Is minimalism a fad, a trend, a movement, or a revolution? The answer is yes.
As a writer, I had primarily been acquainted with ‘literary minimalism,’ which is a particular writing style. However, through encountering blogs such as ‘Becoming Minimalist,’ books such as ‘The Joy of Less,’ and television shows such as ‘Tiny House Nation,’ I have arrived late to a party I didn’t know was going on right up the block – minimalism as a lifestyle ethos.
I have two competing aesthetic impulses. One is my attraction to monasticism and the other to perfectionism. I admire monks that withdraw from society and the distractions of the world, wholly devoted to deeper spiritual pursuits. I once spent five days in a monastery for a personal spiritual retreat. At the same time, I am an adherent to Sturgeon’s Law, which states that “ninety percent of everything is crap.” It would seem like those impulses are complimentary, but I feel an urge to hoard that remaining 10%. I desire to own ALL of the best books ever written, ALL of the greatest films, ALL of the (fill in the blank), etc. That drive for owning the best has the side-effect of materialism and consumerism – acquire enough golden needles from haystacks and you end up with a very large pile of needles.
So why the lifestyle reappraisal? My children are a big part of it. Having two kids under two and being the only breadwinner has shifted the financial margins of my life. Suddenly, I am ‘living within my means’ even less than usual. And as for my collections? Well, I barely have enough time during the day to crack open one exquisite Bible, let alone eighteen and counting. Owning more stuff has not directly correlated to a happier life. Indeed, I often feel anxiety about neglecting to make more use out of my belongings at a time in my life where I have very little free time.
Although minimalism may appear more in leftist, hipster, and survivalist circles, it is thoroughly compatible with Christianity. Jesus told this parable in Luke 12: “The land of a rich man was very productive. And he began reasoning to himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no place to store my crops?’ Then he said, ‘This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry.”’ But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your soul is required of you; and now who will own what you have prepared? So is the man who stores up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”
You can’t take your belongings with you, and it is far better to store up treasure in heaven. On this earth, Romans 13:8 encourages us to “owe nothing to anyone…” Many places in scripture talk about the importance of contentment, which is counter-cultural to the American Dream.
Minimalism isn’t just about de-cluttering, but simplifying. In focusing on the things that truly matter the quality of your life improves. I am finding all kinds of advice such as “have nothing on your counters” and “make a list of every single thing you own.” So, I am taking my first tentative steps in this new direction. Sometimes less allows you to be more. Hmmm… now which of my awesome coffee mugs do I give away?