Show me a Real Simple magazine article on “decluttering your home” and all I see is a stack of shiny pages to decoupage Christmas ornaments over the long Thanksgiving weekend. That’s how I roll: for years I’ve squirreled away craft supplies (aka stuff to make other stuff), torn backpacks (aka stuff to carry other stuff), matchless socks, rusty baking trays, extra linens, and shelves of books no one will ever open again. I certainly wasn’t the kind of person you’d think would be captured by a movement as horrible-sounding as “minimalism.”

Minimalist blogger Joshua Becker describes it as “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of anything that distracts us from it.” The movement sounds radical to the North American ear—perhaps, even, easily discounted as the neuroses of extremists working out childhood deprivation issues. But this philosophy can be traced throughout Jesus’ life and teachings: take one outfit and a single pair of sandals for the journey, ask our Father for enough food for this day, and, for the love of God, please reconsider that reno on your double-wide storage pods..

Some adherents of simple living—Francis of Assisi, Mohandas Gandhi, Leo Tolstoy—cite spiritual inspiration for the practice. Others want to reduce their ecological footprint. Inspired by bloggers, their communities, and their own convictions, today’s minimalists make changes big and small—from moving into tiny houses and going on month-long “no buy” periods to declining gifts at kids’ birthday parties (or at Christmas) and maintaining smaller wardrobes. Minimalism is practical, efficient. But practitioners ...

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