A faint smell of smoke wafted across our porch one summer afternoon, and I wondered which neighbor was barbecuing. It turned out that nobody was. Within an hour, helicopters circled overhead while police hurried to issue immediate evacuation orders to twenty-five households.
The cop at my front door explained that there was an uncontained bushfire a quarter-mile away. Firefighters were struggling to stop the flames that rapidly approached our residential area. My calmness surprised me as I thanked our policewoman for the information and offered her a soda for the road.
In less than five minutes, my family of minimalists finished gathering pets and packing the few material items we need for our simple yet comfortable life. I filled my purse and a reusable grocery tote with medication, a phone charger, and changes of clothes for my husband and I. A shoebox of sentimental items and a file of official documents made it into the car as well.
As we prepared to flee our house, I felt a wave of peace and quickly prayed for everyone’s protection. I thanked God for the firefighters’ courage and our many blessings. My family was safe. The sparse possessions that improve our quality of life awaited us in the trusty sedan. Favorite photos, including pictures of birthday cards and other treasures, would remain accessible online.
Brave firefighters stopped the bushfire before it caused casualties or reached homes. When the evacuation order was lifted, I realized the greatest superpower of minimalism is its ability to make life’s inevitable traumas a little less traumatic. It’s unlikely that anybody’s lifetime will be free from gut-wrenching hardships; serious illnesses, debilitating injuries, loss of loved ones, and natural disasters are all deeply troubling but widespread parts of the human experience. Voluntary simplicity alleviates some of the suffering from devastating events.
Here are five reasons minimalists are uniquely well-equipped to overcome adversity:
Participation in the greater good
Minimalists play a vital role in reducing environmental disasters. We’re doing our part to avoid depleting Earth’s finite resources. Voluntary simplicity reduces the pollution caused by manufacturing, transporting, and disposing of products that don’t contribute to anyone’s long-term happiness. Big-picture thinking and compassion for society as a whole are integral to making a positive impact as well as recovering from personal setbacks.
Consumer culture pits us against each other as competitors in a rigged game of acquisition. Opting out of that system turns rivals into allies. Undivided by envy, we practice the empathy that strengthens relationships. Limiting recreational shopping and addictive media frees up time to bond with family and friends.
Advertisements create dissatisfaction with our possessions and promote insatiable desires for upgrades. Marketing messages would have us replacing everything we own each season, if not sooner. The root of resistance is contentment. When we’re happy to have just a few carefully chosen items, we stop chasing unattainable consumerist goals. Feelings of inadequacy dissolve as we practice gratitude.
I don’t need an expensive car or designer handbag to validate and broadcast my accomplishments. My self-worth isn’t tied to material objects, so losing them won’t cause an identity crisis. The intrinsic rewards minimalists pursue stand the test of time.
It’s a privilege to be able to afford items beyond our needs, but it’s even more liberating to avoid excess and achieve financial security. The money saved by rejecting unnecessary purchases provides a safety net for emergencies and gives us an opportunity to help others facing challenging obstacles.
Saint Augustine said, “Pray not for a lighter load, but for stronger shoulders.” Minimalism builds strength to endure life’s heaviest loads. Unburdened by the stress and distractions of consumerism, it’s a little easier to carry on through difficult times with smiles on our faces and open hands to serve those in need.