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. We recently packed everything we need for a year of living abroad into two suitcases, two 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,” as well as 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 are my two cents.
1. Less stuff makes life easier.
It means less to pack when you’re moving, fewer options in the closet to paralyze you, and less risk of buying things you don’t really need that will only clutter your home.
2. The freedom of "stuff-forgetfulness" is better than minimalism or maximalism.
Tim Keller wrote a short book titled The Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy. It’s a great exposition of what true humility really means along with the joy that comes when you stop connecting every experience to yourself.
Likewise, there is a great freedom in being able to think less about our stuff. 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 you should have 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 God’s kingdom, as our Lord calls us to do.
Either way, it’s not the stuff that matters as much as the place we give it in our lives.