Why it Takes Courage to Intentionally Live Small

by 66 Permalink 14

Last December I visited the dentist. The dental hygienist was making conversation and casually asked me if I had my Christmas shopping done. It was, of course, a harmless question that I’m sure she asked every patient in December, but I found my mind racing. Suddenly the lamp above my head felt like an interrogation light. What do I tell her? Will she think I’m a weirdo if I admit to making homemade soap for everyone and only giving our children a handful of practical gifts? Will she think I’m a terrible mother if I share that I only bought my kids one small toy? That I am attempting to purposefully limit the amount of shiny new items that enter my home? I realized at that moment that it takes courage to intentionally live small. 

Courage is necessary to buck social norms and practice contentment with less. It takes courage to live against the roar of culture’s cries for accumulating more stuff and living faster lives. It takes courage because when people realize you live differently, they sometimes treat you differently. When people treat you differently, you can feel alienated and judged. It’s uncomfortable. If you’re not careful to cultivate truth in your mind, your heads can get wrapped up in fears about being counter-cultural.

It takes courage to live against the roar of culture’s cries for accumulating more stuff and living faster lives.

The thoughts running through my head in the dentist chair were fears, plain and simple. Fear of not fitting in. Fear of being disliked. Fear of awkwardly shutting down a conversation. Fear lingers like a fog, prying with vapor fingers to find a way into the mind so it can implant lies of our culture:

“Your kids would be happier if you gave them more.” 

“You’ll ruin their special day.” 

“Your family is so awkward and odd.” 

Lies. (Well, that last one is debatable… But as I’ve learned this year, AWKWARDNESS IS NOT A SIN.) 😉

Fear feeds on lies. It takes a warrior-boldness to combat fear with truth. Some days I must actively remind myself why we choose to live with the priorities we do:

“Giving kids too much stuff only minimizes–not maximizes– thankfulness.” 

“Mere happiness is not our ultimate goal for our children. Being grateful, well-adjusted, hard-working, compassionate adults are ultimate goals, and we believe that intentionally living with less is one way to encourage those traits.” 

“We can make their holidays/birthdays special in other ways besides piles of overwhelming gifts. If they desperately want something else, they can work to buy it with their own money.”

Combat fear with truth

Sometimes I need to give myself a pep-talk about why we choose to intentionally live small.  But I always need to train my mind to think about truth alone. That’s an ongoing habit. One of my favorite verses in the Bible is Philippians 4:8. It says,

“Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

Right at the beginning the verse says dwell on what is TRUE. Intentionally choosing truth over lies is one thing that enables me to intentionally live small with courage. 

The funny thing about me living courageously is that I’m not a naturally courageous person. I’m not bold or fearless. In fact, as a child I was scared of nearly everything.  God implanted a new boldness in my soul right before we moved to the Shoebox, now several years ago. Our downsize to the tiny apartment before our first child was born was the beginning of our counter-cultural journey, and God equipped me with the courage I would need to follow this path of living small. I’m so grateful He did.

Rejecting culture’s norms takes courage because the very act of nonconformity invites scrutiny.

It is a bold act to admit that your home and lives are choking on excess.

It takes courage to follow through and purge items which may have a perceived hold over you.

It is brave to leave a whole day blank on your calendar to celebrate life’s white space and not feel guilty for not being busy.

Friends, this intentionally living small thing that you’re doing? It. Is. Bold. It is counter-cultural. It takes stepping in faith, confronting fear and clinging to truth.

Living small is living brave. In whichever way you are embracing less, in however small steps you are taking to combat excess, you are fighting fear.

Stand tall, dear friends. I am so grateful that we aren’t walking this road alone. Thanks for being courageous with us. 🙂

As always, if this post encourages you, feel free to share it with friends. You never know who else might need to know they are being brave. 😉

…By the way… if you’re someone that struggles with being fearful and want freedom and an unlocking of courage, look into the new book Fear Fighting by Kelly Balarie. 🙂 You can also learn more about Kelly and her story of at Purposefulfaith.com. This post has been on my heart for awhile, but it just happens to fit with the content of the Fear Fighting Writers link up, so if you want to read more stories about other women fear fighting, click here. 🙂

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
66 Comments
  • slowmamma
    January 4, 2017

    I understand what you are saying but I have to say that my biggest fear in these circumstances is alienating the person that I am talking to. There is some truth to the fact that our choices, at least those than run counter to the norm, are critiques of the society we live in. More than the fear of being judged, I fear inflicting my judgement on others – and that isn’t productive for anyone.

