Minimalist Believer

A blog about minimalism and the Christian life

Month: September, 2011

What I Gained From Going Facebook Free

At the end of July (and the beginning of my digital sabbatical), I took a family vacation to Mexico. I decided that this should be a time of rest and refreshment, not obsessively checking social media. I wanted to focus on the sights and sounds around me, rather than checking in on people halfway around the world. This was my time for me.

  • Because I unplugged from the virtual, I was free to experience the actual. Stepping away from facebook has helped me to spend time taking in my surroundings and experiences. I have more time to experience life  when I m not cyberstalking my friends. My mind is more engaged in what I am doing when I don’t have the details of other people’s lives occupying my attention. Rather than  reading about other peoples’ lives, I had the time and focus to live my own life.
  • Living facebook free has helped my mood. I’ve heard news about “facebook depression”, a depression caused by reading about how great everyone else’s life is. It is most common among teens. However, I am not a teen and I have experienced this to some degree. By not interacting with facebook as much, I am not able to compare myself to others in that way. When I’m not comparing, my life does not look so bad.
  • Less facebook, less anxiety. Believe it or not, I feel obligated to read every status update. If I only check facebook three times a day, then I go back and read every status since I last checked. This is a huge undertaking (and a huge waste of time). Not having to worry about “keeping up” was liberating. I learned that life does go on even when you miss status updates.

Does this mean that I will never use facebook again? Not at all. I have contact with people that I love and enjoy reading their comments. However, I will be much more mindful about how much time I spend on facebook. I will be careful to live my own life, and spend less time comparing it to the lives of others. I will make sure that my presence offline is richer than my presence online. I will focus on living life, not just reading about it.

Can I Really Be A Minimalist?

I have to face the truth: I enjoy getting new things. I get a rush when I walk out of the store with my purchases. I wait with eager anticipation for FedEx or UPS or whoever is bringing me a package that day. I love showing people what I got. I love to use my newly purchased item(s). I just love everything about getting something new.

I think of this because I just got new jewelry for my business. I stalked the UPS website to see where my package was. When it arrived, I had to open every box, tag each piece, and put it away. Then I had to model each piece (I was obligated, right?). And I loved every minute of it.

So how can I be a minimalist when I love getting new things? What will take the place of the rush that I get from new purchases? Or worse, how do I replace the rush of getting free stuff (as the jewelry was)?

A friend suggested that I satisfy my craving for new things at the thrift store. It’s cheaper and it’s greener than shopping in the malls. She also suggests that I have a strict rotation policy. For every thing I bring in from the thrift store, I have to take one item to the thrift store.

I think this may be a short term solution. Thrift shopping is a better way to get my rush. But why do I seek the rush? The rush is only temporary. Sooner or later I’ll need another one. Perhaps that’s why I have so many shopping setbacks.

I think the problem lies in the rush, and the fact that I seek and enjoy the rush. What if I sought peace instead? What if instead of the excitement and eager anticipation of new things, I learned to enjoy the tranquility of having enough? What if, instead of the thrill of new stuff, I was refreshed by some time of solitude and reflection?

See, I think the problem is that I get refreshment, happiness, and gratification in the wrong places. I should be seeking peace and tranquility. I should derive pleasure and refreshment from calm and serenity.

How do I make this switch? I am not sure. Part of the problem is that I don’t have much experience with peace and tranquility. I don’t know how to meditate, or even how to slow down and enjoy the rhythms of my life.

My first step will be to slow down, and to look for little pockets of tranquility in my day. Maybe it will be as simple as enjoying a cup of tea. Or a short walk outside. Or even just sitting still for five minutes. Or writing.

I will also learn to meditate. I don’t necessarily mean the chanting kind where you leave your body. But just the act of being still and quieting my mind. Past attempts at meditation usually resulted in snoring. It will take some work and some research, but I am committed to learning to meditate (in some form).

