The minimalists are right without knowing why

June 2, 2022

How much do you own?

How much do you own? How many items? You might say a couple of hundred and you would probably be wrong. Did you know the average American family owns over 300,000 items? In fact, they own so much their houses won’t hold it all and offsite storage is one of the fastest growing segments for commercial real estate. Where America leads, Europe will surely follow. Between us both, we account for 60% of all private consumption. How did it come to this and does it matter?

It does.

Why? Bluntly, because it is distracting us from thinking clearly and slowly hurting us.

The distraction of busyness and stuff

Not only do we fill our homes with stuff, but also we pack our lives full from morning to night. Since 7am, I have barely stopped. Work, dinner, taxi driving my daughter, gym, shower and now sitting in front of the computer writing this. Every moment of my time is accounted for but as I look around, I’m so busy that I can barely keep up with the mess I’m making with all the things I’m using, On my table as I write, I have 2 mugs, scissors, a clock, 2 sets of headphones, a watch, business cards, a Bible dictionary, sellotape, a pile of work papers, an SD card reader, an envelope containing money and a dental appointment card... it is only a little table but you get the point.

I could describe the rest of the room in equally poor terms. I have so much stuff and so little time that if left for over 24 hours, the clutter monster appears and it becomes a battle to take back control. Something has to give?

Finally it starts to make sense

Over recent weeks, I’ve been having these unusual lucid moments which last for a second or two - It must be something on my mind that stirred from reading a bible passage where Jesus talks about serving 2 masters. He says,

“ 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 destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

Perhaps there is nothing new in these familiar verses - we all know it to be true on an intellectual level, but there are these fleeting moments where the enormity of it strikes deeply. It makes me unsteady. All is superficial and temporal and all my striving is misdirected.

All is superficial and temporal and all my striving is misdirected.

We say one thing, we do another

Many of us call ourselves Christians. We say we believe those words written in red letters in the New Testament, but why then, the dissonance in our life and actions? Our faith is supposed to be at enmity with the Babylonian world system..yet somehow we find it too easy to coexist and play along. We are not supposed to integrate but be distinctive? Excessive consumption and hoarding are vices and surely pose a problem.

Wealth is a blessing and should be used appropriately, but the love of money is a curse. What I’m finally understanding is that material possessions and the next "new thing" are distractions - They eat up time and mental space, they distract us from our mortality, from thinking about how we should live and act.

Don't get caught in the monkey trap

These possessions tie us too much to the ephemeral world and cause us to forget the other kingdom...The more you own, the tighter your grip. Like the monkey with his hand trapped in the jar, we become a static target and very vulnerable.

I’m only taking the first step on this journey. My life is still too materialistic and I cling to my things rather too tightly, but the cloud is lifting.

The minimalists are on to something - they sense a malaise but do they know why? is it that there are no pockets in a shroud? - Time to focus on what really matters.