The Freedom of Stuff-Forgetfulness

My husband and I are accidental minimalists.  We ditched half of our belongings before moving to California and then cut our stuff in half again before trekking cross-country again.  We recently packed everything we need for a year of living abroad into two suitcases, 2 carry-ons, and a backpack.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t that hard.  We’ve learned a lot over the last two and a half years about what we don’t need to still live well.  Also, I watched a documentary on minimalism once, so that makes me an expert, right?

A quick Google search will uncover a plethora of articles on the benefits of “less is more” and a rising tide of counter-articles based on the idea that minimalism can lead to idolatry of nicer things instead of just lots of things.

Based on my clearly established expertise on the matter, here’s my two cents.

  1. Less stuff makes life easier.

It means less to pack when you’re moving, less options in the closet to paralyze you, and less risk of buying things you don’t really need and letting them clutter your home.  

  1. The freedom of stuff-forgetfulness is better than minimalism or maximalism

Tim Keller wrote a short read on “The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness.”  It’s a great exposition of what true humility really means and the joy that comes when you stop connecting every experience to yourself.

Likewise, there is a great freedom in just thinking about our stuff less.  Personally, I’ve found that one way to do this is by simply having less stuff.  In order to have less stuff, I’m more thoughtful about my buying decisions so that I don’t buy useless stuff, but that doesn’t mean I have to obsess over every item in my home (or currently, suitcase).  

The Parable of the Rich Fool in Luke 12 provides apt warnings against both forms of idolizing stuff–both the quantity and the quality of it.  After reminding the crowd that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions,” Jesus goes on to tell the parable of a rich man with many quality goods and grains to whom God says:

“Fool!  This night your soul is required of you, and the things you have prepared, whose will they be?  So is the one who lays up treasure for himself and is not rich toward God.” (Luke 12: 20 – 21)

I don’t think it’s a coincidence that in the very next verse Jesus exhorts his disciples:

“Therefore, I tell you, do not be anxious about your life, what you will eat, nor about your body, what you will put on.  For life is more than food, and the body more than clothing.” (Luke 12: 22 – 23)

There’s not a perfect number of items in your closet or kitchen utensils in your drawers, but when your decorations take up more mental space than the incredible glory and majesty of our Creator, that’s when it’s time to reevaluate.  For me, it meant shipping off a few boxes to the Salvation Army.  For others, it might mean taking those thoughts hostage and redirecting them towards the things we are called by God to think about.

 Either way, it’s not the stuff that matters as much as the place we give it in our lives.

This post is the third in my “Misplaced” series–click on the words to find my thoughts on misplaced kindness and misplaced attention.  I’ve got a few more up my sleeve, enter your e-mail below if you’d like to follow along.

The Essence of Me

I have a funny habit of running experiments on myself.  Before you jump to any conclusions,  I do not have little bubbling jars of neon liquids in my room (you’re welcome roommates)  Its just that I like to gaze into the abyss that is the future, place myself there, observe how I think I’ll react to a new situation, and then see if my hypothesis is correct in post-future retrospect.  That last sentence made absolutely no sense and I will now try to redeem it.  Here is a practical example:

When arriving at college, the expectations and reputation that I had gathered as the Chloe of Clarkston disappeared.  I knew this would be the case and so I was eagerly anticipating my actions, thoughts, friend choices, etc… to see who I would be.  Turns out, I’m quite like the Chloe of Clarkston.

Instead of being disappointed that I didn’t create some whole new personality, I’m quite relieved.  I am still spontaneously introverted, mysteriously happy in the morning no matter how much sleep I get, in love with my calender and post-its and color-coding, dedicated to studying to death, addicted to quality conversations, in awe of my amazing God, and loving the people around me.

Not much has changed, yet everything has changed.  Everything external is different, new, and changing at a mile a minute. The essence of me; however, has been delightfully consistent.  Of course, this means that I still am struggling through the same weaknesses but I have a new courage and drive to defeat them.  I am completely open to change (see last post) but do not see myself surrendering my color-coding pens anytime soon.  Speaking of, my calender is telling me that its time to continue my Genesis overload.

Until next time,
the Chloe of anywhere