One of the most gratifying experiences during my workweek is “inbox zero.” It’s when I have responded to, filed, or deleted all of the emails I receive in a given week. Some have called it the “Holy Grail of the digital lifestyle,” seemingly impossible because responding to emails only brings more…email. The pileup makes us anxious, each message carrying with it a decision to make, a task to complete, or a conversation to keep going. The inbox zero philosophy promises that a clean mailbox means a clean mind.
That even our digital “stuff” feels burdensome indicates a broader cultural distaste for clutter. At the peak of rampant materialism and must-have accessories, we have embraced a less-is-more mentality. Bloggers proudly declare how much one can do with little. A family of 4 can live in a 700-square-foot house. Anyone can stay stylish with a 30-item wardrobe. You don’t need all those dishes, bins of holiday decorations, or kids’ toys.
For much of history, possessions indicated wealth, and for many people, they still do. Since the 1950s, US homes have more than doubled in size to accommodate our belongings. Yet somewhere along the way, instead of signaling the good life, having too many possessions came to feel like the opposite. For extreme examples, the reality TV show Storage Wars depicts sad, forgotten remnants locked up in storage units. And Hoarders laments the struggle of excessive attachment to household items. No wonder minimalism—a lifestyle choice for the privileged, a necessity for the needy—has taken off.
Some Christians have embraced the trend, convicted to better steward their resources. After all, Jesus taught that “one’s ...1