    • Evelyn
      January 4, 2017

      Hi SlowMama! You know, I’m RIGHT there with you. Sometimes I fear being judged, but mostly these days I’m so passionate about living minimally, I’m more concerned about coming across as Judgey McJudgerson. I know that living small and simply can take many different forms, so I do my best to celebrate anyone’s best effort–however it looks– towards minimizing. 🙂 Thanks so much for offering this other viewpoint. 😀

    • Oliver
      January 16, 2017

      I am far away from being a minimalist, but over the last 3 years I realized how relieving it is to be happy with what you have instead of looking out for what you don’t have. On top of giving away things I don’t need, I decided to work only 4 days a week. I only got positive reactions for this decision. A day more per week to take care for the kids or sometimes just go for a bike ride gives me more than buying a new car or other gadgets and everybody around me agrees to that, even if most of them are not courageous to do the same. What I wanted to say is, that the common way of thinking is changing and more people realize that it is more a privilege than weird to be not dependent on stuff. The best things in live aren’t things… Greetings from Germany 🙂

      • Evelyn
        January 18, 2017

        Hey Oliver! I love your line: “it is more a privilege than weird to not be dependent on stuff.” That. Is. Genius!! Thanks for joining us from Germany. 🙂

    • MEGAN
      February 23, 2017

      I agree, others judge me in my journey to live frugally as well as simply but I judge them. I often judge them for judging me. A lot of their decisions baffle me.

  • Diana
    January 4, 2017

    I requested some home made soap for Christmas but didn’t receive it. Home made soap is amazing! I did better at giving practical gifts….but I’m still on my journey!

    • Evelyn
      January 4, 2017

      Hi Diana! We are ALL on the journey. This Christmas was the first that I REALLY tried to reign in the incoming items, and we did a good job of that, but it will still be a work in progress to find the right balance. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  • Kim
    January 4, 2017

    Thank you for a great blog post. I can sooo relate to this.

    • Evelyn
      January 4, 2017

      Hi Kim! Glad you can relate. All praise to the King! Thanks for commenting. 😀

  • Cheryl
    January 4, 2017

    So good to visit with you again. We moved and got a new email address, and I have missed getting your posts. It is great to be back on board.

    • Evelyn
      January 6, 2017

      Hi Cheryl! So good to hear from you. Thanks for saying hi! Hope you and your family are well. 🙂

  • Shelley
    January 5, 2017

    So glad to know I’m not alone with these awkward moments! I slipped a little on my minimal habits during December, but am ready to get back on track because constantly acquiring more stuff just doesn’t resonate with me anymore : ) Thanks for the great post and inspiration to stay courageous!

    • Evelyn
      January 5, 2017

      Hi Shelley! December is SO hard to curb the things coming in. We had to let a lot slide, and I’ll be the first to admit– not buying the kids stuff they wanted was hands down hardest on ME. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!!

  • Dawn
    January 5, 2017

    Right on, very well said!…I always find myself weighing: is this person open to hearing how we live a little differently, or should I just go along with it because they are just making small talk and aren’t actually asking how we live differently and the benefits we enjoy because of it. And our Christmas got COMPLETELY out of control again with gift giving. Afterwards I asked my husband “how on earth did we get here again???” Next year we are back to square one, glad to hear that you succeeded, that is always encouraging!! 🙂

    • Evelyn
      January 5, 2017

      Hi Dawn!! I know, trying to sort out whether someone really wants to hear how being minimalist can make their life better is always a struggle. 😉 Don’t worry– there’s always next year with Christmas! It is SO hard to keep cluttery things from invading that time of year. This is why this is a journey. 😀

      • Lynn Marie
        August 3, 2017

        I think it’s fine to just say with a smile, I don’t do Christmas shopping, I only give small, token, handmade presents to mark the holiday, (or don’t exchange presents), and it’s great! I sure don’t miss that pressured feeling in December! My family and friends seem relieved we’ve stopped the madness too. How about you?” Then let her tell you all about her very organized or very disorganized shopping ordeal as the case may be. That’s what she really wants to do anyway!

