Traditional Minimalists Live In a Bubble

This past month has been very eye open­ing in my quest for min­i­mal­ism. One of the biggest things through­out this jour­ney has been defin­ing what min­i­mal­ism is to me. So speak­ing of defin­ing, let me define what I mean by “Tra­di­tional Minimalism”.

Tra­di­tional Min­i­mal­ists — those who try to pair down their items to as few things as pos­si­ble includ­ing items of sen­ti­men­tal value; com­mon themes exist such as the “100 Thing Chal­lenge”; seek­ing to obtain sim­plic­ity through shun­ning materialism

Off the bat, it would seem that I am try­ing to accom­plish the same things, but I would strongly dis­agree by argu­ing that there is a foun­da­tion dif­fer­ence between Tra­di­tional Min­i­mal­ist ™ and Chris­t­ian Min­i­mal­ists (CM). I’ve writ­ten about this before in my post “Not Your Aver­age Min­i­mal­ist”, so I don’t want to rehash every­thing. But to sum it up, TM is focused on self sat­is­fac­tion while CM is focused on God and get­ting sat­is­fac­tion through serv­ing Him.f

The rea­son I say TMs live in a bub­ble is because the expe­ri­ences I’ve had this past month has led me to real­ize that I will never be able to obtain that lifestyle and accom­plish cer­tain goals. For exam­ple, I’ve been in the process of mov­ing out, and one of the big rea­sons is so I can exer­cise hos­pi­tal­ity. There is no way I can expect to have peo­ple over if I only own 100 things. I need kitchen­ware for cook­ing and serv­ing, and I need fur­ni­ture because not every­one I’ll have over is young like me and can sit com­fort­ably on the floor. Those are just a few examples.

Also, for those of you who aren’t aware despite the num­ber of posts pre­ced­ing this one, I’m cur­rently in Kenya. I’ll be here a month and this is a look at what I packed. I feel my pack­ing list was well researched and I did not over­pack in the slight­est. Every­thing I brought has been crit­i­cally use­ful, and on the flip side I feel there is noth­ing I don’t have that I wish I had taken.

That being said, many of the things I packed were bought specif­i­cally for this trip and are not things that would be used on a reg­u­lar basis (if at all) in Amer­ica. So, my list plus the other things I have at home exceed 100 things, but there’s no way around that. Sure, I may not be able to just pick up and every­thing, put it in a back­pack, and move when­ever I want. But at the same time, I enjoy a bit of stability/​establishment and I have the abil­ity to do things that some­one with 100 things couldn’t do.

Maybe I can’t put all my belong­ings in a back­pack, but I’m still in a posi­tion to get up and move any­where just as quickly (liv­ing in Kenya is a good exam­ple of that with only 3wk notice). I also have the means to live any­where in a world with items such as solar charg­ers, water puri­fiers, and the such. A TM couldn’t do that.

Do you see the irony? TMs attempt to live sim­pler lives and by so doing live more freely, but really they’re lim­it­ing them­selves in what they can do. I live with a lit­tle more and my pos­si­bil­i­ties are endless.

I really believe that the focus shouldn’t be on how many things a per­son has, but really on the value that is placed on pos­ses­sions. You’re going to hear me harp on being con­tent rather than try­ing to obtain a spe­cific goal because things change in life, and we can’t always keep the same objec­tive. I’m going to have to have more stuff when I get mar­ried and have kids, and though I will try to live min­i­mally, I don’t want that to be the mes­sage I con­vey to my kids. I want them to hear that in what­ever sit­u­a­tion they are to be con­tent (Phil 4:11).

That’s why the baby boomers com­ing out of fam­i­lies who were in the great depres­sion are so mate­ri­al­is­tic. And now my gen­er­a­tion is the by prod­uct of those mate­ri­al­is­tic fam­i­lies, and we many of us have swung to the other side of being min­i­mal­ists, and if we’re not care­ful to teach the right prin­ci­ple, our kids will swing back to the other side of materialism.

I don’t want to be a TM like Everett Bogue or Leo Babauta. I want to be a CM that fol­lows bib­li­cal prin­ci­ples that are bal­anced and have the right moti­va­tion. Because Jesus said, “you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free” (John 8:32), not simplicity.