Eight years ago, my family sold, donated, or discarded over 60 percent of our possessions. My wife, children, and I removed clothes, furniture, decorations, cookware, tools, books, toys, and anything in our home that was not immediately useful or beautiful. At the time, long before tiny houses and magical “tidying,” the idea of such drastic downsizing was completely foreign.
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.
At first, our minimalism came as a practical move. We had grown weary of living paycheck to paycheck to cover our mounting possessions and of trading time with our kids to clean clutter in the house. But soon, the process of intentionally owning less began to influence our spiritual journey in ways we never expected.
While I used to read Jesus’s teaching on money and possessions as a burdensome call to sacrificial (even boring) living, owning less actually resulted in a better life, full of freedom and joy and peace. I began to recognize that Jesus wasn’t calling me to a boring life; he was calling me to a more abundant life. Here are a few of the surprising spiritual benefits my family and I have experienced since deciding to own less stuff:
1. Owning less offers more opportunity to pursue your passions.
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.
In his sermon on the mount Jesus warned, “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money” (Matt 6:24). Unwittingly, perhaps, a lot of us have wiggled out of Jesus’ clear teaching in a host of creative ways: “Just because I like money doesn’t mean I hate God,” “I’m not someone who serves money,” “I’m pretty sure Jesus means someone a lot richer than I am.”
What if Jesus’ teaching wasn’t meant to scold, but to set us free? As we released what we didn’t need, we found more time, energy and money to pursue the greater passions God had put in our hearts.
2. Owning less is the quickest path to buying less.
If you haven’t yet experimented in living with less, you might think it’s as horrible as dieting: a feeling of constant deprivation and craving what you’ve said no to. But in reality, the opposite is true. I was initially nervous about adopting a “capsule wardrobe” of just 33 items of clothing or less, but quickly grew to enjoy the simplicity and the fact that I loved every item in my closet. Today, I have little desire to add to it. When you’ve gotten rid of what you don’t need and set out to only keep what’s necessary, that insistent voice inside badgering you to buy more is quietly silenced.