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Sometimes the beginnings of things are flashy. You can pinpoint the exact moment “it all changed” and relish and relive that spark of epiphany. Our kicking about of life and finally coming face to face with the concept of minimalism was not. It’s been a slow, arduous process where we’ve made mistakes and will almost certainly make more. But finally coming to the place of having a plan, creating realistic and attainable goals, and pursuing a lifestyle of less has freed us. Let me tell you how.
For me, it started years ago in college with a conversation I was having with my childhood best friend. Alyssa and I were discussing a book we’d both read. We were chatting about Crazy Love by Francis Chan, and my friend said something like this: “I want to be poor. I want to live in a small house and have very little money.” Those weren’t her exact words, but that was the gist of it. If you’ve read this book (you totally should; it’s excellent), you’ll understand why she made that statement.
I didn’t get it. Everything so far in life had led me to believe that I was supposed to strive for more and bigger and better; why would a person desire to be poor? Weren’t we in college so that we could get good jobs to pay for our (hopefully) lavish lives? I was still flailing in the whole searching for purpose aspect of life, but my dear friend was lightyears ahead of me (in typical fashion) and opened my eyes to something I wouldn’t understand fully for some time.
It was my first taste of minimalism, and it was bittersweet at best.
Discontentment with Little
Fast forward a handful of years to our first house as a married couple. Ethan and I purchased a fixer upper in an inexpensive area. It was relatively private, our payments were incredibly low, and we’d put a solid amount of equity into our tiny palace. We were in an excellent place financially and were quite pleased with our living arrangements. It was all that we needed and, if we were to be honest about needs, probably even more than that.
But discontentment crept in, as it tends to. The expectation to move out of the “starter home” into something more grand, something a little bigger with room to grow and a better location siren called to our humanity. We caved.
Granted, Ethan was spending a lot of time commuting to and from work and that was our initial instigator for moving. But all the same, the American Dream was calling to us and we had every intention of following it. A bigger house, nicer cars, the pursuit of higher wages to pad our bank account: it was our new reality.
Disillusionment with More
And yet we still weren’t able to pay down burdensome student loans. On top of that, now we had a higher mortgage payment and car loans (something we had once promised ourselves we wouldn’t get tied into) to pay off. Ethan even had vacation time that we likely wouldn’t be able to use up because we couldn’t afford to go anywhere.
Shortly after our “move into affluence” we’ll call it, I began to read another book by Francis Chan called You and Me Forever. It’s an excellent book on gospel-focused marriage and challenges a couple to assess their goals and purpose in this life as it applies to the life to come. I was reminded of the same concepts first presented to me in Crazy Love and of that conversation I’d had with my friend all of those years ago.
Choosing our Master
What am I doing here? What are my goals in this life? What’s my purpose? More importantly, what are God’s purposes for me? What does He want from me? To pursue bigger and better things that coincide culturally with the size of my bank account? To be financially liable to the government and other financial institutions? To be a slave to created things?
Those questions have a very obvious answer to anyone familiar with the way of Jesus: my purpose is to reflect His glory. I’m not to be a slave or indebted to created things, but rather I’m to be free to serve Him in whatever capacity He’s calling me. By constantly chasing after the world’s baubles, I’d settled for less than excellence and had shackled myself to my temporal treasures. My incomplete and impaired vision of life was crippling my pursuit of Christ.
I could change all of those pronouns in the above paragraphs to “our” and “we’re” and…you get the idea. Ethan and I have coincidentally come to these same conclusions about our life. God often does cool things like that when we begin to desire and pursue His best.
Minimalism: Getting Practical
And so now here we are, minimizing our home. We’ve hauled carloads to Goodwill, given bags and bags of items away, and thrown out piles of trash that have somehow accumulated in our short lives.
As a team, we tackled toys first. Our toddler isn’t yet old enough to care much about disappearing toys, and so we took the opportunity to clear out items that he simply didn’t play with (or toys that were incredibly annoying to us; you know what I’m talking about, parents).
The result? He actually played more with the toys he had left and much more intently. That first go round of minimizing set us on a path that we don’t plan on turning from anytime soon.
Freedom from Stuff
Since then we’ve pared down our closets and the kitchen as well as the bathroom and laundry room. Ethan’s still working on his garage and we have to make another go at keepsakes sometime in the near future, but the lifestyle of minimalism is in place and we’re energized by the freedom we feel.
Somehow, all of these things were holding us captive. More stuff meant more to take care of, more to pick up, more to clean, more to maintain…you get the picture. By having less, we have more time and look forward to the financial payoff as well.
The book The More of Less by Joshua Becker has been an excellent resource along with his blog, Becoming Minimalist. Inspiring, realistic, and attainable are what I’d describe Josh’s take on minimalism to be and I would highly recommend reading his short book if you’re at all interested in this movement. This isn’t an advertisement, I simply want to recommend good stuff when I come across it.
While we’re in the whirlwind of our initial minimalism phase, we’re also downsizing our home. That’s right, the house we just moved into a little over six months ago is almost ready to go on the market and then we’ll be on the lookout for something below our “means”. Something significantly less than what the bank tells us we can afford.
The natural progression of pursuing less is remarkable. As we scale back in one area, the next almost magically follows suit. Our most recent discussion has been about television.
I’m not here to say that TV is inherently bad. It’s not. But anything in excess is never good, and we were consuming massive amounts of television at the expense of our relationship and doing things that actually matter.
Rethinking the Norm
What we’re talking about here is a radical perspective shift. It’s about moving from a tunnel vision lifestyle with the end game being the dream house, the great position at the cushy job, and the fancy cars/tech/fill-in-the-blank with whatever stuff makes up your vision of the American Dream…to an entirely different route. We’ve come to realize that life isn’t a one-size-fits-all pursuit. If filling up your storehouses with possessions is what brings you joy and fulfillment and purpose, maybe that’s where you’re supposed to be.
But I would challenge you to take a second look at what you’re doing and why you’re doing it. Get nitty gritty honest with yourself: Who are you trying to impress? What are you attempting to accomplish? Maybe it’s really, really good stuff that you’re doing. But is it the best? Could you pursue better, perhaps with less?
Pursuing the Best
For us, the answer to that final question was yes, we can pursue better. Minimalism is the way we’ve chosen to facilitate it. We have the ability to free up our finances to better serve His Kingdom and we’re going to strive for that. Our children don’t have to be consumed by their stuff and we have the responsibility to lead them into that freedom. That’s the road we’re traveling with the endgame (and everything in between) being the pursuit of reflecting the glory of God.
Won’t you join us? It’s a guaranteed adventure when you buck the norm and chase what you’re created to be, and we’re all in. If you’ve endured this entire saga, you’re a trooper. To keep up with our story of minimalism (and more), subscribe below and you’ll get each new post delivered to your inbox. We’d love to have you tag along!