Over the course of my life I have accumulated lots of stuff.
And that is just the beginning.
I started to realize the abundance of things I owned overwhelmed me. Since I was only subleasing an apartment for the summer I was constantly moving back and forth. It was so much hassle moving everything around. Packing up boxes and unpacking them. Half of the clothes I didn’t even wear. There were so many things I felt like I would die without yet I did not use once over the two month period.
When my sublease ended I packed up all my belongings and attempted and was about to head home when I ran into some friends. I ended up staying and went rock climbing with some pals I work with. It was 8:30. The sun was setting. I departed from my friends and I knew I had to do it. I had to see what it felt like to sleep in my van. I had a sleeping pad in the back of my car and if I moved things around enough in the middle of the van I would have enough room to set up an area for it. It was something I had talked about for months. I called a good friend and asked if I could park my van in her driveway. She happily agreed.
That night I slept safe and sound in my van packed to the brim with things from my apartment. Living out of a van is not as bad as it may seem. Of course there are complications. Like where to brush your teeth in the morning and how to brew a hot cup of coffee. But I just showered at the gym and had a loaf of bread and jar of peanut butter ready at all times. I was just fine. There was, however, one thing I came to realize.
I had TOO much stuff. When you are living out of such a small space like a van you find yourself only thinking about the things that you need. Over the last couple months I had been talking to my friends about wanting to simplify my life and become more organized. One friend had mentioned to me to idea of minimalism. After the couple days I spent living out of my van I came home and I decided to do some research on this thing called minimalism.
“Everyone comes naked from their mother’s womb and as every comes so they depart. They take nothing from their toil that they can carry in their hands”. Ecclesiastes 5: 15
It seemed like the best fit for what I was looking for. Yet the idea of getting rid of things I had held onto for so long was daunting. Often times things bring back a rush of memories for me. It is never easy letting go.
But once I began the process I realized that things don’t hold memories I do.
I found items that had been forgotten. Hidden away covered in years of dust. I found things that used to mean a lot to me that somehow over the years were abandoned and erased out of my mind. I am in the process of getting rid of 70% of the things that I own. I know it sounds insane. Like what girl doesn’t want a walk in closet ceiling to floor covered in clothes? Yet, as I clearly saw this summer materials have a tendency to weigh me down when I am carrying around items that don’t add value to my life.
“Whoever loves money never has enough: whoever loves wealth is never satisfied with their income. This too is meaningless. As goods increase so do those who consume them. And what benefit are they to the owners except to feast their eyes on them”. Ecclesiastes 5:10-11
There are three reasons why I have decided to take on the journey of minimalism.
To roam and wander without constraint. I want to be able to move places at the drop of a hat without the “moving process stress” I have become so familiar with this summer. Not only that but I think the love for things has sometimes robbed my joy. When I look at the things I want and realize I cannot have them or afford them my joy and contentment are ripped out from under me. I want to be free from wanting beyond my means.
Having less puts into perspective what you do have. If I have exactly eight shirts I just can’t live without I know when I go to pull a blouse from my closet it will probably be one that I love. As a naturally disorganized person minimizing the amount of junk I have has already helped tremendously.
People > Things
Experiences > Things
While I know all too well that there are more important aspects of life that cannot be purchased I also want to value the things I do own and be grateful for them. When I get in the mindset of wanting more I forget all that I have. Things are not bad, but overconsumption is. That is my main purpose in all of this to value people, experiences, and things more. Whatever I am blessed with in life monetary wise I want to be rich in laughter, rich in friendships, rich in memories, and rich in love. Not necessarily rich in possessions.
“Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor. If either of them falls down, one can help the other up”. Ecclesiastes 4:10
“Moreover, when God gives someone wealth and possessions, and the ability to enjoy them, to accept their lot and be happy in their toil”. Ecclesiastes 5:19
More than anything I feel like God is calling me on this journey. To seek the city and seek his people. To run from the desires of my flesh and chase after his heart. To be completely content with the lot I have been given. If I were to chase after only monetary treasures of this earth I would miss the daily treasures God sets before me.
Refreshing. Like taking a sip of cool water after a long run. I have felt this process open my eyes to how I have been living. My whole life I have always wanted things. The latest fashion trends, coolest technology, or nicest name brand items. Yet, now my perspective has changed so much. I want a life full of experiences, not full of things that don’t add value to my life. There is nothing wrong with having things. My coffeemaker will never depart my side.(for obvious reasons) It adds value to my life. While that may be true there overwhelmingly were things that did not add value to my life. In fact, they cluttered my life, made me greedy, and put this notion in my head that I did not have enough. I made purchases for social status not for my own personal enjoyment. It took me a while to realize the best things in life are not things. The smile your grandpa gets when he watches birds eating out of his bird feeder. The laughter we get watching him get angry at the squirrels eating his bird food. The comfort you get from seeing your best friend after a long day. When someone knows you so well they order you food from your favorite restaurant, or buy you cold medicine when you are sick. The thrill of seeking new adventures and paddle boarding out to the middle of nowhere with people who know less about how to survive than you do. The joy I feel when I service others in need. No the best things surely can’t come from things. And maybe just maybe when I finally get the last box labeled “donate” out the best things will become more and more visible.
“Use things and love people. The opposite never works.” -Joshua Fields Milburn