“My intention is not to denigrate some of the actions that are promoted by minimalists and those advocating a simpler lifestyle. I actually find much of that advice helpful in my own life.”
– Grayson Pope
This week I came across a piece from Relevant magazine called How ‘Simplifying Your Life’ Can Be a Problem. Relevant is a magazine targeting “twenty- and thirtysomething Christians” for its audience, but the article is interesting even if you’re not that young or not a Christian.
Author Grayson Pope, who is a pastor, says “the ideology behind those [decluttering] actions is not enough to help us live a meaningful life, no matter how many closets we clean.” Of course, being a pastor writing for a Christian magazine, Pope’s point is that we should put our faith in God.
Whether or not you agree with that premise, he makes some excellent points about minimalism. He questions the implied promise that merely getting rid of our extra stuff will bring meaning to our lives.
Eventually, we have to ask ourselves, “What are we simplifying for?”
According to what’s out there on minimalism, the answer is usually, “So you can live a more meaningful life.” That’s a great bite-size answer that makes us feel warm and cozy, but does less stuff really define a meaningful life?
“Our struggle is less about deciding how much or how little stuff we have, and more about where we find our meaning in life.”
– Grayson Pope
Much of minimalism focuses on happiness, Grayson says. “When you push past the catchphrase, you find that what’s being promoted is a more meaningful life defined by making yourself happy. A life defined by being freed up to do what you love, live where you want, and be who you want, without the definitions your stuff gives you.”
He acknowledges that the “best of minimalism talks about getting rid of material things to make room for more noble things, like friendships,” but believes that minimalism is merely “shifting our identity and meaning from having lots of stuff to having little stuff.”
While this isn’t true for every minimalist, plenty of people do simplify their lives while focusing only on themselves and their immediate families. Is this enough to create a meaningful life?
The problem with having many (or few) possessions is that we’re trying to find meaning where there is none. At one extreme, we’re trying to define ourselves by our iPhones, cars and homes, and at the other, we’re trying to define ourselves by our own contentment. But neither is sufficient to ground us in a world of refugees crises, cancer and human trafficking.