Minimalist Believer

A blog about minimalism and the Christian life

Month: July, 2011

Digital Sabbatical

As I learn more about simple living, I am learning to be more mindful of how I spend my time and what I give my attention to. I am also learning about how to relax and refresh. With this in mind, I have decided to take a digital sabbatical.

What is a digital sabbatical? For me, it is a time of pulling back from a many of the digital activities that I engage in. I will only use the internet as necessary (job hunting, etc.). I want this to be a time of focusing on me. For this reason, I will not be posting to Minimalist Believer.

So what will I be doing?

  • I will spend some time in Mexico (I’m really looking forward to this part!). Some family members are traveling to Mexico, and I am going with them. This will be a time of rest and refreshment. No facebook. No twitter. Just me, a great book, and my journal.
  • There will be lots of reading, too. I have lots of reading materials that I will take in during this sabbatical. Most of these are readings that will help me to reflect on life how to live the life of my dreams.  Hopefully, I will also get some clarity and focus about what I really want in life.
  • I will spend lots of time writing. I am thinking about writing a book about the people of God and social justice. I intend to flesh out my ideas, and hopefully begin writing.
  • I will make time for spiritual refreshment. There will time for reading, prayer, and reflection.

When will it end? I anticipate the returning to Minimalist Believer on September 1. If I have something that I just have to share, I will probably post it, but I will not be posting regularly. I will be getting a sharper focus on my life, and I hope that will be reflected in my writings here on Minimalist Believer.

I encourage you to think about a digital sabbatical as well. It doesn’t have to be as long as mine (I have an awful lot to process), but you may benefit from a time of relaxation and reflection.

I will see you September 1!

The Secret to Contentment from Willow Creek

Lately, I seem to be reflecting more. Right now, I am reflecting on contentment (among other things). Wouldn’t you know it, I got an email from Willow Creek with a link to the most recent message. The subject? Contentment.

The text was Philippians 4:11-13.  I gleaned some great points, and I’d like to share them with you:

Contentment Is Learned

  • Note that our culture thrives on making us discontent
  • Discontentment is the default setting for our culture, even though we are the wealthiest generation in history
  • Too often, we defer happiness. We’d be happy “if only…”

Contentment is independent of circumstance

  • Paul gives examples in verse 12

God doesn’t want us to be unhappy until (we obtain/achieve/become whatever). He wants us to be content now. Christ will give us the strength to do so (Phil 4:13).

The secret to contentment is choosing to depend on Christ. Depending on Christ means finding a way to rejoice. It is a choice we make.

Contentment is not a passive acceptance of the way things are. It is an active pursuit of the goal to know Christ and make him known.

I think that last point is so profound. Contentment is not about passive acceptance, it’s about knowing Christ. When I am so caught up in discontentment, I am not thinking about the goal of knowing Christ, let alone making him known. Contentment is bigger that simply not wanting a boat. It is about knowing Christ, and making him known.

That needs to become my mantra and my life’s goal: to know Christ and to make him known. In a nutshell, this is why I pursue minimalism: to know Christ more than I know the products at the Body Shop. And Macy’s. And even Sephora. Because when I’m stalking beauty products at Sephora, I am not concerned about knowing Christ. And that needs to be the goal.

So I will reflect on these points, and how I can know Christ and make him known. I hope these points are helpful for you, too. If you’d like to view the message, click here

The Return of the Shoes

About a month ago, I bought a lovely pair of black wedges. A few days later, I found a beautiful pair of gold wedges, so I bought those, too. Neither pair was over $60. I had even gotten the gold pair on sale.

The rush of finding a bargain, and having a sexy new pair of shoes, soon deteriorated into self-loathing because I had fallen off the minimalist wagon once again. I hated the fact that I had succumbed to consumerism so easily. But I loved the shoes.

For weeks, a battle raged within. I had committed to minimalism. That meant that I was supposed to be getting rid of things, not taking on more. But the shoes were just so cute! They looked so good on, and they were so sexy (just in time for vacation, too!). The conflict was such that I kept the shoes in their boxes, unworn, with their receipts for more than two weeks.

Last week, I returned both pairs of shoes. I took them back for a number of reasons. I have no place to store them. The heels were high, so they had limited practicality. But what bothered me was the fact that I was failing as a minimalist.

Having returned them, I do not miss them. I don’t feel that their absence leaves a gaping hole in my wardrobe. Life is going on as usual — even without the shoes. So why did I feel that I needed those shoes in the first place? It makes me wonder about the rest of the crap that I own.

Hypocrisy?

