I think from a young age I knew something was wrong with the strong desire I had for acquiring stuff. I remember a shopping trip when I was ten where the thrill of shopping was toned down by a strange thought that I had. I had started the day with hopes and dreams of finding something new as I walked around the mall with my mom. Then I realized I was shopping for something new in an outfit that my mom had just purchased me a week ago. I loved the shirt when my mom bought it. It was special and it seemed like it was just what I needed and wanted. Yet here I was again searching for something else to be special. For the first time, I realized the thrill of my new purchase had faded and so would the thrill of the next new thing that was purchased. The desire I had for something new started to not make sense to me.
Even though I had this thought when I was ten, the changes in my attitude towards material items has been a slow process. As I look back I can identify some revolutionary moments that have helped unravel my great love for my possessions. One of those moments occurred when Alex and I went to India in 2013. We stayed with his uncle that lives in a village called Chillakallu. The guest house that we stayed in is typically used for missionary teams and is very similar to a house in the US. But one day he took us into the village so we could see a new church building and meet the pastor’s family. We meet a beautiful family who was so proud to show me their cement home that is smaller than the walk-in closet we had in our apartment. This house was home to at least eight people and at night everyone slept on the cement floor. I will never forget that when they showed me the well that they were so immensely grateful for, a turtle popped up to the surface. I had more possessions in my kitchen than they had in their entire house. Yet the joy that I saw radiating from their faces was very rarely experienced in my life. I came back from this trip knowing that something was seriously wrong with my way of thinking. However, as much as I wanted to change, I wanted my comfortable life, filled with all of my stuff more.
About a year later I was browsing through Netflix and turned on a documentary called “The True Cost.” This is a film about the fast fashion industry and the impact it has made. It details how our society’s desire of wanting new items at a cheap price has impacted the workers that make the clothing. This is not something I had thought of and I was convicted that I needed to make a change. After watching the documentary, I decided that I would primarily shop at resale or consignment shops. This was a good step, but it definitely had some hiccoughs. I would often buy something that wasn’t the right fit or even in the best condition just because I liked the item. I made more impulse purchases at the consignment shops because I knew it was the only one in the store. I would get an item home and after a few days I would realize I didn’t even really like it, but it was too late to return it. I didn’t want to impact others with my need for more, but I still wanted to have an overflowing closet. What I ended up with was an overflowing closet with clothes that didn’t really fit, weren’t in the best condition, or I didn’t really like…and I would add in a few fast fashion shopping sprees to supplement for my poor choices.
When I started recovering from PPD it was as though a light bulb went off in many areas of my life, and one of those areas was my love for stuff. My mind had been on overdrive because of anxiety, but when I started healing I could direct my constant thoughts to something positive. My mind was still on overdrive, but I could use it to better my life. I didn’t experience this every day, but I was encouraged by it and sought out positive, inspiring things to fill my mind. At the time I was holding my daughter for naps so I watched Youtube video after Youtube video of people talking about minimalism and their journey towards living with less. Before this I had heard of minimalism but only related it to people wanting to live in a tiny home. I knew that lifestyle was not for me! What I learned is that minimalism looks different for each person and family. It doesn’t mean you have to live in a home with bare walls or that you have to commit to living with a certain number of items. But as one of my favorite quotes says “Minimalism is about intentionality, not deprivation.” For the first time I realized that the items that I brought into my home were more than just an investment of money, but also an investment of my time and energy.
During this season of my life my mind felt chaotic and out of control. Getting rid of the things we didn’t want or need helped me feel calmer and altogether made my life simpler. For me minimalism has looked like analyzing why I want the things I want, buy the things I buy, and keep the things I keep. Alex and I started looking at the things in our home and asking if the items actually added any value to our lives. And when we found things that didn’t add value we sold them, donated them, or threw them out. I am definitely still processing how to incorporate everything I have learned into my everyday life. But I can tell you one thing for certain, and that is I have more freedom than ever from my stuff and it feels amazing!
I know that changing my desire for material items has been a slow journey because I have dug my heels in every step of the way. Even though I knew the pursuit of clothes, shoes, and home décor couldn’t satisfy me, I still wanted them. And I even thought I was entitled to a certain amount and level of them. Thankfully, God has pressed me further than I ever thought I would go in this area of my life and as I seek Him, He will continue to ask me to value the things that He values. And the things He values can not be found on the shelf at T.J. Maxx or in the Target dollar bin.
Have you ever heard of minimalism before? Do you have any preconceived ideas about it like I did?