When I started to intentionally change my life, it was hearing stories from other people about their transformations that inspired me the most. I remember thinking, “If they can do it, so can I.”
It started shortly after I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis in 2006. I felt tired, sick, and was really scared not knowing what my new diagnosis meant. I met a cyclist at a support group who had been diagnosed many years before. He was healthy, vibrant, and very active. He was living well with MS and his story gave me hope. I read books and met vegetarians who inspired me to cut animal meat from my diet. I read blogs and met people simplifying their lives who inspired me to clear out the clutter.
We are all learning from each other, and that’s what inspired the Simplicity Stories feature happening over on Instagram and here every few weeks. I’ll tell you how to join in at the end of the article.
Before I share the Instagram images and #simplicitystories roundup, I want to share a really moving story, one that had me in tears recently. I met Matt Gunia, the pastor of Ascension Lutheran Church in Niles, Illinois at The Simple Rev Conference in Minneapolis. There was a segment where any of the attendees could share a story about how simplicity had impacted their lives, or why they were so passionate about living simply. After Matt spoke, I asked him if I could share his story with you. Thankfully, he said yes.
Matt’s Simplicity Story
I am very slow and selective when it comes to labeling myself, so I don’t call myself a minimalist. Yet I certainly apply minimalist and simple living principles to my life.
I will admit that the reason I began adopting minimalist principles is selfishness. I didn’t like the clutter that surrounded me. I didn’t like the unease I felt in a messy space. I didn’t like keeping a calendar with every box filled with blue ink, black ink, and penciled in appointments. I didn’t enjoy being drained after over committing myself yet again.
I was wildly successful in my simplifying efforts. My house is emptier, more peaceful, and easier to maintain. My calendar is emptier and my weeks are less rushed.
I don’t want to share how I began implementing simple living principles. I want to share why I still work to keep my space and schedule minimal.
I apply minimalist principles…
…because my wife is important. I love her. I want her to have a husband who knows her—really knows her. I want to be a husband who knows what projects she’s working on and what she’s struggling with. I want to be a husband who takes the time to listen. I want to the one who encourages her, celebrates with her, and gives her my best self.
…because my children are important. I love them. I want them to have a father who pretends to be a dragon, who roars, who chases them around the dining room table. I want my kids to have a dad who colors with them and reads them books. I want to teach them how to be angry at one another and manage their emotions responsibly and then forgive.
…because my parents are important. I love them. They won’t always be here; but they’ve been there for me since my birth. I’m finally beginning to understand how much time and effort they put into raising their family. I want them to have a son who tells them they’ve done a good job. More, I want them to have a son who shows them they’ve done a good job by the way he lives his adult life. I want them to have a son who spends lazy afternoons with them and listens to their stories of my long-dead relatives. I want them to have a son who says “I love you.”
…because my brother and sister are important. I love them. My sister was a girl with a Paula Abdul poster on her bedroom wall; now she has her own husband and daughter. My brother was an expert at Super Mario Brothers; now he’s a kind, responsible tradesman. They grew up so well, I didn’t even realize they did it. I want to be the brother who tells them I’m proud of who they’ve become. I want to be the brother who laughs and laughs with them until our stomachs hurt and we say, “oh, look at the time! How did it get so late so quickly?” I want them to have a brother they’re also proud of.
…because the people with whom I worship are important. As are the people of my community. As are the people who call me a friend. I love them. I want to be the one among the many who pray for them…who listen to them…who help them…who praise their accomplishments.
Likewise, you are important. You are loved—and the people who love you are important. Those people you love are important. The person you are right now is important. So is the person you want to be in the future. So is the person you’re actually going to be. The things you catch yourself daydreaming about are important. Even your fears are important.
I started applying minimalist principles because I loved myself and wanted to create a more enjoyable life. I continue applying minimalist principles because I grew in my love for others. I try to keep the greatest things at the center so I can be a better man and thus give continually better to them.
Matt’s story is a full-hearted reminder that simplicity is the way back to love.
Your Simplicity Stories
You can click on any of the simplicity stories below to see more from each person’s Instagram story. Join us on Instagram and share your simplicity story too, or find others by searching for #simplicitystories.
Thank you for being so generous with your stories. I’ll be sharing more of your inspiring simplicity stories soon.
If you’d like to participate in this simplicity movement to inspire with our stories, click here to follow me on Instagram, and share your words and images with the hashtags #bemorewithless and #simplicitystories.