Confessions of a Selfish Minimalist
A couple of years ago I read an article in Joanna Gaines’ Magnolia Journal. The edition was themed around spring cleaning and the piece I most remember was about reorganizing one’s closet. “If you have trouble deciding what to wear, it’s probably because you have too many choices, not too few.” With that bit of insight Joanna suggests a purging technique involving three piles. KEEP (bare minimum). GIVE AWAY. And UNDECIDED. The third pile went into storage for a time, where it would either be missed or forgotten. Most likely the latter. And I can tell you from experience, this genius practice works like a charm.
Fast forward. Last spring at this time. Just days from Jimmy’s high school graduation, we’d been for several weeks purging for our big move. Twenty-three years in our Orchid Street house, two canvas dumpsters in the driveway, Jeep loaded daily for repeated trips to Goodwill. Eventually we’d load most of the rest into portable storage—the hypothetical “missed or forgotten”—taking our few essentials to temporary locations, parents’ townhouse and college housing.
Now it’s spring again. 2020—a year sure to be remembered for its notorious purging, world over. Spring cleaning and then some. And I can only speak for myself saying this time of COVID isolation, for all its downsides, has maybe had one intriguing perk. Stripped down to bare essentials, some things missed, others forgotten, handful of keepers, revealing core priorities all around. (Turns out I could live in hoodies and flannels the rest of my life.)
I am a minimalist by nature. I love all things clean and simple. Closets. Cupboards. Refrigerator. Wardrobe. Building our new house, I picture open spaces, minimal clutter, my best decor the natural view though open windows. (No curtains? I can only hope.) My biggest fear? “Blessings” of everyone’s hand-me-down assortment of junk. (A certain brother-in-law who shall remain nameless has already gifted us with more secondhand water skis than this family has feet. And that’s not to mention the plethora of tackles boxes, and the old-school rowboat with a hole in its bow.) And our Moms. God bless them. Those family heirlooms are looming large.
Which leads to the following confession. I am rudely selfish when it comes to my desire to live without stuff. Pastor John Mark Comer in last weekend’s sermon (which I coincidently discovered after starting this post) began a new series on the practice of Simplicity for followers of Jesus. Spoiler alert. John Mark—who just might be my actual alter ego—admits to being drawn to minimalism without the pure motives of contentment in Christ. My point exactly.
I do not jest when I say my dream home was a little cabin in the woods. (Ironically, the song I sang on Facebook Live last night. Constance Free Church. Fast forward the first 10-ish minutes if you need a good laugh.) Honestly. A mom of five. All guys. Plus dog and husband. Me wired for contemplation and semi-introversion, and let’s just say I’d petition to add SIMPLICITY to the traditional list of love-languages. So, in the words of J M Comer, for me to practice the way of Jesus, typically means contentment with MORE, not less.
Which is what goes through my mind every time we drive out to Green Lake to see the progress on this house we’re building. The thing is MASSIVE. Honestly, I can’t help but wonder what the neighbors are thinking. Like I said yesterday when we took my in-laws out for a tour. “When you’re surrounded by nature you’re supposed to blend in.” We don’t. At least we do not from the road. Lakeside, in our boat, Kyle points to cover of trees, assuring me, from this vantage point at least, we’re actually hidden. True enough, and thank goodness. BUT. When asked—dreaded question, regularly repeated—Are we downsizing? We’ve got to admit, the answer is NO. We are not.
And this—God’s doing. I’m totally serious. From the beginning. Several years back. Every time I cast my vision to downsize to a simple little life—HE counters. Expands it. Welcoming more and others. Not once in all these years of following Jesus has He ever let me have my own selfish way when His BEST is doors open to lavish love—and He knows I know it. So, I confess. And surrender. My own simple plans for what will probably end up being an elaborate future of God-sized dreams. I walk, humbled, through an unfinished house, massive, and amazing. And me, speechless. Grateful. Beyond describing. Beyond deserving. Because if this is His vision and if all this space is to be filled, daily, years on end, with His GREAT LOVE—then what can I say—but, OKAY. Purge away. I’m all in.
And Jesus told them this parable: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded an abundant harvest. He thought to himself, ‘What shall I do? I have no place to store my crops.’
“Then he said, ‘This is what I’ll do. I will tear down my barns and build bigger ones, and there I will store my surplus grain. And I’ll say to myself, “You have plenty of grain laid up for many years. Take life easy; eat, drink and be merry.”’
“But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life will be demanded from you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?’
“This is how it will be with whoever stores up things for themselves but is not rich toward God.”