“Our material clutter is a physical manifestation of our internal clutter: mental clutter, financial clutter, and spiritual clutter.”
—Joshua Fields Millburn
We’d like to invite you to subscribe to and support our Inside Minimalism series, which offers exclusive essays on living simply.
A Quiet Place
Carving out quietness in a world full of noise
By Joshua Fields Millburn
My mind often cries for serenity.
When I moved to a mountainside cabin in Montana for four months, my intention was to tap into a pseudo-Walden Pond experience, one in which I was closer to nature, closer to myself—my interior self—than ever before.
It worked. During those months, I committed myself to a great deal of self-exploration, a great deal of writing (I wrote a ton of short stories, including Echo Lake, and a plethora of activities that forced me to better examine my interior life: tending to a fire for warmth, dealing with the loneliness of remote living, living more intentionally out of necessity.
One of my recent experiences—living with two single guys in Missoula, Montana’s University District—more closely mimics Thoreau’s experience than the remote cabin.
Hard to believe, right? The reason is simpler than one might guess: amid the talking, the visitors, the socializing, the work, the meetings, the stuff-30-year-old-single-guys-do, I found a serene place, a place all my own, a place to which I could retreat when I needed absolute peace.
That place was my bedroom.
Back in the cabin, peace and quiet became the norm: I was surrounded by deafening silence. But at the Asym House, I was forced to seek quiet when I was in need. Thus, I established my bedroom as my quiet place. Much like Thoreau’s lakeside plot, my room contained only a few necessary items: a bed for sleeping, a desk for writing, a chair for sitting, and a lamp for reading. Occasionally, I burned a candle so my olfactory sense—our strongest sense—knew I was in my quiet place.
That’s it—there was nothing else. I left the walls blank, the wood floor bare. I didn’t want anything else in my quiet place. It needed to be not only quiet auditorily, but quiet visually.
I’m not opposed to artwork adorning my walls nor decorations festooning my shelves. Aesthetics are important: art and decorations often add a personal touch to a living space. But I can hang artwork and other personal embellishments anywhere in the home. My room, however, is intentionally void of these things: no clock, no paintings, no photos, no bookshelf, no nightstand, no noise. It’s completely quiet and distraction-free, and thus it’s anxiety- and stress-free, too.
How about you? Where is your quiet place?
Be on the Mountain
A way to let yourself be present in a place of total awareness
By Joshua Fields Millburn
Our friend, Rob Bell, tells a story in which God tells Moses to climb to the top of a mountain. Moses obliges, but when he finally reaches the summit, God commands him, “Be on the mountain.”
I imagine Moses responded, “I heard you the first time: ‘Go to the top of the mountain’! Here I am, just as you asked. Now what?”
And God likely responded, “Just be on the mountain”—in a stoic, but slightly annoyed, tone.
Then Moses, puzzled by the seeming redundancy of God’s request, might’ve furrowed his brow and scratched his noggin because he didn’t understand that God didn’t want him to just travel to the peak and then immediately contemplate his next move. God didn’t want him preoccupied, standing up there worrying about how he was going to get down, or what bills must be paid, or whether he turned off the lights before leaving the house.
God wanted Moses to be on the mountain: to enjoy the moment. Which is impossible when we’re stuck in a state of perpetual planning. Or perpetual worry. Or perpetual whatever.
I’m not particularly religious, but I appreciate this parable because it reminds me when we pause for a moment, we can appreciate the present: it takes a tremendous effort to reach the peak—we should enjoy it, even if only for a moment.
If we want to enjoy life, we must commit to being on the mountain. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t plan—but let’s enjoy the planning process more. And it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t work hard, either—but we can enjoy the work when it is executed from a place of total awareness.
Don’t dwell on the past.
Don’t worry about the future.
Be on the mountain.
A Little More of Less
A few other articles we think you might enjoy…
Project 333: Q & A to Help You Simplify Your Closet by Courtney Carver
Why We Never Have Enough Time & What to Do About It by Leo Babauta
The Importance of Taking Initiative by Joshua Hook
Are any of your friends interested in minimalism or living simply?
If so, please invite them to subscribe.
Brought to You By