A little over a year ago, I stumbled upon the idea of minimalism- a concept that I never realized would impact my life so dramatically.
In a nutshell, minimalists live by the simple yet powerful motto that less is more. The goal is to minimize and pare down the excess (in all areas, not just possessions) in order to focus solely on what is most important in life; such as family, faith, relationships, etc. Basically, minimalism is the removal of anything and everything that distracts us from what is truly important in life, and to only keep what is meaningful or sparks joy.
We live in a world of cheap abundance. Small businesses and ethical choices are scarce, and sweatshops and mass production are the norm. It is sad that the American Dream is the ultimate goal in life, but what is the price you must pay to achieve it? The storage pod industry is on the rise as people accumulate more and more. Many people work jobs that they despise because they desire bigger houses, newer cars, designer handbags, and fancier gadgets. Meanwhile, people are forced to work in dangerous sweatshops overseas for pennies. So whenever my head is turned by a cute cardigan at Target, (which is often!!) I picture the face of the person who made it and think, do I really need it? and is it worth it?
I truly believe that Jesus and his followers were minimalists. They lived a mostly nomadic lifestyle with just their sandals and the clothes on their back, going from town to town in order to spread the good news. They never worried about their possessions, for they knew that their treasure was in Heaven and not on Earth. God always provided for them, just like He will always provide for you.
Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. "But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. Matthew 6: 19-21
Now, I am not saying that shopping is bad, or that it's wrong to want the newest iPhone. I'm also not saying that you aren't a Christian if you have a big house or a brand new car. (I actually just bought a new car myself!) It becomes a problem when we buy things with the wrong motives, such as: trying to keep up with the Jones's, greed, to show off, and shopping excessively rather than for necessity.
For more than a year God has been teaching me so much about simplicity; and He has blessed me with a small platform with Youtube to share what I've been learning with others. I went through a rough patch for about two years of my college career, and I ended up completely hitting rock bottom. (click here to hear my testimony) However, coming out of the dark place I was in was when I came across the idea of minimalism one day online. Before, I was the opposite of a minimalist. I maxxed out my time commitments, shopped excessively, made social media a priority, and completely cluttered up my life in all areas. However, I have found such freedom and happiness by paring down and simplifying all areas of my life. Simplifying allows you to get rid of the excess and distractions, to focus solely on what's most important. It truly is the little things in life that make all the difference; like spending quality time with family while not being distracted by our phones, taking time to simply be still and listen to God speak through His word, or maybe going for a sunset run and enjoying God's magnificent creation. (just kidding I don't run)
Now, one thing that confuses me is why Christians aren't at the forefront of the minimalist movement. (Of all of the "minimalists" I've encountered, most AREN'T Christians.) As Christians, we are called to take up our crosses and follow Him. We are called to share the blessings God has bestowed on us with others, and to not conform to the patterns of the world. The world tells us to acquire more and more until we are happy, but Jesus tells us to be content with what we've already been blessed with.
The Bible doesn't say that it's bad to have stuff, in fact, he wants us to enjoy it! It's when our discontentment and desire for more consumes us. When it gets to that point, we are choosing our possessions over Jesus. Take the rich young ruler for example:
“Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth. Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly I tell you, 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.” When the disciples heard this, they were greatly astonished and asked, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus looked at them and said, “With man this is impossible, but with God all things are possible.” Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel. And everyone who has left houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or wife or children or fields for my sake will receive a hundred times as much and will inherit eternal life. But many who are first will be last, and many who are last will be first.
So does all of this mean that you must sell everything you have and live your life as a couch surfing nomad for the rest of your life? NO! Does this mean that you can never shop at Target again? No! It is when discontentment and greed begin to rule our lives that we need to take a step back and re-evaluate what is truly important to us. At the end of your life, do you want to be able to say that you had a really great shoe collection and always had the latest technology? Or do you want to be able to say that you lived a generous life devoted to furthering the kingdom of God. Would you rather be able to say that you had a ton of followers on Instagram? Or that you were able to spend tons of quality time with your family? In the end, our stuff doesn't go with us. At the end of our lives, none of it will matter. The only thing that will matter is how you chose to live your life, and how you used your life to impact others.
If you're still on the fence about minimalism or simplifying your life: here are 4 things minimalism has taught me:
- Contentment: Contentment contradicts the message of the American Dream, but it is something I have found far more valuable than constantly striving for more. We will never be content if we are constantly focused on acquiring. It is when we take a step back and appreciate the blessings that God has bestowed upon us that we become content and realize that we have all we really need.
- How to Live with Less: Since simplifying and majorly purging my possessions, I have gotten rid of over 1,000 things! I have been living with a pretty tiny closet compared to most Americans, and I find that my wardrobe has never been better! It has been so much easier to get ready in the morning when your closet is only filled with the things you absolutely love. Click here to hear about capsule wardrobes and how you can create one! :)
- Generosity: When you aren't constantly shopping and feeling the need to have the latest and greatest- you tend to save a lot of money! Think of how you could use the blessings you've been given to bless others! Whether its cleaning out your closet and donating your clothes to someone in need, or donating your time to helping someone.
- Gratitude: One of the biggest things I have learned through this journey is gratitude. Chances are, if you're reading this, you're richer than 95% of the world's population. I challenge you to keep a gratitude journal and write down three things you're grateful for each day. I guarantee you will notice a trend of simple blessings such as a roof over your head, rather than that new pair of shoes you bought last week.
I am so thankful to God and the lessons He has taught me. Minimalism / Simplifying my life has completely changed my relationship with Jesus. It has helped me to stay focused on what is important, and to eliminate the excess. I no longer get caught up in the patterns of the world (like needing a Kavu bag and chaco sandals just because everyone else has them, even if I don't even like them! Yep, that was me!) Instead, I feel as though I can fully be content and appreciate all God has blessed me with, and enjoy living in the present.
If you survived reading this entire post, go you!! If you're new- my name is Ashley. Thanks for stopping by, and I hope you'll stick around! :)