Simplifying our Stuff
By Casey McDonald and Gavin Bennett
(Additional Tutorials on Simplifying Your Stuff)
Our friend John Mark Comer interviewed Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist to offer some suggestions on simplifying your closet, living areas & bedrooms, and finally, your kitchen, bathrooms & laundry.
Begin with Prayer (5 minutes)
Gather together as a Community in a comfortable setting. Have somebody lead a prayer asking the Holy Spirit to lead and guide your time together.
Debrief in Triads (5–10 minutes)
- How was the practice of sorting through your bills and organizing them by categories?
- Were you surprised by your spending?
- What ideas have you and/or your family been considering to thoughtfully engage generosity and financial divestment?
Read this Overview (5 minutes)
Whether you’re in a 5 bedroom house or a studio apartment, most of us have some kind of space—a drawer, closet, or even a room—where things just collect. When spring cleaning rolls around, we’ll find ourselves thinking things like: “Why do I have so much stuff?” or “When did I start collecting ____?” or even “…maybe I’ll just skip this closet.”
The fact that most of us have a space like this speaks to a principle that most of us have implicitly taken in over time: that more is better. But as we consider the way of Jesus and how to model our lives in the simplicity and power of His, it becomes clear that more doesn’t equal better; often, more equals less: less contentment, less margin, less peace.
Most of us want that: a heart that is full of contentment and the “life that is truly life.” The question is how: how do we index our hearts away from the desire for more, and toward the freedom of less?
As we press into the Practice of Simplicity, specifically in relation to what we own, there are two principles that are helpful in guiding our journey toward freedom: “de-owning” (or “owning less”) and generosity. As most Practices go, the more you do it, the more it changes you and the easier it gets. Eventually, we can become the kinds of people who know in our bones that what Jesus says is true: it’s better to give than receive. At the end of the day, Simplicity is about a heart postured towards God, believing in his goodness and provision.
Discuss the coming week’s practice (10 minutes)
There are two parts to this practice, based on the two steps: limiting how much we own, and practicing generosity.
First, to limit how much we own, we’ll plan to minimize our homes.
Unless you live in a studio apartment alone or are already something of a minimalist, this is likely to take much longer than a week. It may take months, or longer! That is okay. To get you started, we’ll follow the same basic process as we did with our closets.
Go through each room in your home, and sort items into five categories:
- Giveaway: items to give away to a friend, a neighbor (perhaps via a group like Buy Nothing), or to Goodwill.
- Sell: items in good condition you’d like to sell.
- Throwaway or recycle: for items beyond repair or further use.
- Wait: this pile is key. For sentimental items or things we think we “might need” in the future, put them away in a box or bag in a closet and put it out of sight for a set period of time, perhaps 3–6 months. If at any point you want something, go get it out! Revisit the box when time is up, and you may discover the items are easier to give away.
- Keep: whatever you feel is useful, beautiful, and has a purpose in your life as a follower of Jesus.
A few rules of thumb as you get started:
- Start with the easy stuff, such as your living room and bathroom, followed by your bedroom.
- Save the hard stuff for last, such as sentimental items, office paperwork, and your garage.
- Hold each item and ask a few basic questions: Do I need this? Is it useful or beautiful? Does it aid me or hamper me in my quest to live in the kingdom with Jesus?
- Avoid duplicates and collections. Most of us don’t need multiple sets of sheets, two dozen mugs, and three sets of towels.
- Avoid the trap of, “but I may use this someday…” This is going to cover a huge number of items, and is the reason many of us hold on to so much!
- Get help from the experts. We have a mini-podcast series with Joshua Becker of becomingminimalist.com on our feed, as well as a list of recommended resources on our site.
Then, we’ll jump in on generosity.
- Again, start small. As we like to say, start where you’re at, not where you should be. If you’re out of work right now, or in debt, just start where you are.
- Give first. Or in the language or biblical theology, give the “first fruits.” Ancient agrarian followers of Jesus would give the first fruits of their harvest to God as an act of gratitude for the rain and the sun, and an act of trust in God’s provision in the weeks to come. Rather than wait until the end of harvest, see if they have anything left, and give out of that. For us today, it means as soon as we get our paycheck, we give whatever we have determined in our heart to give, rather than wait.
- Divert one specific expense to generosity. It can be big, like selling a car to eliminate a monthly payment, or small, like cancelling a streaming service. Or anything in-between.
- Give to a person or cause you care about, but with special attention to the poor and the church.
- If you can, tithe. The New Testament does not teach we have to tithe, but most followers of Jesus argue that tithing is an “economic floor” to start from, and that we are to direct our tithe to the poor and the church. If you already tithe, consider a graduated tithe (allowing the percentage of your giving to increase as your income increases).
- Watch what happens in your heart. What as you feel more free, more happy, more content, more in the inner-life of God himself, and let that spur you on to even greater generosity.
Work through these questions together as a Community (20–25 mins)
- Has the idea that “more is better” been part of your life or upbringing? How has that idea impacted you, if at all?
- Have you noticed any correlation in your own life between how much you own and how content you are? How did one impact the other?
- When in life have you been most content? Did contentment take intentionality, or come naturally?
- Is generosity part of your current financial practice? How does giving money away affect you?