In America, we talk about our consumerism culture. ‘Minimalism’ is a word that is making its rounds through the mom-blogging circles. While I wouldn’t call myself a minimalist – the giant fiction and movie library behind me as I type this would make me a liar – I do understand the importance of finding freedom from stuff.
What do I mean by stuff? We all have our weaknesses. It can be pretty decorations, clothes, shoes, an extensive book and media library, the latest gadgets, gourmet snacks, etc. ‘Stuff’ is anything we have a compulsion to acquire, even when there’s that little voice in the back of your head that says, “This isn’t good for you/your budget/your sanity.”
Why It Matters
Before there’s an outcry, let me say that I’m not trying to say that you’re sinning if you enjoy buying some nice clothes or if you like making your home beautiful. While busying stuff by itself is not a sin, there are some dangers for Christians in this area. And, like all areas of Christianity, some Christians will struggle more in these areas than others. So can we go ahead and apply Paul’s logic about being single vs. married here?
I say to those free from stuff: it is good for them if they remain as I am. I want you to be without concerns. A person who has not collected stuff past the basics is free to serve the Lord, as I am free to serve the Lord. But one who has collected stuff past the basics has divided interests. I am not trying to put a restraint on you, but I want you to be free to serve the Lord.
~If Paul wrote on Minimalism
Okay, guys, cut me a break. I’m pretty sure Paul – who wrote while in prison – was about as close to a minimalist as we can find in the Bible, but I know that he didn’t write on this issue. So let’s examine this issue from some angles that actually are supported in the Bible.
Our Stuff Takes Our Money
The very act of acquiring stuff takes our money. Sometimes – depending on the hobby – there is upkeep that takes even more money. So why does this matter?
Because money matters to our testimonies. As Christians, we are to be beyond reproach in all things so that nobody can badmouth us and, by extension, the name of Christ (Titus 2:8). So what does it say about Christian ethics if we become known for not repaying our debts? How can we be a trustworthy individual if we lie by not doing what we say we will do?
We need to find freedom from stuff that drags us into debt or makes living stressful. Period.
But what about those of you who don’t have trouble paying your bills? How does this apply to you? Three words: the Great Commission.
By the very fact that consumerism is now an interconnected global affair, it takes money to make disciples. Ministries need financial support. In fact, ministry has always required material and financial support; several of Paul’s letters reference collecting these things or delivering support from other congregations.
Where is that support going to come from if Christians do not provide it?
By simple mathematical principles, if your money is going towards stuff then it is not going towards ministries who desperately need financial backing. And there are a lot of ministries that are struggling right now. As a good Southern Baptist girl, I grew up with the Lottie Moon Christmas Offering. That’s why it was particularly heart-wrenching when I learned that the International Mission Board had to cut back on their foreign missionaries a couple of years ago.
Make sure you’re seeking God’s guidance in this area of your life. Money matters.
Our Stuff Takes Our Time
Stuff eats away our time. Hobbies are great for a break (and we all know that God commands us to rest!), but, if we are not careful, they can eat away the time that we need for more important things. Again, it’s mathematics. The amount of time that we spend cleaning and organizing stuff is in direct proportion to the amount of stuff we have collected.
Christians are called to be good stewards of their time. We can connect this back to the Great Commission again, or we can just take a look at our daily lives. How often do we forsake studying the Bible, praying, and worship? The most common excuse for these things is: I don’t have time.
If we’re struggling to connect with God, then we need to find freedom from the stuff that is taking up our time. And if you need extra help on that, please check out my post on Finding Freedom from the To-Do List Stress.
Our Stuff Takes Our Contentment
This is the biggest point I can make about why finding freedom from stuff should matter to Christians. You see, many of us experience discontent. And, even if we don’t realize it, we have a tendency to feed this discontent with our actions.
We look wistfully at the cars that our neighbors drive, or we wish we could buy outfits without searching for the sales prices. We wish we could afford the cute shoes that our friend has, or the house in the nice neighborhood.
It’s both jealousy and a form of idol-worship. Yes: idol-worship. I know I haven’t written on what contentment means, but I’ve done some word studies on Bible verses before. This is what I’ve learned:
- Contentment is a recognition that all needs have been met.
- God is sufficient for all of our needs through His provision.
- Contentment prepares us to give more graciously with our time and our money.
When our want of an objects deepens into a desire, we stop looking at how God has already met our needs. In the worst cases, we start expecting stuff, not God, to fulfill that desire so that we can be content again. See? Idol worship.
A Personal Story
Busy Moms, I’m not looking down on you from the top of the holiness mountain when I tell you this. I’m writing this to you from experience. You see, I live a two-bedroom apartment with my husband, a toddler, and a cat. Our space is limited (especially when you consider that my husband is a History M.A. student who was reading an average of five books a week for his program).
We got married while still college students, so we didn’t have a lot of money. To this day, we still use an old piano bench as a coffee table. We don’t have a dinner table. We don’t have room for a dinner table.
There are points when I want nothing more than to get out of this apartment. And those times when I have to drive my daughter around so she’ll nap? Do you know how many nice, average homes I pass with sale signs beside them? A lot.
It’s a temptation. A home is a ‘stuff’ that I desire. When I feed that desire by imagining how great it would be to have my own personal workspace again, my contempt at my current living situation grows. But God has provided everything we need right now in this little home, so that contempt is really at God’s provision for me. That’s painful to think about, right?