        • Evelyn
          August 8, 2017

          🙂 Good tip, Lynn! Thanks for sharing.

  • Amy@MoreTimeThanMoney
    January 6, 2017

    Oh how I relate to this. For me, living small is easy – accept for this part! (And it is such a huge part) This is why connecting with others that are on the same journey is sooooo valuable to me.
    I am taking the A Simple Year course this year. In the first module there is a section about keeping up with The Joneses. This module goes to the heart of what simple living is all about. It’s not so much that my neighbour gets a new car, so I think I should get one too. It’s at a broader level, I don’t want to be the weirdo that takes their own containers for takeout or says “no presents” on the birthday party invites. It’s all those little, everyday decisions to go against the tide. You’re right when you say that we are being bold – all this boldness can be tiring though.

    • Evelyn
      January 7, 2017

      Hi Amy! Yes, you’re so right. Boldness can be tiring. Which is why we give ourselves grace. 😉 Because sometimes we are better at being the weirdos than other times. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!!

  • Laura
    January 8, 2017

    Hi Evelyn
    Great article! We are currently in planning stages of moving our family of five to a modest 2 bdrm house in Mexico from Canada. I totally embrace minimalism as a concept and have actually made a lot of progress. My mom thinks I’m too extreme, in fact. But I do have a weakness for impulsively buying “necesssary” things like pretty clothes and things for the house and books for our homeschooling kids… I’m trying so hard to curb this, as living frugally is absolutely necessary if I don’t want to sabotage this dream!

    • Evelyn
      January 9, 2017

      Hey Laura! What an amazing move. Give yourself grace. There is a learning curve to living with less, I’m realizing. And the best part is that the more you practice, the better you get! 🙂

  • Kristen
    January 8, 2017

    “Rejecting culture’s norms takes courage because the very act of nonconformity invites scrutiny.”

    Loved this post. And it applies to so much more than living simply – we are planning to homeschool and I find myself constantly worried about what others think of that decision. I’m often insecure and defensive about it – and we haven’t even officially started yet (my oldest is 3.5). I’ve realized lately how much time I spend comparing myself and my decisions to those of others and seeking the approval of man. It accomplishes nothing of value. I’m praying for more confidence and that I would seek to honor the Lord by being faithful to his call for ME. We don’t need anyone else’s approval. Thank you for your encouragement. It’s hard to stand alone in any choice and seeing the example of others is powerful and emboldening.

    • Evelyn
      January 9, 2017

      Hey Kristen. You know girl, I also struggle majorly with needing approval from people instead of craving only the Lord’s approval. I’m right with you there– I tend to second guess every decision we make. I’ll join you in praying for confidence for myself and for the call God placed on my life too– that’s a good prayer. 😉 By the way, we are one semester in to our first “real” year of homeschooling (preschool and kindergarten, so the stakes are really low) and I’m loving it! 🙂 You might find that the more you love it, the more you advocate for it. 😀

  • Mary in Maryland
    January 9, 2017

    When I get the same question over and over, I work on having an honest but non-judgemental reply ready. This year “have you finished your Christmas shopping yet?” was answered with, “Yes, and I haven’t even started.” or “I drop by the thrift shop once a week, but my husband’s next plaid flannel shirt hasn’t come in yet.” We had a low-energy December. I got the box of decorations from under the bed on the 16th, but after they sat on the kitchen table for a week, I put them back under the bed. We both had honking colds from the 23rd until the 5th. We went to bed at ten pm and didn’t set the alarm for the whole two weeks. Even though we were sick, being well-rested and snuggling in the morning was totally delicious and indulgent.

    • Cindy
      January 12, 2017

      Mary in Maryland. You are hilarious! Can I steal these comebacks? Lol

    • Evelyn
      January 12, 2017

      Hi Mary! I love your perspective on being sick as being indulgent. That’s being grateful for rest! 🙂 Thanks for sharing.