The third thing that I will focus on is learning to enjoy the life that I have. I sometimes fall prey to advertising, which makes me dissatisfied with what I already have. It makes me want more and more and more. Really, my life is good. I have enough. I will nurture contentment. The best way that I can think of to do this is to practice gratitude. Maybe at the end of each day, I can think of reasons to give thanks. This will remind me that I have a great life already, and that I do not need more stuff to make it better.

Maybe if I shift my focus from getting a rush to experiencing peace, I can be a better minimalist.

Thoughts On Worry

Worry is the sin of distrusting the promise and providence of God, and yet it is a sin that Christians commit perhaps more frequently than any other.

– John MacArthur

I am a sinner. This isn’t news, but I just thought I’d state that up front. Tonight I am worried — about a variety of things. Will my next jewelry show be enough to pay the bills? What if only a few show up? What if I don’t get any bookings?

I’ve spent some time reading about worry, and how to respond to it.  Much of the information was helpful. Some of the better articles:

Bible Verses About Worry

When You Are Worried

Do I trust God? If worry is a lack of trust, then the answer is no, because I am seriously worried. How can this be remedied? I don’t know. (If you know, please tell me in the comments section).

Pray as if everything depended on God. Work as if everything depended on you.

– Augustine of Hippo

 I like Augustine’s quote. I can’t say that I trust God to make everything alright. But I can pray and work. I feel that this is a balanced approach to faith and trusting God. It’s one that I can try. Perhaps the act of working toward a solution makes me feel that I am giving God something to work with. I like to be proactive and doing all that I can makes me feel like I am actively awaiting help from God. (And hoping that it comes!)

Working toward a solution also occupies my mind. Time spent looking for employment is time that I’m not worrying about not having a full time job. It is productive, and being productive has a calming effect on me.

What are your thoughts about worry? What do you do to keep worry under control? I would love to read your responses in the comments section.

Walking the Walk

I am faced a crisis, and I need to sell stuff. This is very difficult for me. Giving away clothes is one thing. Getting rid of furniture is another. Clothes don’t cost that much compared to, say, an armoire, or a shisham wood book case with glass doors. Parting with that stuff requires a different level of commitment.

I have decided to sell my TV and my prized bookcase (with doors!). From a financial standpoint, this is my only option. And even though I am an aspiring minimalist, I am still hesitant to sell my stuff.

Yes, it’s only a TV and a bookcase, but I somehow have an emotional attachment to this stuff. I somehow came to love  my bookcase. I remember buying it. I paid good money for it. It held my precious books.

I don’t have the same attachment to my TV, but I worry that I may want a TV in some point. Will I really be able to live a TV-free existence? What about the Food Network?!

Getting rid of my stuff is also difficult because I also have the “what if…” syndrome. What if I need this in the future? What if I regret getting rid of this? What if I have to purchase another one — won’t that be wasting money?

At this point, I have no answers to these questions. I guess all this is a part of the purging process. I suppose that everyone has to face these questions, as well as the uncertainty that comes along with them. But other minimalists seem to find a way to push through.

This is the place where I put all my minimalist values into practice. But in this process, I realize that believing and doing are two different things. Just because I believe in simple living doesn’t mean that it’s easy to get rid of my things. But just because it’s hard doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be done.  Craigslist, here I come.

Setbacks on the Path to Minimalism

Recently I had a setback on my journey to minimalism. I had an upcoming interview, and I purchased three interview suits. I only need two. So why did I purchase three? I purchased three with the intention to return one. I don’t know which one. But my consumerist family  urges me to keep all three. They don’t know about my decision to pursue minimalism just yet. That is a discussion I am not ready to have. Anyway, I failed as a minimalist that day.

Part of me felt like I had no options. I had to have two looks for my two day interview. While this is true, I did have some options:

  • Get only one suit and change the shirt. In theory, I could have worn the same suit on both days and used a different shirt to make it look like two suits. God forbid that anything should happen to that one suit (like a ketchup stain, or whatever).
  • Make a decision. I could determine which suits I would actually need for the interview and return the other.
  • Check alternate sources.I could have checked the thrift stores, or consignment boutiques for a suit to wear.

In my defense, I had NO suits that I could wear to the interview. I need at least one suit. But do I need three? Probably not. Not now, at least.

What to do when you genuinely need something?

  • Focus. What is it that you really need? Don’t get caught up in indecision. Think carefully about what you need and how much. Make purchasing decisions based on this.
  • Don’t get caught up in cute. Part of the reason that I got three suits is that I got all caught in how cute I looked in all of them. I need to remember that I will look cute in lots of things. Cute is not need. Not all cute items should be purchased.
  • Ignore the sales associates. Of course they will encourage you to buy more, more, more. That’s their job. We must ignore their messages, and stick to what we really need.

Hopefully we will all learn from this failure today.

*I did have a small victory today, though. I returned one suit. I also did not make any purchases from the Lancome counter, even though they have a gift with purchase. I was temped, but I kept on going. I guess today wasn’t a total failure…

The Minimalist Vacation – Insights from Playa del Carmen

At the end of July, I spent a week in Playa del Carmen with my family. This vacation was truly minimalist. During this time, there was no facebooking and no tweeting. There was minimal internet usage. There was a ton of time for myself and my family.

Our typical day consisted of a light breakfast followed by a dip in the pool. Then we had a nice lunch and some time in the pool or on the beach. After the afternoon swim, we would prepare dinner and wither relax or swim until bedtime. Our schedule wasn’t crammed with excursions to this place or that one. There was time to write and to just sit and watch the waves crash on the beach.

There was also minimal shopping. Partially due to my minimal budget, but partially because I did not want to spend my vacation in stores. I wanted to spend it on the beach.

By going facebook free and refusing to fill my vacation with endless excursions, I had time to live in the moment. I will remember those lunches on the beachfront patio forever. Those memories mean more to me than the few souvenirs that I purchased. The experiences made the vacation, not the shopping. I had lunch on our beachfront patio. I took boat ride. I swam in the ocean. I got lost in my book right there on the beach. I took a long walk with a 7 year old. I wrote in my journal every night. These are the things that I accomplished on this trip. And these things are enough.

Don’t Turn Away

The famine in the Horn of Africa has put a much needed spotlight on human suffering around the world. The images of malnourished babies are splashed across the TV screen, making real the crisis that is going on around the world.

But this famine isn’t the extent of human suffering. There are women enslaved in the sex trade. There are people living on the streets. There are people starving, and I’m not just talking about the ones in Africa. Human suffering, in all its forms, has been going on for millennia.

Why are we not outraged? Why don’t our hearts break when we look into the eyes of a homeless person begging for food? In an age of space exploration, why haven’t we bothered to feed all the people on this planet?

I think the answer is that we don’t see suffering. When suffering is before us, we avert out eyes. We turn away. I think that if we really saw the suffering around us, and around the world, we would act. Jesus did.

Jesus didn’t turn away from suffering. Jesus looked upon the undesirables and ministered to them. He cleansed lepers. He ate with sinners and tax collectors. He exorcized demons. Jesus saw the suffering among the most vulnerable members of society and he took decisive, immediate action.

Jesus tackled the big issues. Divorce. Adultery. Capital Punishment. He fed the 5,000. He cried out for social and religious reform. He took the Law to a whole new level: love of God and love of neighbor. Love that springs from the heart, not simply outward actions.

I know it’s easier to turn away from the suffering, but that is a dangerous game. Jesus told a story of a rich man who had plenty. Every day, a beggar named Lazarus sat at his gate asking alms. Both died. The rich man was cast into the fire for his treatment of Lazarus (who went to Abraham’s bosom). Apparently, how we treat the poor is of eternal significance.

I believe that Jesus is calling the people of God to see suffering, and to take immediate, decisive action, as He did. He has empowered us with the Holy Spirit so that we may do the works that he did (and greater!).  He calls for us to see the problems and the suffering in the world, and then work for change. This is social justice.