Anyone who’s been to my house knows that cleaning the home is not my strength. There’s always stuff everywhere. Nothing is clean. When you visit, I will not give you a tour and show you the rooms of my home, because I am utterly embarrassed by them. I understand that perfectionism kills, that houses with tiny kids are going to be messy, etc., but my house has always been a serious problem. We hate being home because it’s so chaotic. I find less and less time to enjoy with the kids because I’m always picking up after them, and due to always being weeks behind on the housework, I don’t feel freed up to do the things I find extremely important (meeting with people, reading, writing, praying, exercising, etc.)
My husband just started a new business that does polished concrete and epoxy floors, and desiring to gain more experience, he decided to start with the bedrooms in our house. I didn’t know he planned to start so soon, but before I knew it his employees were loading things out of rooms and I had to face how much stuff we have. It was not only embarrassing but nauseating. Something major had to change, and since the rooms were now empty (and the floors are now extraordinary) I figured it was a good time to finally follow a wise friend’s advice and begin to pursue simplicity.
I devouredThe Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up by Marie Kondo. I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things. I spent hours reading articles and listening to minimalist YouTubers (including a mom of 10!) I talked to some of my friends who are exemplary in their simplicity and whose peaceful lives have always, for some reason, made me really jealous. I prayed. And I went crazy. I pared down my wardrobe to about 30 pieces. I got rid of almost every toy. I purged probably 2/3 of my kitchen and the kids’ rooms. And I’m not done.
This has all felt so good. Minimalism is certainly trendy right now, and I hate trends, but simple living really is the anti-trend as it’s what the vast majority of people all over the world for all of human history have been doing. These days it’s easier to purchase items than it ever has been in human history, and we don’t realize how much our stuff has stolen from us until we have less. Soon I hope to write about my favorite gleanings from what I’ve learned and share some pictures of my simplified home. But first I want to share my “beef” with the modern minimalism movement, or some warnings from what I’ve observed so far:
Part of the reason all this purging is so thrilling is because I’m doing it. I’m a self-made woman. My house used to never feel clean, but now it’s far easier to keep tidy, because I made some enormous life changes. I completely turned around our family dynamic. I took away the chaos and replaced it with peacefulness. Good job, self. You saved the world.
It’s dangerous to view ourselves as saviors, and prideful thinking such as that invites a downfall. But finding our hope in the good works of a mere human being (especially from such a flawed one as myself) is an extremely dangerous path. A bit more on that later.
2) Minimalism cannot be your savior.
Some parts of the Minimalism documentary were deeply troubling. The stars of the documentary, who are some of the leaders of the modern movement, described minimalism in words that were nothing less than religious. Anecdotes were shared such as a friend’s dramatic change in demeanor attributed solely to minimalism. One “expert” shared that the most responsible thing you can do is live in as small of a space a possible. (Really? The most responsible thing?) Multiple people shared about how minimalism helped them in the midst of immense suffering. “Simplicity” is an idea, even a lifestyle, but not a person and not a God. It is limited completely by you. It is no less than infinitely more helpful to trust in an omnipotent and transcendent God.
3) Just because you’re less focused on material things doesn’t mean you’re focused on the right things.
I must mention that many of these people who are minimalists for the sake of saving the planet also advocate the killing of unborn children. (Obviously this is a very common and heart-wrenching hypocrisy in our culture.)
However, the more pervasive problem is that most people embrace minimalism for themselves. It’s all about making ourselves happy, meeting our own goals. Simplify your life so you can travel more. Own fewer things so you absolutely love the things you do own. We can still be minimalists and focus on our stuff; we are just focusing on less stuff.
But eternity is at hand! Deciding to have a simple life or a busy life is extremely important, but it’s not life or death. It won’t matter that much for eternity. Figuring out if there is a God, and if He’s imparted any self-revelation, and if you have good standing with Him…these things are more important than clean countertops and tiny homes. I have looked into these things and concluded that there is a God, and He has revealed Himself through the Bible, and there is no way I can have a good standing before this holy God unless the One perfect Person takes my filthiness and gives me His righteousness. And now I get to spend the rest of my life enjoying this God, awaiting an eternity with this God, serving the world that they too might know this God…in many ways, focusing on simplifying my life can be a distraction from what is most important in light of forever.
4) Yes, meditation is extremely important to incorporate into your day, but it wasn’t invented by minimalists or Buddhists.
One of the high-profile advocates for the daily practice of meditation is none other than Sam Harris, one of the most famous atheists in the world. So as far as he is concerned, there’s nothing religious or theological about meditation.
I think meditating on nothing or on “positivity” is beneficial. Our bodies were made to have times of rest, we are designed with a need to slow down and breathe. But, of course, as a Christian I know that modern ideas of meditation are completely selling themselves short. Christians have been meditating for basically our entire history (the earliest direct reference I could find was in Genesis 24), but our meditation is rich and heals not only the body but the soul and mind, because we actually have truth on which to focus. We have statements like “from everlasting to everlasting You are God” and “O death, where is your sting?” and “He will rejoice over you with singing.” These types of thoughts can really change my day.
5) “Mindfulness” shouldn’t negate thoughtfulness.
The dictionary defines mindfulness as “the quality or state of being conscious or aware of something” or “a mental state achieved by focusing one's awareness on the present moment, while calmly acknowledging and accepting one's feelings, thoughts, and bodily sensations, used as a therapeutic technique.” One of the things I love about minimalism is how technology is not a crucial part of it. Social media is recognized as an addictive distraction from the important things. But so much of this thinking is still self-focused. I’ve heard and read lots about how a simplified life frees you up to travel or have more time for yoga, but I haven’t heard too many things such as “Now I have time and money to feed the hungry!” or “I’m so grateful that my simple life now allows me to serve the elderly.” From my research I haven’t heard very many truly selfless voices praising minimalism for the others-focused opportunities that simple living provides. I would argue that a person who thinks about others won’t have to spend so much time repeating “I am strong and awesome” mantras because, well, not thinking about yourself takes the pressure off yourself! As Tim Keller says, humility is the most relaxing thing in the world.
Those warnings and concerns aside, I think there is so much value to minimalism and much praiseworthiness about it. I will share that (and pictures of my newly simplified home!) in a future post. :)
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My name is Hope.
I'm 25, married to a former skater dude and raising three little people ages 1-5. I like chartreuse, calligraphy, Coke Icees, childbirth, crocs, Studio C, and...alliteration.
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Youth Ministry's Family Blindspot - Christianity Today