  • bethany mcilrath
    January 9, 2017

    This line “Fear of awkwardly shutting down a conversation.” Yes. Living small, materially or by spiritual meekness or by cutting back on activities or any other way takes courage. And awkward conversations are often what bug me and scare me the most out of obeying God in smallness. I’ve been learning from the Lord to “let people own their awkward” when I feel pressured to pick up the slack in conversation about things that aren’t wrong- just different! Thanks for sharing this so BRAVELY. : )

    • Evelyn
      January 12, 2017

      “Let people own their awkward” >> Hahaha YES!!! Thank you Bethany, for bravely sharing your perspective. 🙂 I think lately too, the conversation is IN MY OWN HEAD. I’m constantly battling a stupid voice inside me telling me that I don’t do minimal good enough, or I can’t earn the title of living with less when my home looks the way it does. 😉 *SIGH* Grace for the journey. Grace for the journey. Thanks for commenting!

  • Kristal
    January 10, 2017

    I loved this post so much. It really resonated with me. I have felt this exact way with respect to living simply and minimally, and with respect to my faith. So glad you shared this!

    • Evelyn
      January 11, 2017

      Hi Kristal! I’m so glad it blessed your heart. Thanks for commenting! Now I’m headed over to your blog to have some fun browsing. 🙂 Already like the setup!

  • Mona Fawver
    January 12, 2017

    I have been living small for many years and it really is much more fun than trying to fill the empty spots and being worried should something happen to an item. I’m retired, so prefer filling my time with projects that I wasn’t able to do when working. I do tend to collect movies, so have to clean out now and then. Less stuff, less worry.

    • Evelyn
      January 12, 2017

      Hi Mona! Less stuff, less worry. That’s a wonderful goal! Thanks so much for sharing. 🙂

  • Cindy
    January 12, 2017

    Hi Evelyn. I just found your blog, have read a few posts, and really enjoy (and agree with!!) what you have to say. For me, the only pause is the religious parts. As a gay woman, religion has not often been my friend (do know that is getting better in many spaces). Not that it matters to me, as I feel nature is my religion. Now, I can listen to religious comments for what the person is trying to say, while switching “nature” for God. Not sure how folks might feel about that. Maybe okay, maybe freaked out.

    Interestingly, I was well into adulthood before I realized that – not being religious – I only saw/heard the wackos and so didn’t think much of “religious people”. Then one day realized a good friend from work was actually very religious! It made me reassess. Thinking more about it, I realized it was similar for gay people. If you don’t know any gay people, all you see/hear are the wackos. Anyway. Not trying to hijack your column. Feel free to not post this, I will still read and learn from you and your readers.

    One of the columns I read was about quiting Facebook. I never joined FB, but reading your reasons for NOT quitting sooner, I thought, “Wow. Maybe I should join”. Then reading your “work arounds”, I thought, “Perfect! I’ll do those things.”

    Meeting one of my oldest friends for breakfast tomorrow. We’ve drifted apart and I’ve probably only seen her a handful of times in the past ten years. So, thank you! And God bless. 🙂

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      Hi Cindy,
      Thank you so much for piping up and leaving a comment! I’m honored that the “religious parts” didn’t deter you from sticking around. 🙂 We are so glad you are here and look forward to your valuable input on living small. <3

  • Caroline Hay
    January 12, 2017

    You have become one of my favorite blogs lately! I can totally relate… my family has started our own journey to minimalism and you have such great advice for momma’s and such! Look forward to each of your posts! Stop by sometime! 😉 <3

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      Hi Caroline!!
      Thanks for the kind words and the invite over to Three To A Room. I’ve been having fun dabbling around and can’t wait to read more of your words. I so appreciate you commenting and saying hi. 😀 <3

  • Tac
    January 12, 2017

    You left me hanging… what was your brave response?

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      Oh! Tac, thanks for catching that. 😀 I think I simply said, “Oh, we won’t be buying much.” I might have elaborated a little bit, but of course my mouth was wide open and getting drilled on…. 😉 Thanks for commenting!

  • Primal Prosperity
    January 12, 2017

    You are so right. I live very tiny. My husband and I bought a 320SF hotel room, that is called a ‘condotel’. I also downgraded back to a flip phone, which usually surprises people. I like to reference Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs… when we can forgo ‘societal shoulds’ and focus on our ‘inner musts’, then we have hit self-actualization.

