My Journey to Minimalism
The first job I ever worked was in security. I wasn’t guarding a nuclear power plant or high-security building. Instead, I sat at a marble desk nodding to guests at a retirement home. I know – it is not your typical security job! Yet it was by spending time in a retirement home that I became a minimalist.
As a security guard, part of my job was to check on residents who asked for assistance. I might be called to help with anything, from swatting flies to fixing plumbing. Spending so much time in these apartments, one thing stood out to me: the amount of stuff that so many people collected.
I realize that our physical possessions often act as a link to the past. They are vivid reminders of the people we knew, the trips we took, and the places we lived. But in the presence of so much stuff, I began to feel almost claustrophobic. It is such a powerful link to the past, that it leaves no room for the present or the future.
Compare these apartments – with walls plastered with pictures, rooms crammed with furniture, and surfaces covered with trinkets – to what you will find in a model home. A model home is created to make people want to move in. It is open, airy, with a few decorations and a few pieces of furniture
But a model home can’t be reality, we think. No one can live their life in such a simple, clean, neat environment, can they? Working at a retirement home, with a few model apartments for prospective tenants, it was a startling contrast to see the model home and the reality of peoples’ lives. I realized that I wanted to live my life in the model home, not the crammed, stifling apartment. Surely there must be a way to make this reality!
As a Christian, I can’t say that any particular Bible verse made me a minimalist. But once I began to think minimalist thoughts, I realized that minimalism is in line with the Bible. The Bible says that Christians are strangers and pilgrims on the earth. It teaches us that our home is not on earth, but in heaven. Jesus warns that our heart will be wherever we store our treasures.
What does it mean to be a stranger and a pilgrim? I remember a powerful story that a pastor friend once told. It goes something like this: An American traveler was in the Middle East, and he heard about a very famous Rabbi. He decided to visit the man, and found the Rabbi’s home. He was invited into the house, but as the traveler looked around, he was surprised by the sparse accommodations – there was a small cot, a table with some books, and hardly anything else. “Where is all your stuff?” he asked the Rabbi. Could it be that he was in the wrong house? “Where is all your stuff?” the Rabbi asked him. The American traveler was confused. “This isn’t my home,” he said. “I’m just passing through here.” “So am I,” said the Rabbi. This earth wasn’t his home. He was just passing through.
To sum it up, my minimalism began in a retirement home, where I noticed the powerful contrast between possessions that accumulate everywhere, and the freeing sense of open space. Then the Bible provided a powerful vision of the Christian life, as a pilgrim journey through this world, seeking a better home.
Now I realize that it is impossible for me to lead the life I want to live – a life of activity, goals, challenges – if I am constantly drowning in stuff. Stuff takes time. It costs money. It has to be arranged. It gets lost and has to be found. It requires maintenance. It distracts us from the important things in life. These are the reasons why I am a minimalist.
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