5 Practical and Spiritual Benefits of Living with Less Junk
Some people are going to freak out when they start reading this article. It’s going to send you into nervous twitches and make you want to run from the room screaming. That’s because you have so much stuff in your house the thought of getting rid of anything is one of abject horror.
I’m one of those people that really believe “less is more.” A number of years ago I started looking around our house and realized we had so much stuff we didn’t use. There was things in the kitchen, things in the living room, things on the walls, and things in our closets. From clothes to knick-knacks, utensils to tools, we had more than we needed. I began removing some of these unused items in order to “simplify” life. The more I removed the better I felt. That started a journey into minimalism.
I think it all started with a mission tip to Jamaica. I saw people living with so much less and they seemed to be very happy. They didn’t care that they didn’t have the latest iPhone, or that they only had 3 shirts in their closet instead of 30. The Jamaican people I encountered cared far more about the relationships in their life than the amount of stuff.
My trip to Jamaica was followed up with a trip to Haiti where I saw things that were hard to digest. I saw kids wondering the streets because they had no parents and no home. I watched people rummage through trash piled up on the street to find anything they could eat or use or sell. The people I encountered in Haiti weren’t worried about having the latest clothing; they were worried about having any clothing at all. They too placed a high emphasis on the relationships in their life.
Life for the people of Jamaica and Haiti is very simple, with an emphasis on the relationships they have with people in their lives. I continued to wonder what life with less would look like for a family in 21sst century America.
It is no secret that we are bombarded each and every day with the temptation to buy things. Every commercial on television, billboards, and store signs all promise to deliver us the best merchandise for the lowest price. The retailers further assure us that we “need” these items and that we will be “100% satisfied” with their products. While their products may bring a measure of satisfaction, they do not bring any contentment.
Contentment is far more valuable than satisfaction. Contentment is the inner, lasting feeling of peaceful happiness. It is a source of both happiness and thankfulness. We wonder why so many people seem ungrateful; it may be due to a lack of contentment.
So here I am a few years removed from the trips that started me thinking about living with less. Compared to most my family has far less and we are constantly looking for ways to reduce what we have. The question people generally wonder is whether there is any benefit to living with less. My answer is that there is both earthly/physical benefit and spiritual benefit to living with less.
- Living with less puts money back in your wallet. Many people simply do not realize how much money they spend on stuff. As someone who spends my days discussing financial mattes with people, it amazes me how much money is “lost” each month buying stuff. It is reported that 65% of Americans would not be able to cover a $1000 emergency. But you wouldn’t know that by looking at all the stuff they have.
- Living with less puts time back in your day. One of the unseen costs of stuff is the time invested in owning and using it; often, at the expense of things far more important. Joshua Becker, in his article “5 Surprising Spiritual Benefits of Owning Less Stuff” writes: “Like so many of us, I worked long hours for paychecks spent on technology, clothing, toys, furniture, decorations, cars, and hopefully someday, a bigger house in a nicer neighborhood. I didn’t really believe the purpose of life was to chase possessions, but my calendar and checkbook sure seemed to tell a different story. One Saturday afternoon, I was cleaning out my garage while my 5-year old son played whiffle ball in the backyard. I suddenly realized that everything I owned wasn’t making me happy. It was actually distracting me from the very thing that did bring me happiness.”
- Living with less removes distractions. Again, Becker writes: “When we measure the time, money, and energy spent caring for our possessions—researching, shopping, organizing, picking up, cleaning, repairing, replacing, and even working for the money to buy them in the first place—we discover that our possessions can keep us from the passions God has given us.” So often well-meaning Christians say that they have no time to serve, no time to help. When the distraction of stuff is removed we are freed to do more of the things that matter eternally.
- Living with less cultivates contentment. People that constantly buy things are often searching for something. They hope they can find it in the next purchase, but it rarely comes. Contentment doesn’t grow with our possessions, or bank accounts. Contentment grows through being thankful for what we have. As we become more thankful for “our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11) and the blessings God has given us, we become more content with what we have. Trying to develop contentment by owning more and buying more will be a futile failure.
- Living with less reminds us that this world is not all there is. As Christians we are instructed to “lay up treasures in Heaven,” (Luke 12:33-34) not this world. Not only is that command intended to remind us that we are not meant for this world, it is intended to protect us from discontentment and distraction. We are not to focus on the tempting things this world has to offer; we are to focus on the eternal riches offered by serving Jesus in preparation for Heaven.
What would happen if you removed all the things in your house that you aren’t using? Our family uses a simple formula to determine if we are going to get rid of something. Our formula is: if we haven’t used it in the past year or didn’t remember we had it, it goes. How much would come out of your house? What could you do with the time spent working for, buying, and using things that don’t bring peace, joy, or contentment?
Imagine what we could do with our time and resources if we had less junk to get in the way.