The 100 Things Post

If you missed Monday’s post you might want to read before you read this one. Here it is.

This is what I know: Jen and I have too much stuff. This is what I don’t know: what to do with all of it.

What is the goal with stuff? Why do we buy clothes and houses and cars and food and toys? What is the deep-seated reason behind all of it?

I suppose we buy food to survive, although I think oftentimes we buy it to comfort us. I’m not ashamed to admit that. One of my best friends was fasting recently and he said to me, “I never realized how much I turn to food for comfort, how much it soothes me.” This friend does triathlons too, and is in better shape than anyone I know. The American Dream says: keep buying, be comforted. Minimalism says: you have enough. God says: I am all the comfort you need.

What are we doing?

I think we buy clothes so we don’t run around town naked and embarrassed all the time. But if that is the case then why do we only buy clothes with certain logos or from certain stores? And by “we” I mean “me.” Guilty as charged.

I have three Masters pullovers. One of them was $105 and the other two were $90. I’m not sure why I thought I needed three of them. They’re all the same, just different colors. Do I really have them to keep me from being naked? Or do I have them because I think that little yellow America with the golf flag jammed into the bottom right corner says “I’m cooler than you, I’ve been to Augusta”? I think that’s probably a rhetorical question.

We buy houses to entertain people and to offer room and board to the least of these for in doing so we have offered it to the Lord Himself. Oh, wait, that’s not why we buy houses? That’s not why we upgrade year after year, always looking for something better and more suitable to our needs?

In high school my parents moved us from the glitzy part of our town to an older, less-rich part. At the time I guess I didn’t think much of it, I just did what I was told and helped remodel the new old house. In retrospect, what were they thinking? Didn’t they know they were supposed to buy a nicer, newer, bigger house and not an old, dumpy one that screamed “I’m from the 1970s, rescue me!!”? They must not have gotten that memo.

As it turns out, foresight must be silver to silence’s gold. Our front door was a turnstile for basically every friend my brother and sister and I ever made during middle and high school. Our house was a home and our fellowship there was alive. A lot happened there. A lot of nights of growing up. I’m glad they didn’t buy into the American Dream. Bigger! Richer! Nicer!

Somebody I work with jokes that our computers at work are run by little mice on scroll wheels. Well, I think he’s joking anyway. The concept, though, is not that relatively different from reality. A piece of metal flickers light on account of a bunch of modular transactions none of us understand. I don’t really think of my truck much differently. I turn a piece of metal, it makes a noise, and takes me where I want to go. I don’t get it. So why are we buying $50,000 automobiles? Do we need the quadrilateral shape of metal we transport ourselves in to say something about who we are as humans? I hope not, but I think so.

So what should we do about it? Where do we go from here?

I wish I had an answer.

Minimalism, at its core, is not about the number of items you do or don’t have (see: this article). That’s not how I’m coming to understand it anyway. Minimalism, in 2010, is about purging the excess and stripping away the unnecessary.

Of course, that begs the question: what isn’t excess and what actually is necessary?

Proverbs (and I keep coming back to this verse) says: “…remove far from me falsehood and lying; give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the food that is needful for me, lest I be full and deny you and say, Who is the Lord? or lest I be poor and steal and profane the name of my God. (Proverbs 30: 8-9, ESV)

Jen and I have decided that before Thanksgiving (just to be ironic) we will go through every object in our home and ask each other the following three questions:

  1. Do we love it?  …if not then why even ask question #2?
  2. Do we use it?
  3. Does it have a home (in our home)?

This isn’t set in stone. I’m not going to domestically abuse my wife if she keeps her ribbons and fabric and thread. I don’t even know what the result of all this will be. Maybe we reduce our stuff in half, maybe we keep 95% of it, I have no idea. We’ll keep you updated on our progress though.

This is just our stab at becoming minimalists so we can focus on the people and projects in our lives that are truly valuable and ignore everything else. This is our attempt to share a life together. To rip away from our very hands anything that may be holding us captive to ourselves, anything that may be snuffing out freedom.

Hanging in his kitchen window, John Piper has a quote that goes like this:

Only one life,
Twill soon be past;
Only what’s done
for Christ will last.

How can you incorporate minimalism into your life?

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The Toys That Bind

All mortals tend to turn into the thing they are pretending to be.

– CS Lewis

I tweeted last night that I threw down four boxes for us to fill with either give-away items or garage-sale paraphernalia and that things were ‘about to get real.’ The effect of such an action was fairly inconsequential since Jen was humming Amos Lee songs and dusting off cake pans we used at our wedding while absolutely ignoring my every word, but hey I threw down those boxes with some passion!

We aren’t what people would call pack-rats, nobody from TLC is banging down our door to tape an episode of “Hoarders”, and even if we were there’s only so much you can fit into 600 square feet (I feel like us saying “our apt. is 600 sq. ft.” is the Geico caveman commercial of this blog, cute the first time it ran, agonizing every time since…I digress…and I’ll try to stop mentioning how big our apt. is). Also, we committed to not buying any new clothes for a year which I think is an easy enough vow to keep for two people who already have more than enough clothing. And I would say we’ve gotten rid of more than we’ve acquired since knotting the knot in early June.

We still struggle though.

“An iPad would be functional, wouldn’t it?”
“I think I want a new bicycle to ride around Dallas in!”
“There’s this great tennis racket I need to get!”
“We need some fun luggage, don’t we? You know, just in case!”
“I’m buying a $6,000 letter press, I don’t care what you say!”

OK, I made the last one up, but I’m sure we’ve had a conversation about the first four. I know we have.

On our Colorado trip I did some pretty intense reading on minimalism. Minimalism includes topics like “how to only own 100 items” and “how to fit your entire life into one backpack”, crazy stuff like that. Anyway, I’ve fallen for it like my wife fell for nunnery (or is it nun-hood?) and I’ve been trying to give away everything we own since we got back to Dallas. Thankfully Jen is rational (relative to me) and we still have items to sit/sleep on and food to eat, but I’m serious, things are getting REAL around here!

I’ll go more in depth on Thursday (we’re about to start long-post Thursdays…just warning the ADHD of you in advance) but for now the war is being waged. What do we really need? How do we control our stuff instead of the other way around? How do we not let the accumulation of household items get to the point that we need to buy more stuff just to store all the stuff we already own?

How can we not live this American dream we keep hearing about?

Answers coming Thursday. Or just more questions. I’m not sure yet.

P.S. – Note to self: stop quoting self in blog posts…

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