I think like most people when we hear the word minimalism we think, “Oh no I will have to get rid of all of my stuff.” We have an emotional attachment to our stuff. As I was reading the excerpt from Christian Minimalism by Becca Erlich I was struck by her talking about her emotional attachment to the sweatshirt and how she took it out of the donation bag and hide it from herself under a basket of clothes. And I thought about the flannel jacket I have that was my father’s and the sweatshirt I never wear in the back of the closet that has memories from my years in high school. The minimalism I knew before the class, readings, and discussion said I had to get rid of these things because they are things I do not use and therefore I do not need. Minimalistic means having only the things you need if you have that much.
But that is not what minimalistic is at all.
The definition Erlich gives for minimalism is, “A focus on the aspects of life that matter most and intentionally removing everything else.” (p. 1)
Minimalism doesn’t mean you can’t own stuff. In my understanding now minimalism is not letting stuff own you. Now, this still doesn’t help with my emotional attachments to the flannel jacket and the sweatshirt. I could give them away because they are in the back of the closet and I hardly ever see them. So should I get rid of them? I also thought during class about the 16 clergy shirts I have. I got most of them when I was in seminary because I had to wear one every day I was at the congregation I was serving on internship. But now I wear a clergy shirt when I do supply and sometimes not even then. And I honestly could go with the 3 I have recently purchased because they are more comfortable than the others anyhow.
I think paring things down would be good for all of us. We, as a family, have done this every time we have moved for me to take a new call. We look through what we have and get rid of things we do not need, or have not used in a while. Except for that flannel jacket and sweatshirt in my closet.
It is interesting to me that minimalism is a spectrum that can be walked by people on the whole spectrum, from those who carry all of their worldly possessions with them in a bag everywhere they go, to people who live in nice homes, with 2 automobiles. It is about the focus of your life. And how the things you own are used for the betterment of relationships and working in the world. Again it is not about how many things you own, it is if your things own you.
All of us would benefit from focusing our life on God and the relationship we have with God. If we can make God the center focus of everything we do and have God be the thing that matters most in our life, then the stuff will fall away or stay and be used for the betterment of the world through God yielding it in the world.
I don’t need the 16 clergy shirts. And I might just give up the sweatshirt and the flannel jacket. But much like Erlich and her red shoes, I think my converse need to stick around. It is how these get used to show God’s love for me and all of creation, and when they become the center of attention, then I need to refocus my life on God because God is what matters most.
Minimalism is about stuff, but it doesn’t mean you can’t have stuff. It means your life is focused on God, and you own the stuff, the stuff doesn’t own you.