Making Space for Abundance

Recently I heard someone use the word abundance to explain why minimalism is not for her. I want a life of abundance, she said. Such a beautiful, positive word. Me too, I thought.

I can see what she means. She’s not the only person I’ve heard speak of minimalism like this, as the opposite of abundance and all that word implies of ample everything, handfuls of plenty, big bouquets of living large. It gave me pause to consider that these two words might be on opposite sides of a spectrum. And yet here I am with very few possessions in the minimalist life I have chosen. How do I square minimalism with a yearning for abundance? Is it true that they are mutually exclusive? 

Before my husband and I sold almost everything we owned and began traveling full time several months ago, we had an abundant house in Virginia. The four bedrooms were full of furniture, the basement and attic were full of stuff, the shed burgeoned with more stuff, and then there was the large yard to care for. The to-do list that house generated was never-ending. I have countless happy memories in that house, and I wouldn’t change those years for anything. Also there were times, if I’m honest, when I wouldn’t have used the word abundance. The word that comes to mind is overwhelmed. 

My response to new ideas and inspirations when I was in the midst of that life was often to say no. I’d hear about a new book that interested me, and I’d think, no, I can’t get that from the library until I read some of these books already spilling off my bookshelves. I’d see a new recipe with an intriguing spice and think, no, only after I use some of these spices that have filled up the cupboard. Go for a hike? Go to a social gathering? Learn a new skill? No. I really need to get some of these chores done. I often didn’t have the space in my house, on my calendar, or in my brain for anything new. The space was taken. 

When our kids had grown and it was the two of us in the house, my husband and I looked at each other and decided to make space. We started giving away or selling our things, one piece of this and one box of that. It was hard work and took a surprisingly long time, but momentum built. We cleaned out one room, then another, then the whole basement and attic and shed. Finally we were down to a neat row of boxes that we stored in a friend’s basement, and a carry-on suitcase and backpack each. We found long-term renters for the house. The last day we were there, we sat in the living room on camp chairs, our voices echoing in the empty space. “That’s the sound of adventure,” we reassured each other. 

And it is. Now we spend about a month each in different countries. Our grown children and friends fly out to explore with us. When new things present themselves, we tend to say yes. Yes to figuring out new maps and transit systems, yes to new hikes, new foods, new languages. Yes to organizing our time around people and experiences and very little time around things. 

The word no is still an important word in my vocabulary, though. I’ve taught myself to say no to buying things, unless they are necessary and serve us directly. This is a big change from my old buying habits, especially how I used to travel. I used to always be on the lookout for souvenirs and gifts to bring home with me. Now, my goal is to leave a place we’ve visited with nothing new whatsoever beyond pictures, memories, and a broadened perspective. My tightly packed carry-on and backpack don’t hold much, but it turns out to be abundant for what matters to me. 

This is a very high dose of minimalism, of course. I think it took this big gesture–getting down to just a tiny bit of stuff–for my husband and me to find the space we craved. But I can imagine great power in smaller gestures toward minimalism, too. Getting rid of a large house of possessions to move into a much smaller home could work magic. Clearing out a single room or even just clearing off the kitchen counter–and keeping it that way–may create the space a person needs to say yes to something important.

I did have an abundant life before, and I still do. The difference is that now I have made the space to feel that abundance. Minimalism, at the level that’s right for each of us, could allow us enough space to recognize and welcome true abundance. 

Thanks for reading, and by the way, I love comments. Bookmark for more on travel, minimalism, books, public transportation, and hikes. For daily postcards from, well, wherever we are, subscribe to

2 thoughts on “Making Space for Abundance”

  1. I love that you and Justin have been noodling around this relationship between abundance and minimalism – and how minimalism actually creates space for abundance – space to say yes to things. You are designing lives where you have an abundance of choices at a time when so many people accumulate and accumulate until they have no choice at all. I’ve coached some people recently who are experiencing job loss, and they are so buried in stuff & lifestyle (and unwilling to part with it in the name of abundance), that they can’t possibly say yes to a job opportunity that pays less, but may be wildly fulfilling.

    1. Allen, that’s an eye-opening story. It is definitely hard to see it when you’re in the midst of it, but I want to say to those folks, trust me on this one–the abundance is out here.

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