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      Hi! I remember Maslow’s Hierarchy from college, but I might need to Google it for a refresher. 😉 Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  • Ruthie
    January 12, 2017

    My husband is a hoarder and we have way too much stuff. Now that our kids are grown and gone my husband and I no longer buy Christmas gifts for each other. At my suggestion we just choose a charity and give a joint donation. This past Christmas we gave to Mercy Ships, an organization that provides much needed medical care and surgeries to people who live near the coasts of third world countries. We have also given to Operation Smile and farm animals to poor families through Samaritan’s Purse or World Vision. It does my heart good to know that poor, hungry children have eggs or milk for breakfast because we gave a gift of a goat or chickens..

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      Hi Ruthie! I am familiar with Mercy Ships– we have a family friend who has spent time on one. I can tell your giving brings you great joy. Praise the Lord!

  • Honora Renwick
    January 12, 2017

    What comes across to me in this post is how powerful the message to consume must be when people who are very aware like yourself are still wracked with doubts about behaving differently (eccentric). I comfort myself in my eccentricity with thoughts such as may be in the days of slavery, anti-slavers were thought of as wierdos.

    I loved the humour in the post about waiting for the checked shirt to come into the thrift shop. My partner and I just give each other delicious eats e.g. spreads that we can take hiking that we normally would baulk at paying for. We used to give each other jewellery, books and vouchers but found the little expensive foods are the most appreciated and consumed. Apart from that someone gave me a big punnet of cherries and I gave her a seedling (tomato?) from my garden or something.

    My step-grandchildren get given down jackets. All my side of the family are affluent so get nothing and I get nothing in return from them. Except a sister who got given an old keyboard of mine as hers was broken. Last year I gave her a grocery voucher that would cover a week’s groceries. She gives me nothing except her time, understanding, advice and a fantastic sense of humour. Her daughter and husband got a humorous book from me on parenting.

    • Evelyn
      January 14, 2017

      What creative and meaningful gifts you exchange with your loved ones! Thanks for commenting.

  • Dee
    January 14, 2017

    What a great post, thank you!

  • Daikuro @ SimplicityBlogger.com
    January 24, 2017

    I think that it takes courage to live small because it is not the natural tendency of the ego. The ego like to feel big and likes to keep on buying things to add to itself. But then, the smaller it becomes, the freer the soul feels.

    • Evelyn
      January 26, 2017

      Wonderful thought, Daikuro! Thank you for sharing your perspective.

  • Kevin
    January 25, 2017

    I agree with you, it takes courage to be who you want be if it is not what other people do. But it is so rewarding when it brings you happinness 🙂

    • Evelyn
      January 26, 2017

      Yes! Thanks for sharing, Kevin.

  • Tiffany Melvin
    January 27, 2017

    This is so true. We feel the same way sometimes. We have been living in an RV for 2 years with our 2 small children. You can tell by people’s facial expressions that they think it’s weird. I don’t mind being weird most of the time but sometimes it gets to me. We just bought some land and are about to build a tiny house but again people think it’s weird that it will only be 720 sq ft. Being minimalist is not easy and it does take courage but it is SO WORTH IT lol. Well for our family anyways. Thanks for this great post. I really enjoyed it.

    • Evelyn
      January 27, 2017

      Hi Tiffany!! Your site redesign looks great. I haven’t been by in awhile… looking forward to reading all your recent posts. 😀 I can’t believe it’s been 2 years since you’ve been in the RV! Great job for buying the land for the tiny house. That is SO exciting. You’re an inspiration for being so minimal and chasing the dream. Go girl!! <3

      • Tiffany Melvin
        January 27, 2017

        Thanks Evelyn! I haven’t been by here in a while either. I don’t know why because I love reading your posts! It always reminds me of exactly how I feel or something I can relate to. I love connecting with people who understand the struggle haha I can’t believe it’s been 2 years either. I can’t wait to start building our tiny house. I still have the future dream of living on the sailboat! lol We’ll get there eventually! So glad you are doing well and still living tiny 🙂 Last time we talked you just had your last baby! I have had another baby since then too. Man time flies!