The Holy Spirit drew my attention to this fact. It’s something I’ve been fighting since that moment.
The funny thing is that I noticed an immediate change in my overall productivity the moment I began to focus on being content. I’ve always been a fast writer. Right now, I’m wondering how I managed to write four short stories while getting ahead on my blog-writing schedule.
It makes me wonder, “Just how much time was I wasting on discontentment?”
So now that I’ve highlighted why it is important, it’s time to go over some strategies for gaining freedom from your stuff.
Strategy #1 – Reduce
When I interviewed Busy Moms for my ‘Keeping a Clean Home’ post, I came across a woman who had gained newfound freedom by hauling away three trucks of stuff from their home. While some of you are thinking, “I’m glad I don’t hoard that much,” you might be surprised to realize just how much unnecessary stuff you do keep.
When I married my Hubby, we both moved things into our tiny home that had long been hallmarks of our separate rooms. Except we didn’t need these things anymore. Either technology had updated or we were just too busy to deal with some of it. So our separate junk piles just took up space in the Chaos Room.
We kept the Chaos Room organized (for at least a couple of weeks at a time!) as our library and the room we played card games in with friends. And then our world changed when I discovered I was pregnant. We suddenly needed most of the Chaos Room for nursery space. Out of that ‘little bit of stuff’ in the Chaos Room, we hauled away a full truckload of stuff that we just straight up threw out. Then, we reduced our items even more so that the library could be moved into our main living area.
I learned several things from this though:
- We all keep stuff that we don’t touch for YEARS at a time (if ever again)
- Even a little is still more than you HAVE to keep
- It’s easier to keep everything organized when you have less of it to work with
Tips for Reducing Items
- Don’t throw away the items that you’re going to want to replace.
- If you’re not sold on minimizing your home, then don’t force yourself to throw away things with sentimental value.
- If you can’t find a permanent home for something, then you probably don’t care that much about the item in question. Toss it.
- Consolidate your paper stuff by either digitalizing or by putting together an effective filing system. Journal entries can be preserved by copying them into one book.
- If you can’t remember the last time you touched something or truly paid attention to a knick-knack on the wall, then it’s time to let it go.
- Set a goal for how much your reducing. You can do this in terms of trunk-loads or you can simply keep working on it until it’s easy to keep each room organized.
- Spring clean! If it’s been awhile since you last went through this process, then you should think about going through your items again. You might be surprised at what you’re suddenly more willing to let go of.
Strategy #2 – Reorganize
Sometimes we don’t need to completely get rid of our stuff. Sometimes we just need to do something simple like making an object more accessible (like a cooking gadget) or more visible (like clothes). When you sort through your stuff to reduce it, pay attention to the areas that could use some better organization. Some suggestions:
- Can you unbury items in your closet by using a shelf and fabric bin system in another room?
- Can you use command hooks to hang items for better accessibility/storage?
- How can you stop items from getting ‘lost’? (Spices and canned goods are my current struggle, Busy Moms!)
Strategy #3 – Reuse
It’s not always possible, but I find that it’s a fun adventure to try to creatively reuse what I already have as a solution. For example, I needed a way to stop bottles like soy sauce and Worcestershire sauce from getting lost in the fridge. I took an empty folder holder that also needed a home and used it to hold my sauce bottles.
Instead of investing money to store the backpacks and tote bags that we keep for hiking and overnight trips, I simply stack them inside of each other so that the biggest bag doubles as a storage unit.
When I was a kid, I used my Dad’s old polo shirts as craft smocks. You can reuse old towels by tearing them into rags. You can upcycle your old clothes into newer clothes if you are skilled enough. (And even if you aren’t, what do you have to lose by trying?)
A friend recently posted a story about reusing an air freshener motor to fix her baby swing.
There’s lots of ways to reuse items – but how does that help you find freedom from stuff? By challenging yourself to be creative with what you already have, you’re giving a new role to an old item. In those mathematical terms, A now equals B. The old item substitutes into the spot that you otherwise would have bought a new item to fill.
Still don’t get it? When you buy a new item, you still have the older item that you could have re-purposed in your home. What happens to that older item? It still takes up space, right? You just added something extra into your collection of stuff.
Strategy #4 – Refocus
A lot of times, the answer to finding freedom from stuff is to refocus our minds. Just like I wrote about in ‘Conquering the To-Do List Stress’, we need shift our minds to a heavenly perspective and examine the stuff that surrounds us. What matters? What doesn’t? Are we letting our contentment be stolen from us?
Benefits of Finding Freedom from Stuff
Some of you are thinking, “You’re crazy. There’s nothing wrong with my stuff – and I’m not moving into some tiny home!”
Listen, I get it. I’m not moving into a tiny home, either! It’s not normal, right? And while God does call us to be counter cultural (Romans 12:22), He also gave Solomon and Job their overabundance of material goods. It’s not a sin to have stuff or to even like stuff as long, but it can become a distraction from God. Just go read through Solomon’s entire life if you want a Biblical example of this.
There is a strange freedom that comes with not being tied down by the items around you. The less you have, the freer you are to enjoy what you do have. The less you desire after, the more you are able to live in the present and the now.
And of course, there are always exceptions. We keep our books, movies, and games and always will because we value the memories those things allow us to make. In the end, that’s why it’s up to you to examine yourself and your home.