I picked up this lovely book hoping it would help guide and inspire me as I try to live my life intentionally. To say it was helpful would be quite the understatement. Jen’s book is full of brilliant insights into living without all the excess and living life full of Christian intention. (If you aren’t Christian, this book definitely isn’t for you. The concepts of simplifying and reducing waste transcend any religion, but part of Jen’s purpose in the book is to show us that this is what God calls us to do.)
In the book Jen undertook a challenge so unusual that she often found herself awkwardly trying to explain why she was wearing the same shirt or only eating sweet potatoes. No, folks, she’s not weird. She’s just on a mission! Her challenge was to focus on seven areas of life (food, clothes, possessions, media, shopping, waste and stress) to learn to live with less and reduce her impact on the Earth.
I could extensively discuss this book over the course of many posts and words, but I’m just going to focus on how this book is helping me live intentionally. I will be splitting it into two parts. Part two will appear next week.
In her first challenge, Jen resolves to eat only seven foods for one month. In her ruminations before starting the challenge, Jen spends a lot of time discussing how much she loves food. Like, seriously, LOVES food. It’s quite clear that she’s a foodie, and her love of food surpasses mine. (I almost always plan my day around food and think about my next meal or snack while eating the current one.)
What does a self proclaimed foodie learn from a challenge like this? Well there’s this:
By simplifying the food I purchase and eat, I can be more intentional and less wasteful. I don’t see simplifying only in terms of eating a certain number of foods like Jen did. I see it more in cooking from scratch and decreasing the waste prepackaged meals create. Also, learning to focus on the food I‘m currently eating will make it a more enjoyable experience for me.
In month two, Jen challenged herself to only wear seven items of clothing. Within a week she acknowledged that she had spent far more than was necessary on clothing. After 30 days and seven clothing items, Jen concluded:
Wow! She really has me pegged. I’m always so worried that someone will notice if I’ve worn an item or outfit too often. I don’t spend a lot of money on clothes, but I still have items that I rarely wear. And I sometimes fall in to the trap of buying something so trendy that I quickly grow bored with it. I need to stop doing that. I need to really consider my clothing purchases. How often will I wear it? Does it fit with my overall style, wardrobe or ideal wardrobe? I’m also going to challenge myself to buy more thrifted and consigned clothing than I currently do (which I’d estimate at around 20% of my current wardrobe).
Jen’s challenge during possessions month was to get rid of seven items every day. And she didn’t just take it to Goodwill. She found people who truly needed the items, like refugee families who had just stepped off the plane in America.
This chapter was probably the least influential for me because I embarked on the journey to somewhat minimalism almost three years ago. When I think about all the stuff we used to have and all the stuff we still have, I get a little nauseous. It seems really obscene to me now.
For media month, Jen and her family cut out TV, gaming, Facebook/Twitter, iPhone apps, radio, texting and internet. In the silence, she realized:
As you know, I cut out THE online forum where I spent a large portion of my free time. It’s been freeing so far. I’ve checked a few long-standing to dos off my list just in the first two weeks (see the header above). As a commenter on that post mentioned, some form of distraction or entertainment is a good thing, but between TV, books and my family, I already have plenty of entertainment. Will I return? I don’t know, but if I do, I hope I can learn to better manage my time there and still focus my attention where it really needs to be.
Looking at these four areas of excess in my life has been pretty eye opening, and I really think it has and will continue to have a big impact as I try to live my life more intentionally. The next three areas of excess will also be high impact, so stick around!
Have you read Jen Hatmaker’s book or anything similar? What do you think so far? Would living with less be good for you?
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