The minimalist movement is a refreshing trend in modern society. It’s a turning away from the mentality of Madonna’s “Material Girl” and turning towards a less wasteful, less consumerist mentality.
Some are more extreme about it than others. This movement can manifest itself in the trendy tiny houses, getting rid of extra social media accounts, or donating clothes. Ever lived in a 500 square foot house? Or tried owning only 33 pieces of clothing?
Modern life is inundated with things demanding our attention (and requiring our money), and arguably that’s driven this trend towards minimalism. We’re overloaded with technology, information, advertisements, updates, and, of course, material possessions. We recognize the unnecessary amount of smartphone alerts we let ourselves get sucked into. We know we can be self-absorbed with selfies and social media. We are frustrated and unsatisfied.
We are driven to debt to pay for all of it, unless we can simplify our lives. Such a simplification requires an entire lifestyle change.
And, that brings me to Purgatory.
Much like minimalism’s purging of material belongings, on a spiritual level we need to purge our souls of the unnecessary weight of sin, temptation, worldly attachment, and other weighty things. We must prioritize and seek the meaning of life instead of attempting to find meaning in the material goods we can buy.
C. S. Lewis, in his wonderful book The Great Divorce, writes: “And every state of mind, left to itself, every shutting up of the creature within the dungeon of its own mind – is, in the end, Hell. But Heaven is not a state of mind. Heaven is reality itself. All that is fully real is Heavenly. For all that can be shaken will be shaken and only the unshakeable remains.”
His characters can’t reach Heaven without letting go, even of the love of family members. This is because they must recognize that God is Love and is all anyone needs. They must confront what their souls are holding onto and purge it from themselves because those things don’t belong in Heaven.
As the quote above reminds us, we can trap ourselves in a dungeon of our mind. If we cling to possessions that aren’t necessary and don’t help us turn to God, then we are missing what is fully real. We are missing Heaven.
We should prepare now and every day to be unshakably ready to give God whatever He asks us to give, to give up whatever we need to give up to freely rise to Heaven. We can do this both internally and externally.
It may seem difficult to find a place to start, so try these five simple steps:
- Purge your living space. “Spring cleaning” isn’t just for spring. Sometimes you might need to invite over a trustworthy friend to help you make decisions. My mother and I do this for each other all the time!
- Purify your soul. Confession, spiritual direction, daily examinations, and/or a new prayer routine can help. Don’t overwhelm yourself. Just start where you can.
- De-clutter your data. Why do you have so many apps? Do you need a tablet, smartphone, laptop, desktop, iPad, GPS, tv, cable, Netflix, Hulu, AmazonPrime, and everything else you pay for monthly or buy as soon as the latest version comes out? Believe it or not, data is virtual clutter.
- Simplify your social life. Seriously, put down social media and make a friend offline. Have a taco party for no reason other than to see your friends in person. Don’t stress yourself out by trying to make every social event, and spend some quality time alone or one-on-one with your spouse / roommate / siblings.
- Repeat. Constant conversion is a very Catholic concept. It’s not just one day you convert—it’s every day in every aspect of your life. Turn towards God again and again.
As Catholics believe, we are transformed from the inside-out by Christ’s Precious Blood. We receive the Precious Body and Blood at Mass and are changed. We turn in constant conversion back towards Christ, reminding ourselves that we must face Him first and foremost in everything we do.
Anything that causes us to turn away from Christ instead of allowing the Holy Spirit to enter us and transform us should be purged from our lives. Whether that is the need to go to a support group to eliminate a repeated sin in our lives or go through our possessions and get rid of the fifteen electric cords that belong to technology we no longer own, the fifty cookbooks we don’t open anymore, or the unnecessary amount of forgotten clutter we have in our attic, we can simplify our lives to better serve Christ.
Most modern people don’t practice a religion, but you can see through the way some are choosing to live their lives, like in minimalism, that they are turning from materialism and seeking simplicity. Many seek adventure in nature, connecting with reality. We look to nature and to quality over quantity more and more.
That, I think, is a sign of people’s desire to step closer and closer to God whether they know it or not. And, it will open the door for believing Catholics to find some shared ground and a topic of conversation with those who don’t profess any faith—namely, material simplicity and the peace it brings your interior life.
You don’t need to live in a tiny house (unless that’s your cup of tea, then great!) to simplify your life. You just need to examine yourself with God and let Him know you are open to simplification in material things and, most of all, in spiritual things.
- What holds you back in your spiritual life that you should purge?
- What would you not be willing to leave behind, even to enter into Heaven?
- What things do you simply cover-up in your house and in your soul, as if it’s not there?
- How can you help others understand what’s important in life?
- What can you offer to God for complete transformation that you’ve been ignoring or unaware of?
- Do you try to fill a void in your life with material things where only the spiritual reality of God’s love can fill?
- How would you start a conversation with someone of a different generation about lifestyle choices, like adventuring outdoors, minimalist living, and potentially leading to a casual conversation about Christ?
- Where in your life do you see opportunity for change?
- What is most important for you to keep?
- What is least important, and why are you still holding onto it?
Photo credit: Brunel Johnson / Unsplash.com