Sometimes, life throws you a curve ball.

I have made a difficult decision in recent days. Because of my financial situation, I have chosen to return to the business of jewelry sales.

Wait. WHAT??

Yes, I will be selling jewelry.

Given my commitment to simple living, how can I (in good conscience) sell jewelry? How can I pursue minimalism while selling stuff?

Part of me does feel bad about selling people stuff. But the stuff itself is not evil. It’s the overconsumption of stuff that is problematic.

At the same time, I feel good about what I am doing. I will be an independent consultant for a Christian company. Their emphasis is on service. They support missionaries. I’ve worked with this company before. Their Christianity isn’t just on the surface. These people are real.

So while my business is about stuff, my life will not be. Minimalism will still be my personal way of life. I will continue to pursue simplicity as an individual. This may even help my business. Instead of shopping all the time, I can organize, make phone calls, etc.

Yes, part of me feels guilty for selling stuff, but at the end of the day, it’s just business.

I Don’t Want A Boat

On Saturday, I had a night of fun with some friends. We went to the Taste of Chicago, and then to Navy Pier to watch the fireworks (which were awesome). On the way there, though, we walked past all these people that were having parties on their yachts and sailboats. They looked like they were really enjoying themselves.

Inside, I stared to want my own boat. That way I could have a boat-party, too. I found myself wondering when I would have enough money to buy a boat. I felt even more dissatisfied with my life because I don’t have a boat, and I have no idea if or when I ever will.

Then, it dawned on me: I am a minimalist. I do not need one more thing to pay for. I do not need one more thing to maintain. I do not need one more thing, period!

No doubt, boats are great. A boat-party looks like a lot of fun. But why do I need to own  a boat? Wouldn’t it be good enough to know someone with a boat? Isn’t it possible to rent  a boat? Isn’t it possible to enjoy some of the benefits of having a boat without owning one?

So what I really want is to spend some time on a boat, not the boat itself. It’s the experience that I want, not the object. I think sometimes I get confused about what I want. I want an experience, so I buy an object.

This journey of minimalism is helping me to focus on what I truly need and what I truly want. I don’t want more objects. I want more experiences.

Fashion

I fell off the minimalist wagon recently, and bought summer clothes. I stuck to the basics, but I was very tempted by the latest fashion trends.

Fashion is the enemy of minimalism. Ok, it’s not the only enemy, but it is definitely one of the many. Fashion is constantly changing. Trends change with every season. What’s in this summer will be out by next summer.

Fashion and consumerism go hand in hand. Following fashion trends demands that you spend money to purchase the season’s “must haves”. You have to buy the right dress, and wear it with the right shoes, and carry the right purse. One purchase leads to many more, all in an attempt to be fashionable.

Fashion causes discontent. It keeps us from being content with what we have. Instead of appreciating the clothes, shoes, and handbags we already have, we focus on what we don’t have. For example, this year’s ads for smocked tops and dresses have now made me want a smocked top. I don’t need a smocked top. I just got four tank tops. But seeing the ads makes me want one, though I have plenty of shirts. Another top is not what I need. What I need, I already have.

Fashion is everywhere. It’s on every TV show, it’s on the commercials, it’s on the mannequins in stores. It is always exerting its influence, always trying to enslave you. A good way to break free from fashion is to minimize your exposure to advertising. Read fewer magazines, toss the sales papers, and spend less time in front of the TV. Magazines, sales papers, and TV are usually where the rules of fashion are propagated. They make you feel that what you currently have is inadequate, and create the false need for more.

Just because we decide not to be slaves to fashion does not mean that we have to live a lifestyle of austerity. We can dress nicely. We can look marvelous, dahling. But we don’t have to bow to the rules of fashion to do it.

  • Decide to break free from the bondage of fashion trends. Make up your mind that you will not be caught up in fashion and its demands.
  • Choose timeless, classic pieces. Steer clear of trends.
  • Appreciate what you already have. Take good care of the things you already own. Hand wash, dry clean, and hang to dry as appropriate. Keep your wardrobe looking good for as long as possible.
  • Maximize the use of the accessories you already own. Do you have jewelry or scarves? Use them to add interest to your existing outfits.
  • Develop your own style, and stick with that. Is your usual outfit a pair of khakis and a white shirt? If so, then be true to that. What items of your wardrobe do you naturally gravitate toward? Take note, and remind yourself of this when that blue dress is calling your name.

My goal is to be an appropriately dressed minimalist. I want to have the clothes and  shoes that I need. I do not want to be a fashionista. I just want to be happy with what I have.