I’ve recently decided to become a minimalist.
The topic of minimalism has become part of the bigger conversation within the last year or so. Capsule wardrobes and simple home designs are more popular. There are documentaries of people living out of their vans and Youtube videos of people freeing up their lifestyles with spending less and getting rid of more. It’s almost like people are suddenly realizing that more stuff doesn’t necessarily mean more happiness. That hoarding and spending and having massive debt actually bring on more stress than success. There’s a minimalism movement happening.
I guess I’m a little late to the game, but for the past month, I’ve been in the process of de-cluttering my life. It started with me reading “The Life-changing Magic of Tidying Up” by Marie Kondo. Her “Konmari” method helped me to jumpstart the de-cluttering process, but then further research into the minimalist lifestyle really got me thinking.
The truth was I have so much stuff that I never use. Things that I’m holding onto simply because I think I should. It’s like I suddenly woke up and realized that I have way more than I need and it’s all weighing me down. And the whole idea of minimalism totally “clicked” for me. Simplifying my life allows me to figure out what brings me joy. It can free up time for me to really pursue the things I’m passionate about.
Lenten season is here, and before I even started my minimalism adventure, I decided that I would undergo a spending fast for Lent. Besides the basic necessities and going out with friends, I’m holding myself to the goal of not buying material things. It’s essentially a “stuff fast.” Let’s just say avoiding Target is half the battle.
So if I can not only get rid of the stuff that I don’t need, while also cutting down what is actually coming into my home, I’ll be living the minimalistic lifestyle in no time.
But I had no idea what a challenge this would be.
I’m almost done “Konmari-ing” my stuff. So far, I’ve donated over 10 large garbage bags full of stuff, plus boxes of books and other items. Not only am I getting rid of the things that don’t inspire me so that I can be surrounded with what I really enjoy, but I’m also helping others in the process, which is great. But this process has also made me feel a little guilty. I realized what a hoarder I had really been (and still am). I found myself internally struggling to let go of things that didn’t bring me joy but I felt that I had some sort of emotional attachment to. I realized my stuff had much more of a hold on me than I realized.
I can’t help but catch the obvious metaphor in all this—the one that God’s practically hitting me over the head with as I go through every single thing I own.
It’s not just about de-cluttering my home, it’s about de-cluttering my heart.
Though cleaning up our homes and giving stuff away is freeing, it’s nothing compared to the importance of cleansing our hearts. God is showing me that this is just the start. He wants me to be free to do the things He’s calling me to do. But He’s also wanting me to allow Him to purify my heart and mind of the things of the world that have been stealing my joy.
Like an episode of “Hoarders” I argue with God about why I won’t let go of something. I practically clutch a pair of ratty slippers, rattling on defensively about why I need them or what they mean to me. And God just shakes His head with a sympathetic look and says, “Don’t you know how worthless that is? Don’t you know how much more I can give you?”
He wants us to be free of the things that are hurting our hearts, of the things we think we need but are ultimately just weighing us down. Just like minimalism has been changing my perspective on what I really need in life, God has been slowly opening my eyes to the fact that He is the only thing to bring me joy and contentment. I stare at the pile that is my sin and think “Seriously, I’ve been carrying this with me for this long?” And like a Japanese organizing expert, Jesus comes in and helps me wade through the pile, helps me throw the things away even when it hurts.
Minimalism isn’t really anything new. There’ve been generations before us that have pursued the simple life (think John the Baptist and Thoreau). Jesus himself was a hardcore minimalist. In fact, He warned of the dangers of too much wealth and greed.
When a young man asked Jesus what he needed to do to inherit eternal life, He told him to “’sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come follow me’” (Mat. 19:21). But the man went away sad because he had a lot of stuff and couldn’t part with it.
Sometimes we tell ourselves that Jesus didn’t really mean that we should sell our stuff. We like to argue that it’s a different time and age, and He wouldn’t really ask that of us. We breathe a sigh of relief because we literally couldn’t bare the idea of giving up all our earthly possessions to follow Jesus. Surely He wouldn’t ask that of us, right? But Jesus said, “it is hard for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of heaven. Again, I tell you, it is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for someone who is rich to enter the kingdom of God” (19:24).
Let’s face it—we are rich. We have so much more than most of the world. We are just as likely to fall victim to the idol of possessions as the rich young ruler was. If we aren’t willing to literally leave every single thing we own behind to follow Jesus, then maybe we need to do some de-cluttering in our hearts.
Just like materialism, it’s so easy for minimalism to become an idol of its own. To compare who has less stuff, to idolize the simple life and not necessarily the godly life. It’s about finding contentment in the Lord.
Minimalism is just a beginning for me. A place to start. I’m nowhere near where I want to be. I know it will take time to retrain my mind from all the commercialism I’ve been bombarded with since I was born. But if I can free up the earthly things that keep me from going after what I really want in life, then God can help me clear out the earthly clutter of my heart that keeps me from pursuing Him wholeheartedly.