Revisiting Minimalism

We can all learn from this practice that directs our focus to the things that matter
By Donna Martelli
Donna Martelli
Donna Martelli
Donna Martelli, formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, served on the dance faculty at Butler University, Indianapolis, and is now also a certified personal trainer, and certified Pilates instructor in Indianapolis, IN. She conducts classes, seminars, and workshops in the U.S. and Europe. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.
August 15, 2021 Updated: August 15, 2021

What do you think of when you hear the word “minimalists?” Perhaps you imagine, as I once did, a person with one outfit and a cot in a tiny one-room house. Their boring lives, deprived of pleasure, feature drab routines and blank walls, right?  Haha! Wrong! 

Permit me to shift your thinking as we look at this popular topic from a different angle. Think of minimalism as 1) a focus on what matters in life and 2) a removal of distractions that pull us from that focus. 

This involves realizing that acquiring more stuff won’t bring us more happiness. I think the main reason for the popularity of minimalism is because in the United States we have way too much stuff, and we’re no happier for it. In fact, with all the clutter, cost, and debt, we may even be unhappy because of it.

Clutter, clutter, clutter! It hurts us physically, mentally, and spiritually as well. It’s a frequent opponent to our purpose, always competing for our attention. I’ve felt this before, and you probably have as well: Clutter causes the air or the spirit around it to become confusing and stifling. It makes us feel ungrounded and disoriented, and living with it has the potential to lead us into fear, depression, and helplessness.

The primary goal of a minimalist isn’t to own as little as possible, but to clear out those things that either don’t matter or no longer matter. When we follow suit, we have time and space to grow, time to learn about our world, and, most importantly, clarity to seek ourselves. Not everyone will have the same approach, but the central principles remain. 

How do minimalists do it? They’ve learned to use filters to focus less on stuff and more on the crucial things in life. It makes me think of a horse with blinders that keep it from looking anywhere but straight ahead. No matter what we think about this subject, we can learn some valuable lessons from minimalists. Consider these practical points: 

Be aware of what you’re thinking of buying and ask yourself why you need it. Will it enhance your life, or will it take you on a rabbit trail of distraction? Is it something that’ll help you grow toward your purpose, or is it a “guilty pleasure” that you lustfully desire just for yourself?

It’s on sale; it’s a super deal! Beware, this is a frequent trap of effective marketers. Stop and ask yourself if you need it. If your intention is to shift away from a focus on stuff and toward a focus on your purpose, you won’t be so tempted by those little treats lining the checkout lane or discount rack. These items are a good deal only if you need them.

You’re not in competition with anyone. You don’t need the next incredible thing, no matter what advertisers try to convince you of. You can live without whatever it is. Stuff doesn’t give you more status; it brings more hassle and less financial firepower.

What makes you feel alive and happy? Go for it! With less stuff to maintain, clean, and care for, you’ll have more time to follow your passions and purposes. There’ll be more time for serious matters such as prayer and study.

Don’t waste anything. If it has value to you, you won’t be so inclined to discard it. Take care of sustainable things. Instead of buying a lot of cheap versions of something, purchase quality items that are more expensive in the short run but will ultimately give you more lasting service, making them a better value. And as a bonus, you’ll have nicer things in your home.

So, you see, you and I have a great deal that we can learn from minimalist thinking, no matter our goal. Following what we’ve learned here doesn’t produce a boring stripped-down life, but rather a richer one.

In summary, and I’m speaking to myself as well, let’s determine what’s most important in life and go after it. Let’s be intentional, choosing value and purpose over the acquisition of things. Most of us can see where we need to make changes. I think we instinctively know in our hearts what we need to do. I hope and pray that these principles of minimalism will help you, as they’ve helped me, to make better choices that will enhance your quality of life—and the lives of those in your circle.

As with any new path, it may seem strange at first. But stick with it, because it’ll enrich what truly matters in your life and give you more freedom to enjoy it.

Donna Martelli
Donna Martelli
Donna Martelli, formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, served on the dance faculty at Butler University, Indianapolis, and is now also a certified personal trainer, and certified Pilates instructor in Indianapolis, IN. She conducts classes, seminars, and workshops in the U.S. and Europe. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available on Amazon and wherever books are sold.