The past few months I have read 3 excellent books that discuss the topic of having too much stuff. And it has motivated me to wage a war on excess in every area of my life. For several reasons. I want to give more. I also want to DO more. And I want to quit picking up crap all. day. long.
The first book is More or Less: Choosing a Lifestyle of Excessive Generosity by Jeff Shinabarger.
More or Less is the first book I read about the idea of excess and having far more than we need. And it was this book that initially sparked my desire and awareness to BUY less and DO more. Sometimes it’s all our stuff that gets in the way of our being able to do more. And it all starts with the question “What is enough?” A few quotes from the book (among many) that I loved.
“Excess is that thing we could give away today, and it wouldn’t change a single aspect of our tomorrow. Excess is more than what we need–and in turn it may be exactly what someone else needs. Anything more than enough is excess. Excess is margin. Excess is more than enough.”
“Many of us don’t want our stories to end with just an understanding that we have been given much. We want to do more with what we have; we just don’t know how to combat a culture that defines so much of what we think we need.”
“The sad truth is that while others fight for survival, we all want a little bit more. When we get more we tend to spend more, which results in wanting more. Meanwhile, we throw away what others need for survival. It’s a disturbing circle of want and need, but we have the ability to change the cycle. The change beings when we acknowledge that our excess creates an opportunity to address the needs of others.”
“I must create new habits that challenge my view of enough by forcing me to look through the lens of the suffering and therefore cause me to reexamine my personal lifestyle of excess.”
The second book is 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
This is the first book I’ve read by Jen Hatmaker and I’m a HUGE fan. I’m pretty sure if we lived next to each other we’d be really good friends. We think a lot alike. 7 is a true story of how Jen (and her husband and kids) waged a war against excess in 7 areas of their lives over a 7 month period. It was fascinating, hilarious, and inspiring. One of my favorite books I have read recently. A few quotes I loved:
“I’m trapped in the machine, held by my own selfishness. It’s time to face our spending and call it what it is: a travesty. I’m eary of justifying it. So many areas out of control, so much need for transformation. What have we been eating? What are we doing? What have we been buying? What are we wasting? What are we missing? These questions grieve me, as well they should.”
“My children are young–still entirely impressionable. It is not too late to untether them from the lie of ‘more'”
“I’m going to bed tonight grateful for warmth, an advantage so expected it barely registers. May my privileges continue to drive me downward to my brothers and sisters without. Greater yet, I’m tired of calling the suffering “brothers and sisters” when I’d never allow my biological siblings to suffer likewise. That’s just hypocrisy veiled in altruism. I won’t defile my blessings by imagining that I deserve them. Until every human receives the dignity I casually enjoy, I pray my heart aches with tension and my belly rumbles for injustice.”
“I could blame Big Marketing for selling me imagined needs. I could point a finger at culture for peer pressuring me into having nicer things. I might implicate modern parenting, which encourages endless purchases for the kids, ensuring they aren’t the “have-nots” in a sea of “haves.” I could just dismiss it all with a shrug and casual wave of the hand. Oh, you know me! Retail therapy! But if I’m being truthful, this is a sickening cycle of consumerism that I perpetuate constantly.”
“We top the global food chain through no fault or credit of our own. I’ve asked God a billion times why I have so much while others have so little. Why do my kids get full bellies? Why does water flow freely from my faucets? Why do we get to go the doctor when we’re sick? There is no easy answer. The why definitely matters, but so does the what. What do we do with our riches? What do we do with our privileges? What should we keep? What should we share? I better address this inequality since Jesus clearly identified the poor as His brothers and sisters and my neighbor.”
The third book is Living Well, Spending Less: 12 Secrets of the Good Life by Ruth Soukup.
I had the opportunity to read this book before it was released to the public (it’s officially released on Monday, December 29th). And I quickly decided reading and critiquing pre-released books would be a job I definitely wouldn’t mind. This book wasn’t what I expected, in a good way. It was full of substance, hope, and inspiration to take control of life. Ruth writes regularly on her blog Living Well Spending Less and she is a good woman with a good heart. A few quotes I loved:
“It is not the wealth–or the stuff–that kills us; it is the wanting, the longing, the absolutely insatiable desire for wealth, possessions, power, and status that eventually take over our hearts and minds, leaving room for little else. Whether or not we can afford it is totally irrelevant. What matters is the desire of our heart. Regardless of the never-quite-enough message society wants to give us, a live consumed by always wanting more is not the Good Life.”
“Discovering the Good Life is not just about learning to spend less, but about actually changing the desires of our heart, shifting our priorities from wanting and hoping for the best of everything in this world to deeply longing to store up differing kind of treasure.”
“I have found that overturning a lifetime of consumption while the rest of the world still screams at me to keep wildly spending does not come without hard work, serious soul-searching, and lots and lots of intentional prayer. I have fervently and frequently prayed for God to change my heart, to lead me where he would have me go, and to take away my desire for the things of this world. I’m still praying that prayer.
It is a terrifying prayer because, quite frankly, I love the things of this world. I’m not eager to give up my nice house with its loverly decorations, granite countertops, and 600-thread-count sheets. Storing up treasures in heaving is all well and good, but I still want to drive a nice car, wear nice clothes, and continue Instagramming all my social-media-worthy moments on the latest version of the iPhone.”
I’m determined to spend the next few months putting in the work to de-clutter our home. To give away things we don’t need. To get rid of things that don’t bless and enhance our lives. And to quit bringing in more things we don’t need. Room by room. Cupboard by cupboard. Drawer by drawer.
I’ve already started this the past few months (I can only do a little at a time or I get overwhelmed and apathetic) and my kids aren’t quite as excited about it as I am. Whenever Carter (who is 5) can’t find something of his now, he starts to wail and says “You gave it to the homeless shelter.” Most of the time he’s right. Or I put it in the garbage and hid it under a paper towel. Because he hasn’t cared one bit about it for the past year.
The truth is, getting rid of or giving away things we don’t need (or use) opens up space for us to do things that really matter. And spend money on doing things together instead of stuff strewn about the house. And finding resources to help people who need the help.
I love this quote by mother Theresa. We can pray for God to change things. But the truth is, change comes from us.
I’m waging a war on my personal excess and a change of heart. And I’m determined to stick with it.