, he began having health problems that were affecting his work and his family. As a last resort, he and his friends wrote down some daily and weekly habits to help him keep boundaries between his work and his rest. He credits these habits to restoring his health and bringing joy back to his life.
I first came across Justin Earley in my first year of college. He came to speak to the IV chapter, and he spoke eloquently of his journey and why these habits were so vital to his life. Recently, I heard him give another talk about why habits matter in the midst of the pandemic and how they lead to endurance and discipline. His book walks you through the daily and weekly habits he continues to follow to this day. Some are setting aside one day to rest, having a meal with your family, fasting from something, and having a conversation with a friend. As with John Mark Comer, Earley’s religious beliefs define his habits but their simple nature makes it easy to begin applying to your daily life almost immediately.
The habit I’ve implemented and tested for myself was reading Scripture before my phone. You can switch this to reading in general before your phone, exercising, etc. These days, it is quite easy to pick up my phone first thing and scroll through. There is nothing calling for my time and I can lay in bed until I feel like getting up. What we do first in the morning forms our day. Reading Scripture, according to Earley, conforms us to the character of God. For you, if it’s exercising, you are taking care of your body and of your health before you are taking care of the daily tasks you have before you. It’s so easy to think that our habits are not as big a deal as we’d like them to be, but they have a way of shaping us and as good habits build, we are being shaped into the people we want to become, not the people we automatically become by default.
Some more recommendations:
To Hell With the Hustle – similar to the Ruthless Elimination of Hurry
Garden City – a book on work and rest
Essentialism – getting down to what is most necessary in life
The actions you take should be those you choose in order to live an intentional life. Friends, you have the chance to make the best of life as you can. You would do well to do the things that matter to you, not take care of the things that don’t. I highly recommend these books to get you thinking about the best way you can live for your greater good.
If you have any book recommendations, leave them down below! I am always looking for new books to read. Have a great day, friends!