        • Evelyn
          January 31, 2017

          Thanks so much for keeping in touch. 🙂 Blessings to you!

  • Cindy
    February 8, 2017

    It takes a lot to realize less is more, in a more is more world. We had some extremely huge home maintenance bills to pay in December, so we knew Christmas was going to be toned down this year. We gave smaller gifts to each of our two girls, but big gifts were given to both to play with together and share. I concentrated on the activities that make the season special, like building gingerbread houses, reading Christmas stories, singing carols, and visiting friends and family. Our girls got to open their gifts over a span of the two weeks they were off instead of all at once. And because we paced opening presents they actually fully enjoyed each one they got. Less is best!

    • Evelyn
      February 12, 2017

      Hi Cindy, I love your sweet, simple ways of making the Christmas season an important celebration with a focus on activities. How special!

  • Kim Miles
    February 12, 2017

    Loving this blog. My dentist asked the same. My response was – my husband and I don’t buy each other presents – he says why wait for Christmas for those boots when you need them in November! My daughters are now young adults and we ask them not to spend their money on us (one at uni, the other on minimum wage) as we don’t need anything. We buy them things they need then treat them later in the year when their money has run out. She was shocked!

    • Evelyn
      February 12, 2017

      Hi Kim! Thanks for sharing your less-is-more experience! 🙂

  • Paula Costa
    February 24, 2017

    Congratulations for your blog! My name is Paula, I am portuguese and I live in Porto (north of Portugal). I read a lot about minimalism. Not only I read but I implement it in my life, and thats so true, when you become weary for a lot of people, my mother dont understand the reason I declutter, but I enjoy more life now, and I enjoy to explore the nature with my family, it´s kind of “open the eyes” to life. Continue your good work here… 🙂 I am reading from this side of the Atlantic ocean…

    • Evelyn
      February 26, 2017

      Hi Paula! I’m so glad you wrote, and I can tell that you are reaping wonderful benefits from minimalism. Thanks so much for sharing! I hope you keep reading. 🙂

  • Monica
    April 1, 2017

    Thank you for this. I just discovered your blog and have been reading through it. We are in a 1 bedroom 800 sq. ft. condo. It’s been 17 years now and we have added 4 children (14, almost 12, 9, and 5 ). We also homeschool. We are feeling it is time to move but with the housing market in the denver metro area I find myself wondering if we will be here far longer than I thought. I don’t always do it well, most of the time I fail miserably and many of your posts have provided encouragement that I can keep going as long as God keeps us here. Thank you for being courageous and sharing your journey.

    • Evelyn
      April 3, 2017

      Hi Monica,
      The Denver market is SO CRAZY TOWN right now. Down here in the Springs it’s pretty hot too, but nothing like up there, so I understand. Friend, 17 years is a long time to cultivate contentment in such a small space and such a big family! You are officially my hero. 🙂 I know the feeling of not always doing it well– and I’m SURE you’re not failing miserably. Sometimes success simply means being faithful and choosing to be thankful, day in and day out. 🙂 Some days are easier to accept hard situations than others, but the good news is that the Holy Spirit is constant and is always with us. Thank you for your kinds words and I’ll send up a prayer today that the desires of your heart will be fulfilled, sooner than later. 😉

  • A Life Shift
    June 27, 2017

    This past Christmas was our baby’s first, and our first in our 590 sq ft apartment in Hong Kong. We had a 2 foot tall tree and the presents for all of us and others fit under that little tree. We don’t need more stuff, have no place to store it, and the baby doesn’t care one way or the other. I love small space living and the “built in” excuse for minimal accumulation.

    • Evelyn
      June 29, 2017

      Hi! Sounds like a lovely celebration. I also appreciate the “built in” excuse for not much stuff. Works everytime!! 😀

  • Just Smile
    September 7, 2017

    I’m in my first steps of the minimalism way, but i already feel that… People look at us like strange things when we talk about minimalism and how who love it and we want to bring it to our lives… Society has a strange way to look at things….

    • Evelyn
      September 13, 2017

      Keep it up! You’re right, society is often has the strange perspective. 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *