Minimalist Believer

A blog about minimalism and the Christian life

Month: September, 2012

Life Renovations

I posted earlier that I am doing a 21-day fast with my church. People redecorate their homes and resurface roads, so why not spruce up our lives?

As I embarked on this fast, I had a game plan of sorts. I wanted to really step up my prayer and listening for God’s voice.

As the fast progressed, I feel like God spoke to me. So on the last day of the fast, I have decided to share some of my  insights here on Minimalist Believer.

  • Seek first the Kingdom. My life is in dire need of change. I need God to do so many things. I need a complete overhaul. But as I talked to him about it, I was reminded of Matthew 6:33 which instructs us to “Seek the Kingdom of God above all else, and live righteously, and he will give you everything you need” (NLT). I am worried about so many things and I put my energy into so many things. It seems that in all of my worrying and all of my strivings I have neglected the Kingdom, and I’ve been wondering why my life is in disarray.
  • Put God first. I know this sounds like the first point, but in my life it means something entirely different. In the book of Haggai, God delivers  a hard message to Judah. At the time God’s Temple was in ruins. The people of Judah didn’t restore it because they were caught up in beautifying their own houses. They were too busy doing their own thing. Because they neglected to rebuild the Temple, God was against them. They worked hard but had little to show for it (Hag 1:5-6). God declared a drought and destroyed their crops (Hag 1:9-1; Hag 2:17). When the people set out to building the Temple, God promised to bless them.(Hag 2:19). I saw myself in this passage. There are some things that God has instructed me to do. Have I done them? No, because I’ve been too busy doing my own thing. I’ve been fearful. I’ve been procrastinating. It’s very likely that this is the reason that my life is not flourishing.
  • Keep Praying. In 2 Chronicles 7, God’s people find themselves in trouble. God had shut up the heavens and sent locusts to devour their crops. However, if the people would humble themselves, pray, turn from wickedness, and seek God’s face, God promised that he would heal their land and be attentive to their pleas.

To be honest, I went into this fast questioning whether or not anything would happen. I’ve been dealing with a lot of anxiety and cynicism. But surprisingly, I had some insights that I believe will help me moving forward. I hope that they help you, too.

Minimalism – Heart and Soul

Earlier today, I had an experience that caused me to question my commitment to minimalism. I looked at my bottle of perfume and decided that I would buy a new one. I love, love, love this fragrance and my employer is offering it to employees for almost 60% off. That’s an incredibly good deal. Being a bargain shopper, I decided to take advantage. That doesn’t sound like overconsumption. Minimalists wear perfume, too.

The problem is this: my current bottle of that fragrance is nearly full. Still, I decided to buy another – simply because it was a good deal. My aunt reminded me that I didn’t need another bottle because the one I have is full. I responded that my current bottle was the smaller size and would only last a few months. Surely that justifies purchasing another bottle, right?

After taking some time to think about it, I realized that I really don’t need another bottle of perfume. The urge to buy was partly fueled by my desire to get a good deal. But it was partly driven my tendency to stockpile. A few months worth of perfume should be enough for anybody. But my mind didn’t see what I actually had, it only saw what I didn’t have.

I consider myself an aspiring minimalist. I have a ways to go, but I have already begun simplifying my life. I have fewer clothes and body products. I buy less stuff. I get more use out of what I have. I have simplicity in my head, but is it in my heart?  Am I really living this thing out? Or is my commitment to simplicity so shallow that I can’t resist a good deal?

I look back at the progress I’ve made in simplifying my life. My attitude about stuff has changed dramatically. I have given away bags and bags of clothes and shoes. I have saved a lot of money. I have spent more time doing the things I love than ever before. This makes me want to simplify even more. I am thoroughly convinced that having fewer possessions leads to a fuller, freer life.

My life bears some of the fruits of minimalism, and I am really encouraged by that. It’s not just a cute idea, or something interesting to write about. This is how I live my life. It is a part of me. And getting caught up in the heat of the perfume moment does not change that.

Just because I’ve chosen to simplify doesn’t mean that I will never again feel the urge to purchase something that I like. What is does mean is that I will give careful consideration before I plop down the debit card. It means that I will determine whether the purchase will meet a genuine need, feed my need for security, or simply provide an emotional high. It means that I will buy only what is essential.

Minimalism isn’t about not feeling the urge to buy things. It’s about not giving in to the urge.

Do you still struggle with the urge to buy? How does it effect you? How do you get through it? I would love to hear about it. Comments are welcome.

Mindfulness – The Key to Minimalism

Sometimes, I get in the way of my own success. I don’t mean to, it happens unintentionally.

For example, one day I was driving by one of my favorite bath and beauty product stores. This is the time of year when my favorite bath and body stores have huge sales on their products — up to 75% off! Usually, I go and stock up. It’s a huge sale, and I love a good sale. I automatically put it on my list of errands for the day.  Thankfully, I was lost in thought about something more important and missed my turn.

In June, I quit eating meat and seriously limited sweets and animal products. Overall, I have been doing well with that. However, one day last month, I had pizza (one of my favorites). For the next four days, I continued to eat pizza and other junk. I’d tell myself: I’ll do it just this once. The problem is, I said that about four times. Of course, I did get back on track, but it took nearly a week.

These are but two recent examples when my actions have been contrary to what I say my goals are. Is the problem that I don’t want to live a simple and healthy life? No, these are two things that are very important to me. So why do I keep messing up?

My slip-ups seem to occur when instead of thinking carefully about what I want to do, I simply do what I have been conditioned to do. They happen because I am not being mindful.

Isn’t mindfulness what minimalism is all about? Isn’t the goal to eliminate the mindless spending and consumption? Isn’t healthy eating about avoiding unhealthy foods and choosing healthier ones instead? Both of these things require mindfulness. They require that I actually think, rather than rely on my default patterns. I have to stop and think before I eat that donut, or make that purchase, about what I really want to achieve.

Truth be told, the moment when I’m standing over the pound cake isn’t the time to make the decision. I need to plan my course of action well in advance. The key word is plan. I need to be mindful about my choices, and make them ahead of time, if possible.

(In my whiny voice) But that will require that I stop and think every time I get ready to eat something, or every time I reach for my wallet. YES!! It will!! That’s exactly what it requires. That is exactly what will have to happen. I am never going to live a healthy life or a simple life without thinking… without being intentional.

Anything worthwhile in life requires effort. Effort requires attention, mindfulness. Mindful about what we eat, mindful about what we spend, and mindful of how we spend our time. To me, this is living simply.

What will you be more mindful of today?

Extreme Makeover – LIFE Edition

I loved Extreme Makeover Home Edition. Even when I should have been studying, I would sit riveted as Ty Pennington and company destroyed a family’s dwelling place and then worked together to design and create a new one that was better for them and their way of life. The show made me cry more times than I’d like to admit.

Maybe there’s just something in my heart that loves the idea of something new. I love the idea of blessing a family in need. I love the idea of giving someone a fresh start.

Having a new home built to suit was an amazing opportunity for the families, but it was not without sacrifice. While they didn’t have to pay for the home, they did have to give up something. First, they had to give up what they already had. Their old home may have been too small, unsafe, or in disrepair, but it was theirs. They had memories there. They had their stuff there. In order to have the Extreme Makeover, they had to give up what they had — their home and everything that went along with it: furnishings, appliances, and memories. That was the only way to qualify for the makeover.

Second, the lucky family had to give up control. They had to leave the design and construction up to Ty and his team of experts. They couldn’t choose the layout, furniture, or the paint colors. These were decisions that Ty’s team made. Sure, they did their best to create something that would meet the family’s needs and suit their tastes. However, there was no guarantee. The family had to live with whatever Ty’s team had decided. That is both scary and exciting at the same time.

Right now, I find myself in need of a makeover. While my housing situation is stable, my life is not. There are some things that need to be remodeled and revamped. There are some things that need to be demolished completely, and others that need to be built from the ground up. My life needs an Extreme Makeover.

This may be my lucky day. Yesterday my pastor announced a church-wide fast for the next 21 days, starting Sept 10. It is a time to push back from something (food, TV, social media, sweets) and press into God and hear what he has to to say. It is a time to seek God for direction, change, or just a closer relationship. In all respects, I am a prime candidate for an Extreme Makeover.

Like the families on the show, there is a cost for me. I have to give up something. I might have to abandon my way of thinking. I might have to give up some habits. I will have to change what I consume and how I spend my time.

Similarly, I will have to give up control. I don’t know ahead of time what the result of the fast will be. I’m not sure what changes God will make in my life. This is a time when I let go, step back, and let God remodel my life as he sees fit. I don’t get to make the decisions. This is his show.

As I prepare to embark on this 21 day journey, I am really committing myself to seeking God. I will do all the things I know to do: spend time reading, spend time praying, and serve at church. I will also take some time to just slow down and listen for God’s voice.

During this time, please pray for me. Please pray that God would speak to me. Pray that my life will be transformed. Pray that might I emerge a different person. Pray that this will be new beginning for me.  And pray that I will know God better in the process.

I am looking forward to emerging from this fast with a totally remodeled life.  And if all goes well, I’ll be brought to tears by the wonderful result.

 

Integrating Minimalism Into Your Life: The Mini-Purge

There are lots of ways to do minimalism. Typically, when I think of minimalism and simplicity, I have images of going through everything I own and spending hours deciding what to keep and what to throw away. This is certainly one approach, and it is appropriate in some situations.

For some, this can be overwhelming. For others, it simply is not practical. With jobs and classes and kids, it may not be possible to dedicate several hours to the task of simplifying.

In order to simplify, you have to determine what is essential and what to eliminate or purge. Purging is absolutely necessary. It must be done. However, it doesn’t have to be done all at once. It can take place over a series of mini-purges.

A mini-purge is simply a focused purge. Perhaps is strictly limited to old paperwork, or shoes, or (gasp) beauty products. It’s not the full-scale purging of everything. It’s a smaller, more manageable examination of a particular set of things.

I did a mini-purge yesterday. Yesterday’s purge was focused on items of clothing that are now too big. I purged shirts and undergarments. I am so proud to report that I tossed a third of my undergarments and I managed to part with a few shirts, too.

How did I accomplish my mini-purge?

  • I had a focus. I specifically set out to purge undergarments and shirts. I didn’t go through pants and skirts (those are next). I didn’t do shoes or books. I only addressed two things. My next mini-purge will be about something else.
  • I had criteria. I decided to donate or toss (in the case of undergarments) anything of a certain size –  no matter how cute or what function it served. Clothes that are too big don’t look cute when worn. I also decided to donate items that I didn’t like or didn’t look right. I want to get to the point where every piece of my wardrobe looks good and fits well. With this in mind, I purged. My criteria were set from the beginning, so there wasn’t much to think about as I went.

These two things kept me focused, so my mini-purging session was over pretty quickly. Focused. Simple. Efficient. Totally doable (for anybody).

I always feel good after a purge, but yesterday’s purge was especially fun because it marked a milestone on my journey to my ideal weight. I said farewell to all clothing items of one size, and that felt great.

The result of my mini-purge is that I have more room and less clutter. I feel better. And someone is going to get some new shirts. Everybody wins when you eliminate clutter. And eliminating clutter step by step is how you integrate minimalism into your everyday life.

My Prayer For you – September

Lord, I thank you for every person that you have brought into my life.

I thank you for your care and protection.

Thank you for your blessing and provision.

Please continue to bless your people that we may be a blessing.

Bless our families.

Bless our homes and businesses.

Bring healing to our bodies and peace to our lives.

Transform us by your Spirit.

God, I pray that you would cause your people to know the truth, and be set free.

I pray that the light of your truth would shine into our lives, and that we would be forever changed.

Guide us in every decision.

For those that are returning to school, I ask for your protection and help.

For those that are employed or in business, I pray for blessing and favor.

For those that grieving, I pray for comfort and strength.

And for those that are experiencing hardship, Lord, bring deliverance.

Help us to remember that you are present among us, and that you have brought your Kingdom to earth.

Reign as King in our lives.

Amen