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My family recently joined the ranks of an ever increasing fringe of simple living crusaders. We became minimalists. In the fall of last year, we put our house up for sale and began to sort through our belongings to decide what we could keep and what we could live without. The importantance behind this inventoring was the fact that we were scaling down our living quarters…quite a bit. While at the time, we lived in a modest 3 bedroom/2 bath brick ranchstyle home with a full finished basement, we were pairing down to a 250 sq.ft camper. Now, consider that all the cool tiny house shows you see on HGTV and DIY Network show tiny homes of around 500 sq ft. Our family of 4 plus 2 dogs and a cat were venturing to live in half the space of a tiny home. So, with that destination came the tremendous task of minimalizing our tastes, our needs, and our desires.

I know how to live on almost nothing or with everything. I have learned the secret of living in every situation, whether it is with a full stomach or empty, with plenty or little. Phil 4:12

We are not minimalists. Minimalism for the sake of having very little or reaching the goal of having very little is both arduous and depressing. We weren’t going toward monasticism. It wasn’t about just getting rid of things. We believe in a philosophy called “minimal effective dose”. This means, what is the least amount of anything it takes to be effective at reaching its desired goal. Let me give you an example. In the 70’s the famous body building trainer Arthur Jones coached Arnold Swartzenneger and Franco Columbo using a method of obtaining muscle hypertrophy and growth using ‘MEDs’ minimal effective dose, his approach worked, amazingly. Later, books like Body By Science and The 4 Hour Body would be written about it. It doesn’t take days and hours in a gym to get the same effects with what you can do just one day a week for a few miniutes. Believe me, I’ve tried the MED method and it works. So if it works in fitness, can it work in life? Yes. Don’t be a minamilist…just figure out, what is the minimal effective dose for life, happiness, sustanance, etc.

How did we do it? We followed these simple observances.

  1. What do we actually NEED?

There are 4 of us. Do we really need 20 plates, piles of bathroom towels, cabinets full of things we forgot about? We began to scale down starting with what we didn’t need at all.

2. What are we not sure about needing?

Some things are seasonal. Some things are occasional. Some things are “I may use that again” type assets. For these items, we put in storage. This way, we don’t have it cluttering up our space. We kinda dont have it anymore, but just in case- its there. Let’s see how much we miss it. After 4 months, we didn’t miss it and forgot what all we had stored away. So, we got rid of even more stuff!

3. What brings us joy?

We sound like horrible parents asking our boys to go through their toys and get rid of the majority. Hold on now, we’re talkng about boxes, chests, closets, piles on the floor toys! Toys they didn’t even know they had! I asked my youngest, what toy(s) ACTUALLY bring him joy. “My army men”, he said. Yes, those little green plastic molded army men found at the Dollar Store, not the expensive electronic doohickies. “Then those are the toys you need to keep”, I assured him. My children found new joy and appreciation for what actually entertained them. For me, my musical instruments and books. Isn’t this the point? Getting the the minimal effective dose of things that sustain us and bring us joy?We found out that a refrigerator the size of a suitcase is plenty of room to store the foods we love. We no longer have that mysterious moldy thing hiding in the back, glowing and festering. 

So, now we have the things we actually need. We have the things that actually bring us joy. We have the ability to roam, play, and live more freely without anchors. We don’t even lock our camper when we leave! Theres nothing to steal! We laugh now, and look around at how free and happy we are. We’re not a minimalist family. We are a minimal effective dose family. I think that is a win/win.