Friday, May 13, 2011

Why Moving Makes Me Want to be a Minimalist

"Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroy nor where thieves break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also."
Matthew 6:19-20

When I was in college, we cleaned out my mom-mom's house. At that point, she hadn't passed away, but had relocated to a nursing home in upstate NY. So my extended family caravanned off to Long Island and cleaned out her 4-bedroom house.

It was an experience I would never forget.

This was her life encapsulated in one space, and we had the job of judges -- deciding what would stay and what would go. Let's put it this way: we rented a massive garbage dump and it was overflowing. We also took multiple trips to the local Salvation Army.

In the end, not much was salvaged. Mainly, we kept large pieces of furniture, the paintings, and other "major" things. But the "minor" things -- the important newspaper clippings, the sentimental notes, the small momentos -- were just tossed aside. It wasn't as if we didn't want to honor what she deemed important -- even we felt connected to these peeks into the past -- but there was just no way for us to save 85+ years of memories.

And so, in the end, we threw it all away.

"...where moth and rust destroy..."

The memory of cleaning my mom-mom's house burned itself deeply into my brain. I used to be incredibly sentimental when it came to saving things, but after that experience, I try to be very choosy about what I decide to keep.

But lately, I've been thinking that maybe I need to take it a step further. Instead of merely letting go of things that would cause needless clutter or even idolatry, I think I need to be more choosy about what I decide to buy or collect or even take for free. I need to be more choosy about what items are necessary and what items I am holding onto because I can't let go. When accumulating more stuff, I should start asking, "Why do I need this? How long will I need this for? Will I be throwing it away the next time we move?" I need to be more choosy about what types of things I buy and how throwing it away (or even throwing its packaging away) will affect the ever-growing landfills. When out shopping, I should start asking, "Is all this packaging necessary? Could I buy this from somewhere else that would be more environmentally-friendly?"

I am addressing two important issues here:

1) We ought to guard our hearts from being too connected to the things of this world.

"Jesus said to him, 'No one who puts his hand to the plow and looks back is fit for the kingdom of God."
Luke 9:62

It's not sinful to want to remember and have momentos -- God takes delight when we find His joy through our experiences. But we can't let these things become too important to us; we must hold on to them with a loose grip.

2) We ought to take our jobs to take care of the earth seriously.

"And God said to them, 'Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over the fish of the sea and the birds of the heavens and over every living thing that moves upon the earth.'"
Genesis 1:28

God told us to have dominion over all the earth. How often do we consciously live out this cultural mandate? It ought to affect every area of life -- even beyond the environment. How do we -- as mothers, as students, as business people, as bloggers, as baristas -- fulfill the call to restore the earth for the Lord? Shouldn't we, as Christians, be leading the way in the name of the Lord?

And so as we pack up our lives and face our move tomorrow, I want to move ahead conscientious of what I am accumulating and why. I don't want to move ever year or two only to throw out garbage bag after garbage bag of stuff. I don't want things to collect dust and must and sit in a basement, largely unused and only existing "just in case" we may need it someday. I want to move forward with a loose grip on the things I already have, and with a critical eye of the things I am obtaining from hereon out.

10 comments:

  1. Having moved a couple of times on my own, and even in college (dorm-hopping), I feel like I have significantly less than I did. It is still difficult to get rid of old sketch books or artwork (it could simply be because they are things I have made, rather than acquired). I am certainly guilty of the "I could use this someday," largely in relationship to my creative process in some way. I have to admit, though, that when it comes to minimalistic living - I resist. When I think of minimalist living (as opposed to living minimally because of situational reasons), I think of banishing all non-essential items, leaving an aesthetically devoid way of life. As a visual artist I crave aesthetics; my personal aesthetic seems to involve objects, furniture, color, flooring, etc that somehow work together and are functional but pleasing to the eye.

    I struggle with this a lot. "Do I really need this? Shouldn't I use this money in some other way besides something self-gratifying?"

    ReplyDelete
  2. God, for His pleasure, filled our world with some creations that make no sense to us for survival, just for the sheer beauty of it, and to bring glory to Himself. A gift He has implanted in each of us, to take delight in this beauty. When these gifts take our focus off the Creator, then it is time to purge those things that block our view.

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  3. It's funny that you should post on this, because only recently I stumbled upon a fantastic new blog at simplemom.net She focuses on this exact issue, which I have also been focusing since our living space is pretty small right now. But I want to be able to be a nomad/missionary if that's where God leads us, and I don't want to have to worry about what to do with all the junk we've accumulated. I recently bought her book called Organized Simplicity (http://tshoxenreider.com/organized-simplicity/), and it's awesome. It's really been helping me de-clutter our lives a little more. So, maybe you should get it!! :)

    I hope your move goes well!!

    ReplyDelete
  4. @ Yvonne and Sharon - I think you both express similar sentiments, and they are ones I agree with. In Yvonne's case, of course you should keep your artwork! That's part of who God made you to be and it's important to revel in His handiwork. And Sharon, I also agree that God has given us beautiful things to enjoy so that we can rejoice in Him. Life would be so clinical without the added beauties. I am just very particular about what types of things I hold on to. For instance, I don't keep all the journals and notes and pictures from every situation that might mean something to me. I do, however, keep a memory box of things having to do with Elliott and my relationship. I want to hold on to such things and share them at a later point with my children.

