Intentional living is about taking conscious decisions so that more of our life is about what makes us happy. Many people use it as just a synonym for Minimalism, and in fact Joshua from The Minimalists makes the same “mistake” in their documentary (available on Netflix) when answering the frequent objection that people don’t want to get rid of collections they have because they are passionate about it. It’s, in a way, a justifiable “mistake”: in recent years, minimalism has become a mainstream word (I’m writing a book with that word in the title too). Talk about intentional living and people usually give you a blank stare. However, they are not the same. While minimalism requires intentional living, it’s not true the other way around. Both are against mindless buying for the sake of it, and in a way owning less and not being defined by what we own, or seeking happiness in buying and owning things (although I must say there are some clothes and some pieces of décor that make me legitimately happy, no shame in that!)
You may be perplexed as to why I’m talking about intentional living on a blog dedicated to interior design. Let me tell you a personal story. One of my relatives has an immaculate, richly decorated dining and living room (the traditional Italian division of the space in a house), but everyone eats at the kitchen table even on feast days. In fact, she receives guests in her kitchen in order not to spoil the living room. An entire room exists in her house to be looked at from outside the door on the way to the space where living actually happens.
A thousand miles away, a completely different arrangement: my mother’s blood pressure rises whenever someone rings the bell. My family lives in a fancy apartment block, so that gives her a few minutes to attempt recovering the dining and living room, which is the centre of family life. It looks a lot like a scene from Pride and Prejudice. If more than two people are in the house, at least one of them will be in the living room. I use the table as my desk whenever I’m there (my presence is still visible on the bookshelf despite having lived on my own for 5 years). The room is carefully decorated, including a showcase of my father’s own photographs, paintings by my aunt and family friends, and even my impressionistic painting of a horse head I made as a child. With two artsy parents, one of whom worked in interior design for half of her career, it would be strange if it was otherwise. Yet, a visitor gets very different feelings when walking through the door. My mother hates to give the impression the house isn’t properly kept, but at the same time she thinks it’s silly to have a room that exists only to be there.
That was my biggest lesson on the meaning of intentional living.
If my relative lived more intentionally, the room would be used, either because it would be turned into something else, or because the room would be decorated with something she is fine having people use. The design of the space is thought in a way that serves the life of the people in the house, rather than the life of the people in the house be designed to serve the design. After all, intentional living is about designing every aspect of our life around what makes us happy.
A few resources from around the net to get you started:
What Is Intentional Living? by Natalie Bacon
The Helpful Guide to Living an Intentional Life by Joshua Becker
What Makes You Tick? Questions To Ask Yourself by Mo Marshall for Conscious Magazine (itself a great resource!)
An Intro to Intentional Living by Simply + Fiercel