My blog friend Sterling recently sent me her new book, Not Of This World: A Catholic Guide to Minimalism. She also sent, Be Merry: A Catholic Guide to Avoid Anxiety and Depression During The Holidays which I’ll read a little closer to the holidays. I have been looking forward to her book because the idea of minimalism completely intrigues me–but I have 7 children, and we homeschool, which means almost 24/7 there are 8 people living in our home. Like, my home never gets a break because kids are way at school or Chris and I are both away at work. Sterling’s book has chapters for large families and homeschoolers. Perfect. I’ll start there thank you.
Here’s Sterling’s definition of minimalism, “Minimalism is about choosing where we put our focus, our money, and our time.” She then quotes from Joshua Becker, “…minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it. It is a life that forces intentionality.” I appreciate both of those definitions of minimalism because they focus on the positive aspect. Minimalism isn’t just getting rid of stuff, negative connotation, it’s about making intentional choices, positive connotation.
Sterling also shares a quote from Lori Lippincott, author of Simple Living. “Minimalists are priority centered. [They] know or are trying to find out what is most important to them and live their life based on that information.” Let’s lay one more foundational piece. Let’s take it old school Baltimore Catechism question and answer. Why did God make you? God made me to know Him, to love Him, and to serve Him in this world, and to be happy with Him for ever in heaven. We have a working definition of minimalism with explanation and the summation of our reason and purpose here on earth, so let’s get started. I’ll share quotes from the book in bold with my thoughts following.
As I seek to live out my Catholic faith and to strive for sainthood, I don’t want to surround myself with things, people or appointments that get in the way of that mission. I wonder how our buying habits would change if before we made our purchase we asked ourselves, “Will this get in the way of my God-given mission?” This question could be asked as we consider a new purse, shoes or even a bag of junk food. Not only the actual item but also the money involved. Do we complain of being broke, but seem to have enough money for just one more pair of shoes we don’t really need? If I was going to spend that money anyway, why not donate it to an organization that provides shoes to those who really don’t have any. Or, just not spend the money in the first place.
…and that’s the sad result of hoping conformity and materialism will form genuine relationships. It never lasts. Just when we think we’re out of highschool or college and are past the thief of comparison ore peer influenced shopping, we aren’t. Comparable pumps in the office, car in the parking lot, furniture in the home or soccer mom attire on the sidelines, we can be influenced to purchase what we don’t need. And all those things take up space–even if only the mental space of wishing we had it. This goes back to the beginning of the book when Sterling educates us, minimalism is a “philosophy, a state of mind.”
It (lifestyle of minimalism) means turning our mind and our heart to God and constantly asking Him, “Does this bring you glory?” Of course I need shoes and clothes and even a purse to carry my things, but how many do I need? Of course I need a home and I believe even beautiful things in the home, but all the things? Do multiples bring God glory? Do all the things bring God glory?
Instead of thinking about minimalism as getting rid of a bunch of stuff, think of it as creating more space. One of the top-selling books a few years ago was, Margin: Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial, and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives It seems we all know we need more time, more white space, more margin. I just think we don’t realize how much our things keep getting in the way. Not only their physical presence but the time we spend working to pay for more things and then the time to shop for more things. It really is a vicious cycle making us as a society, even a Christian society, sick and tired–physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually.
Finally, the author shares the differences between minimalism, decluttering, and organizing. Then she lays out steps to a minimalist lifestyle with challenges as we go through our home, litmus tests when deciding to keep, donate or trash, and special considerations like having a large family, homeschooling, people who live with you, too little space, and even too much space.
A personal story. Sterling shares at the beginning of the book a personal story about her grandmother and her husband’s parents. Although my mother-in-law was not a hoarder, she was a pack rat. When she died 10 years ago, my father-in-law, as well as her daughters, had the difficult task of deciding what to do with her things. I told them to bring the stuff to me and I would deal with it. I would pull items from the boxes and ask my husband if he had an emotional attachment to the item. A favorite memory or story centered around the item? Nine times out of ten, he didn’t even remember ever even seeing the item. So we donated it. There was a lovely little blue and white pitcher he remembered his mom serving hot chocolate from. Since he had an emotional memory attached to it, we decided to keep it, but it had to have a place of honor to be kept.
I believe that sums up the minimalist lifestyle, we were intentional about what we allowed into our home and then intentionally gave it a place of importance. It was all about intention, choice, and purpose.