Neflix has in its collection an interesting documentary called Minimalism. The film records the travels of two young men around the country on a book tour, introducing people to their book Everything That Remains. The documentary is worth watching.
Two young successful men, Josh Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus, found themselves in a place of dissatisfaction and unhappiness, which after examination of their lives and the rat race in which they found themselves, decided to chuck the “stuff” and simply simplify. They believe that they have uncovered a useful message for the world.
Millburn and Nicodemus present the idea that people have become obsessed with stuff to the point that their homes, closets, garages, and attics are full with things that they do not really need or that have lasting value. They quote staggering statistics about the amount of personal storage space in the U.S. increasing at phenomenal rates because people need a place to store their stuff. Anyone watched Storage Wars lately?
As they travel the country, they meet with groups ranging from one or thirty people who are curious about the idea of minimalism or about these young guys giving up their “successful lives” for a simpler, happier life. The documentary tracks their progress and their eventual appearances on NPR, NBC, ABC, CBS, et al. where they finally received enough coverage to make their message available to the public at large.
Why am I writing about this topic? I have to say that these two guys captured my attention. Millennials are in a new phase–seeking to free themselves from the restrictions of the previous decades filled with materialism and dissatisfaction and seeking release from the pressures from parents and society to succeed in tangible ways that measure their “success.” Many find this undesirable and the pressure is not worth the outcome.
Hello? So, is minimalism something new? I don’t think so.
Thoreau, the Romantic radical, believed in chucking the stuff and living free (and for free, if possible) on Walden Pond. As you know, he put some of his ideas to work in an experiment of living off the land with few expenses. But, of course, that only lasted for a short time. One of Thoreau’s mantras is “Simplify.” Haven’t you seen that sign hanging around the country and vintage gift shops? This new idea is really an old idea being recycled, and the idea is catching on. There is a magazine titled Real Simple. Decades ago, a group of people had “minimalism” forced on them, and they survived what we know as The Great Depression. Some of these folks who lived through the minimalist period still live minimally—force of habit. Waste not, want not.
Millburn and Nicodemus are right in their belief that stuff can inhibit happiness. They are seeking freedom from materialism so they can enjoy happiness in this life. Unwittingly, they have hit on the biblical principle: a man is not the substance of his material goods; you can’t take the stuff with you; thieves break through and steal; and moth and rust corrupts the stuff.
One thing that stands out to me from this documentary is that these young men and others interviewed in the video think that they need to enjoy this life while they have it. “This is all there is,” said one young successful Wall Street up and comer. Unfortunately for these millennial types, this is not all there is. There is eternity to consider.
I can support the idea of minimalist living… to a point. I would embrace it more fully if it didn’t involve giving up my shoe collection. The truth is that I am reminded that St. Paul said, “Be content in whatever state you are.” And “Set your affections on things above…” Jesus said, “Store up treasure in heaven…Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” C.T.Studd wrote a poem which has the lines, “Only one life will soon be past– Only what’s done for Christ will last.”
Most importantly, we need to consider that we will spend eternality somewhere, and we definitely won’t be surrounded by our stuff. There is something far more important after this life. Millburn and Nicodemus are right when they minimize the value of stuff on the measure of happiness. Our eternal joy is something to focus upon rather than how much accumulation we can achieve, and we should be investing in the lives of others, realizing that your reward is in Heaven. Share with your loved ones and friends that their eternal soul can have a glorious and eternal place in the presence of an eternal God and Redeemer. Invest wisely.