Real Minimalism

Minimalism is not about counting items and being obsessed with how much stuff you have.  It is not about animism as the Konmari method espouses, saying you have to thank your inanimate objects.  It is also not saying all you own can fit in a backpack and then live at your sister’s house or a fully furnished apartment.  It is not about decluttering so that you can quit your job and travel the world.

Minimalism is being thankful for what He has given!

He said to them, “Beware! Keep yourselves from covetousness, for a man’s life doesn’t consist of the abundance of the things which he possesses.” He spoke a parable to them, saying, “The ground of a certain rich man brought forth abundantly. He reasoned within himself, saying, ‘What will I do, because I don’t have room to store my crops?’ He said, ‘This is what I will do. I will pull down my barns, and build bigger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. I will tell my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years. Take your ease, eat, drink, be merry.”’ “But God said to him, ‘You foolish one, tonight your soul is required of you. The things which you have prepared—whose will they be?’ So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.” Luke 12:15-21

So let’s start tearing down some barns!  We are bountiful!  Thank You, O Lord God!  Isn’t it wonderful?  We have a house.  We have food in our bellies.  We have not just clothing but fashion!  What could we possibly do to thank God for all of this?

He answered them, “He who has two coats, let him give to him who has none. He who has food, let him do likewise.”Luke 3: 11

Do you have food? I’m assuming if your reading this you can afford food.  Go through your kitchen.  Is there any food you aren’t going to eat?  You have a can of creamed corn.  You don’t like creamed corn.  There is someone who does and that person is hungry!  Donate it to a food bank.

What other bounty do you have?  What do you have stored up?  What fills your garage, basement, storage lockers, closets, and drawers?  Do you need it?  Do you use it?  Do you even know what’s there?  Start small.  Pull out everything from one drawer.  Spread it out on the floor.  Ask yourself – if the house burned down right now is there anything here I would feel the loss?

Let me tell you a personal story.  I tried this.  I started a little bigger, and decided on Halloween decorations.  I don’t have that much, just a couple of little things.  It will be easy.  There were two moving boxes full!  How did it get this big?  When did it get this big?  I spread them out on the floor and was shocked at the overflowing amount!  Apparently, I take the Carnevale approach to decorating.  More, more, more!  But with a new eye, I looked everything over and asked myself that same question.  If the house burned down right now is there anything here I would feel the loss?  I found only one thing that I would miss.  There was a candle holder that my husband gave me on our first Halloween together so that we could light a candle in prayers for the dead.  I would miss it if I didn’t have it for Halloween.  All the rest – two boxes full, all went to charity so they could sell it and use the money for those who needed their help.

Isn’t it better to help others than to have a bunch of useless, useless junk in your house?  And a little aside.  Yeah, I would miss not having that particular candle holder but it’s a material item and we would just use something else if the house did burn down.  Don’t make attachments to things.  Make attachments to people – like how my husband holds my hands when we pray.  That is worth far more than a candle holder.

Society says, ‘But you could sell it!’  Yeah, that misses the point.  If you were going to sell it and then give the money to the poor that would be fine but if you are going to the trouble of selling it, that is probably not what you have in mind.

For we brought nothing into the world, and we certainly can’t carry anything out. But having food and clothing, we will be content with that. But those who are determined to be rich fall into a temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful lusts, such as drown men in ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some have been led astray from the faith in their greed, and have pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6: 7 – 10

So…

“Don’t lay up treasures for yourselves on the earth, where moth and rust consume, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consume, and where thieves don’t break through and steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21

 By this do I mean torch everything and go live in a cave?  Of course, not!  Although, I have to admit, at times it does have a certain appeal.

Just go through your stuff and help others out with it.  Do it a little at a time or you will get overwhelmed and quit or so disgusted with the amount that you throw out stuff you will regret later and need to re-buy.  One box, one drawer, one small thing at a time.  The bounty that God gave you is great and it will take time to throw out all of your old greed.  Even Socrates contended that to need nothing is divine and that the less a man needs the nearer he approaches divinity.

You see it is about need, not want.  I still have a lot of stuff compared to people in the third world.  But I don’t need most of it.  I have it but if something happened and I no longer had it, I wouldn’t really care.  I’d hate the inconvenience, but I am human.  You know stuff happens, drive on.  I need food and water, clothes, shelter – and a computer so that I can work and get those things.  Those are the only material things that I need.  The less you need material things the happier you are.

First ask yourself do I need it?  You need clothes, but how many – really?  Really, really?  There were things in my husband’s closet that he really never wore, most in new condition! Because he never wore it!  Box it and Donate it!

Clothing is usually the biggest thing people have a horde of.  There are a lot of methods for downsizing clothing.  One that I learned back in the 1980s still works for me today.  Picture in your mind the perfect outfit.  You look good in it.  You feel good in it.  It is awesome!  Go ahead close your eyes and try that now.  What did you see?  I saw my Indiana Jones T-shirt, jeans and sneakers – oh, and maybe an over-shirt or hoodie depending on weather.  Now, get four of those outfits and do laundry twice a week.  Clothing done!  To this day I own, 4 t-shirts, 2 pair of pants, one pair of sneakers, 3 over-shirts (button downs) and 2 hoodies.  It has worked for me for over 30 years.  And yes, I have had regular office jobs too.  In that case you have to pick your over shirts carefully and I added a blazer.

Secondly, ask yourself do I really want it?  We all have something akin to an ugly old lamp that great aunt Mary gave us before she passed.  We keep it because of the love of great aunt Mary.  Is it possible to still love her without having this monstrosity in our possession?  Of course!  If it is wanted by another family member give it to them, if it is useable donate it, if not chuck it.  Great Aunt Mary gave it to you to make you happy, she will understand.

Thirdly ask yourself, “If the house burned down right now is there anything here I would feel the loss?”  There will always be those useless, dust collectors that we have attached so much sentimental meaning to that we do not wish to part with them.  Look these over with a critical eye and be honest with yourself.  Remember when you first moved into your very own place?  Did you have a lot of stuff then?  Did you really miss not having so much?  Really?  Seriously, really?

Going through your house once actually starts to change your mind and when you look at those oh so important things you kept, you come to realize – they are not so important after all.

I also gathered silver and gold for myself, and the treasure of kings and of the provinces… Then I looked at all the works that my hands had worked, and at the labor that I had labored to do; and behold, all was vanity and a chasing after wind, and there was no profit under the sun. Ecclesiates 2: 8, 11

Finally, don’t buy stuff you don’t need.  Don’t look at advertisement and catalogs, this just allows retailers to tell you what you want.  You spend a lot of time at work – what is it that you are working for?  To buy more stuff and have the cycle start all over again?  Change to be the person you always wanted to be.  If you make a list of what kind of person you want to be – honest, kind, giving and loving, nowhere on that list is four houses, seven cars and a billion dollars in the bank.  Think about it.

Peace be with you.

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