    @Sam - THANK YOU for your suggestions! I have been looking for just such a blog and book. Do you know if she is a Christian? Just curious as to where her commitment to simple living is coming from. And I relate about the nomad/missionary thing - I have a feeling we're headed in the same sort of direction somewhere down the road. Although I do hope God has us settle someday, but that's not up to me!

    ReplyDelete
  5. I was thinking the other day to take my box of photography that I called "extras and duds" and just throw them out because I never look at them and they are "duds" as stated. Thankfully these days I choose a couple favorites and keep just those and make photo books instead of printing photo upon photo at the photo place. I also like to just give things away even if I loved it. If someone likes something I have, I say, "You can have it." because I don't like having a hold on them. We are going to be exchanging bedrooms with the boys soon and I can't wait to go through the little things I might have, when I don't really have much as it is. The things we have boxed away in our attic (which also are only a couple boxes and one box of Christmas decorations) are all Rob's. It feels good to have little left after I went and sold 75% of what I owned when Leto was an infant. Thankfully I've kept up with a rotation.
    The next thing though that annoys me that a lot of people seem to do - is that they buy things they don't need and overstock from the grocery store. My fridge has just what I need for a week: cheese, my marinades I use regularly and go through fast, juice for Leto, milk, water, butter, ham for Rob's lunches, and eggs. People come over and open my fridge sometimes and it's so empty I think they freak out at times. I know my mom always wants to FILL MY FRIDGE for me and I tell her that I buy what I need which costs me about $65-$125 a week.

    My one friend who is a mom of two boys like me and lives about 15 minutes away from me (maybe 10 minutes) always exchanges clothes and boys stuff with me. She also is a nanny of two older boys as well so I get their stuff, she gets my boys' stuff from me which might include things she had given me since my boys are older than her boys. We're also the same size in clothes so we often exchange those which is fun. I gave her a skirt, a dress, and she bought half off one of my vintage dresses that I was going to be selling. I gave her jewelry too and I gave her nose jewelry i bought when I got my nose pierced but NEVER put in because I only wear this piece. It is fun being able to do that.

    I want to do it more with other people. I just like doing things for people if possible. If the bank account gets low I just pray we can help others and pay our bills and have enough to get by.

    It is sad that you had to throw all those clippings out of memories of your Mom-Mom, but of course what is important and will be cherished and remembered is the godly things and the soul.

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  6. Victoria - What a blessing to have that exchange with that other mother. I have definitely witnessed abundant provision for the twins; they always seem to be getting great hand-me-downs. I have been praying for the same sort of provision with Pixie, and so far have been amazed at how God has answered this prayer. Sometimes I think we have too much for her already!

    I have always admired your way of consistently re-evaluating your closet and possessions. You've always been an inspiration for me!

    I admit that we do stock up our fridge - not to excess, but to a way that makes financial sense. If frozen veggies are on sale, we buy extra so that the next few weeks, we may not have to budget for them. The same with meat. If it's on sale, and you buy in bulk, you can really save a lot of money. We also only go shopping every two weeks and have found that that saves us some money as well (and time too!).

    But I understand where you're coming from and it reminds me of something else: Elliott once told me about a couple who decided they wouldn't buy groceries again until they absolutely ran out of everything in their house. And it turns out they lasted THREE WEEKS! I think about that when I complain about, "having nothing to eat," and then notice the lonely can of beans or tuna or 1/4 bag of rice sitting on the shelf. Sometimes it take creativity, but it's definitely important not to stock up to the point of hoarding and wasting food.

    Thanks for your thoughtful comment, my dear!

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  7. I think it is good if you think in terms of every two weeks. As long as you are eating it all and not having to throw anything out, then that is great!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. I think it is good if you think in terms of every two weeks. As long as you are eating it all and not having to throw anything out, then that is great!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. It's funny that you should post on this, because only recently I stumbled upon a fantastic new blog at simplemom.net She focuses on this exact issue, which I have also been focusing since our living space is pretty small right now. But I want to be able to be a nomad/missionary if that's where God leads us, and I don't want to have to worry about what to do with all the junk we've accumulated. I recently bought her book called Organized Simplicity (http://tshoxenreider.com/organized-simplicity/), and it's awesome. It's really been helping me de-clutter our lives a little more. So, maybe you should get it!! :)

    I hope your move goes well!!

    ReplyDelete
  10. @ Yvonne and Sharon - I think you both express similar sentiments, and they are ones I agree with. In Yvonne's case, of course you should keep your artwork! That's part of who God made you to be and it's important to revel in His handiwork. And Sharon, I also agree that God has given us beautiful things to enjoy so that we can rejoice in Him. Life would be so clinical without the added beauties. I am just very particular about what types of things I hold on to. For instance, I don't keep all the journals and notes and pictures from every situation that might mean something to me. I do, however, keep a memory box of things having to do with Elliott and my relationship. I want to hold on to such things and share them at a later point with my children.

    @Sam - THANK YOU for your suggestions! I have been looking for just such a blog and book. Do you know if she is a Christian? Just curious as to where her commitment to simple living is coming from. And I relate about the nomad/missionary thing - I have a feeling we're headed in the same sort of direction somewhere down the road. Although I do hope God has us settle someday, but that's not up to me!

    ReplyDelete

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