By Tena Jeppesen
Minimalism is a recent concept that has become a part of my daily life. Have you heard of it? It’s the art of living life in extreme spareness and simplicity. I had read in my devotional and in the Bible that we should let go of our possessions, give to the poor, and follow Jesus (Matthew 19:21 NIV). Struggling through anxiety and seriously lacking a heartfelt relationship with God, I knew this was something I had to pursue. I was pleasantly surprised to see how much I gained even though I had considerably given up a lot.
When I first started studying up on this lifestyle, I thought it impossible. Some of these people were living their everyday lives out of one backpack, with no more than 20 items to their name. Others had a small apartment, bare walls, a single piece of furniture, and an energy efficient car. I felt drawn to living life more simply because of my extreme encounters with anxiety and wanting to grow closer to Jesus. But did I really have to have the absolute bare minimum in order to accomplish this?
I started the process, despite my feelings of regret. I started in the closet, moved to the hallway closet, to the bookcase, to the pantry, to my car, to my underwear drawers, to the bathroom, to my roommates room...just kidding, but I thought about it. I was having so much fun getting rid of this junk! Clothes and knickknacks and so many “things” I had accumulated over the years that meant nothing to me. I hadn’t looked at them in a few years, so I had no trouble at all getting it out of my apartment and out of my life. It was so cleansing and so freeing; I craved the feeling and I bet I got rid of 75% of my belongings. I just knew this was the path God wanted me on.
Then came a day when I sat in my clean and clutter-free apartment, bawling. I was so overwhelmed with my job, my relationships I felt I had to keep up on, the many events I “had” to attend, and the fast paced lifestyle I was trying to keep up with. I had gotten rid of so many things, and yet here I was, anxiety stricken and farther away from God than I had felt in a long time. I thought my clothes and shoes were giving me this feeling, but I found out it was so much more that was keeping me from God.
I looked at my life and decided I needed to declutter more than just my drawers and closet space. I’d gotten so caught up in these earthly demands, that I was skipping church, saying no to my family and closest friends, and attending events that weren’t even fun to go to. Why was I doing this and what did I expect to gain from it? God didn’t have any room to do anything with me. I wasn’t giving him the room he needed in order to help me out.
Together, Jesus and I discovered that I did have time for Him and everything else I loved. But it definitely took some effort on my part. I had to commit myself to the things that brought me joy and push away the things that didn’t. Sometimes that included saying no, letting go of some toxic friendships, getting up a little earlier, and taking time to write out my goals everyday. I had to gain a focus and not live life on autopilot. I had to control the clutter and shift it into the categories that it needed to be in: important, not as important, and not important at all.
Through this new found “miminalistic lifestyle” of mine I had discovered something. I found that there are two types of joy; true joy and false joy. I found my true joy in looking at old pictures, writing letters to people, and taking time early in the morning to read my devotional. I found false joy in having a closet bursting at the seams, having a full calendar from 6 am to 12 am, and spending a lot of time with friends that had little to no morals. When I found true joy, I could appreciate things that God had blessed me with...relationships, family, church, a simple cup of coffee, and a smile on my face all day. In my bouts of false joy, I found that I had an empty bank account, empty relationships, and an empty cup. Having less clutter in my life, not only physically but mentally, too, has left me room to practice and benefit from my true joy. Which in turn allows me the time and power to bring God and make him a huge part of my day, rather than just a sliver.
Now, I’m not saying that this lifestyle is for everyone, but I wanted to share my journey through living life more simply. I believe that in this world and in this time we get bogged down with so much “clutter”...extra commitments, job duties, extracurriculars, hobbies, people we think we have to please, social media, and money. We lose sight and focus of what really matters. We forget to thank God for what we have, praise him for giving us another day, and committing to being a living example of Jesus. So whatever that may look like for you, get rid of your “possessions” or whatever you’re holding onto in this life. Let it go and follow Jesus. He is the ultimate possession and one that we should never let go of. Feel that in your heart and rest in the peace that comes with it.