Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Excess & Minimalism

(fair warning, this is one of those "longer than I expected" posts.)

I have been fascinated by minimalism for about 3 years now. Fascinated, but not committed. If you were to ask me how much I have minimized my life in those 3 years, I'd readily admit that I have a very long way to go. I have taken a couple of steps, but no more. Yet (or so I keep telling myself).

But if you ask me what my plan is to make those couple of steps into more and more, I don't have a solid answer. And when I realize that, I feel guilty, because I know I am very comfortable, despite the things I'd still like to have in my life. This applies both to relationships, job and life aspirations, and actual tangible "things."I don't know that I'd say I live in excess... but I certainly don't live a minimal life, and just knowing that I don't quantify myself as "in excess" probably means that's exactly where I am.

The new small group I'm in with some friends is reading a book on "...mutiny against excess." (7, by Jen Hatmaker). Talk about timing. I just finished a group focused on keeping goals and striving to live better. Throughout those 3 months of our goal keeping challenges, one of the girls shared many pertinent articles from a blog I've come across a few times in the past years: Becoming Minimalist. The author has a family, so sometimes it's how to do family life minimalistically, and sometimes it's for you as an individual (which of course has ripples for those around you). It has been a good jumping off point for many thoughts and discoveries these past few months.

I have only started the introduction to 7. Already, I can tell it will make me think very thoroughly about what I believe ,and what God is saying to me. It has already challenged me to make sure I'm not just sitting back and thinking about these things, but rather making changes to glorify the God I say I serve.

In the intro, Jen mentions that most of us in the US are super rich, especially when compared to people almost anywhere else in the world. The majority of the people on this planet live for $2 per DAY, and we here complain that we don't have enough, and pray for more. She states that if you make 35k per year, you are in the top 4% in the world. Woah.

Now, I hear my defenses rear up immediately... "I make less than that! At least I'm not in that top percent...oh. Wait." Though I make less, I'm still in the top 10%, I bet (I haven't actually checked). I know I'm in the top 50%, and am likely in the top 80% or more. $2 per day?! It's unfathomable in so many ways.

Of course, I also hear my defenses saying, "yeah, but things are more expensive here than in a lot of those places... so if you right-size I bet it's not as horrible in statistics." Seriously, girl? Knock it off. You live in the richest, safest country in the world. Shut up.

I strive to live with what I need, and not much more, but I KNOW I have more books than I need (it pains me to say that. I love books). I have movies, tv shows on dvd. I have plenty of clothes - and not just an outfit or two to rotate and wash. I have a surplus of blankets, toiletries, towels, even. And that's just the beginning.

While I don't think it wise to swallow anything we read without thinking about it and processing it, even if it's from people we know and/or trust, I think it worth saying that we must must MUST not write things off either; even if it's written by people we're not sure about or don't trust. I have a few friends who have read this book and have been challenged and changed by its contents. I don't know what that will look like for me, but to be only a few pages in and be compelled and challenged enough to write about it bodes well, I think. I don't know that I'll ever be truly a minimalist in the most specific sense, but I do think there are many practices and philosophies that line up well with what God calls us to be.

I don't know how often I'll write about it, but you can bet I'll be thinking much over the next several weeks (and beyond). Here's hoping the challenges don't paralyze me, but rather motivate me to action, and to positive change.

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