Living Within Boundaries

A constricted income strengthens my resolve to save money, but it’s only part of who I seem to become each day: a minimalist. Minimalism can easily be found in …

A constricted income strengthens my resolve to save money, but it’s only part of who I seem to become each day: a minimalist. Minimalism can easily be found in art and literature, but it is making a succinct impression on daily life.

I consulted Google moments ago for sites on the subject, and a blog titled “The Minimalist” stands out from the other results. The site creator’s latest reflection outlines the importance of keeping stuff “in play at all times” (through a sale or donation) if it’s not in use. In turn, this reduces the likelihood the item in question is manufactured once more for someone else. The ramifications revealed in this picture underscore the reality of living green too. Consider the costs for producing one new item: raw materials, the equipment needed to assemble the product, labor to run the equipment, transportation to move the product between locations and advertising dollars to sell the product.

A search for the word “minimal” doesn’t appear in the Scriptures, but it seems Jesus has words on the subject. He spoke about the inability to lay his head down consistently each night. In fact, he (and the disciples) relied on the hospitality of citizens in the towns they visited, a notable custom in early Palestine. But is it possible to live out a minimal existence today?

I’m sure no one in my family would mistake me for a pack rat. I have sentimental attachments to items (trinkets) of the past, and they are stored appropriately. Baseball cards are one quick example. Pieces of square paper with nothing more than a photo and numerical statistics framed my childhood. The collection, while modest, is tucked away now, but the likelihood of a financial return well into the future is good to remember. I still have a teddy bear to give my first child. My emerging identity, however, is framed more by pragmatism. To use another example, a stack of books is currently to the right of my desk. I originally pondered whether to keep this collection of tomes, but now they are read. What’s the value now? Each can be read once more someday or utilized for quotes or research, but what of the millions awaiting my eyes, my mind, not cracked open yet? The books are headed to eBay.

I think William Morris captures this quest well: “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” I think this is exactly how I feel. Items will (hopefully) be purchased in terms of not only longevity, but necessity. And when one focuses the mind this way, existing stuff comes under scrutiny as well. I suppose this is bad news to the marketing department, but the current economy is forcing citizens to pull back. Times are undoubtedly tight, but the Bureau of Economic Analysis notes this truth: “Personal saving as a percentage of disposable personal income was 1.3 percent in September.” I can vouch for this reality firsthand, but I hope the days to come will provide ample opportunity to save more. Incidentally, I know this will be a subject on the minds of numerous finance experts. Will citizens resume former ways or find a new freedom, a freedom marked by a simple principle?

This principle is no surprise to most: live within the boundaries. And with continued uneasiness circulating through the economy, more and more citizens are putting this simple truth into motion. Call it frugal living. The idea of staying inside a perimeter seems constricting at first glance, but does a freedom rest in this place? Check out the words of King David on the subject: “You (God) have made my lot secure.” In fact, he previously talks about his portion, a cup of blessing, goodness. It seems every person receives a blessing. Some receive more, some less. But when greed or envy consumes the spirit, is disaster on the horizon? Pride comes before the fall.

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I have consistently struggled on the subject of wealth, where my position is, where God resides. Numerous people think its good, the desire of God. Others, like the Amish, disagree, choosing a simple lifestyle. The majority live in the middle ground, sorting it out day by day. I think the confusion may rest with the perception of money too. The Scriptures reveal a love of money as the root of evil, not currency itself. Dollars, Euros, and the like are simply paper for the purpose of exchanging goods and services. This paper is noteworthy, however, legal tender for public and private debt.

Debt is an ugly term today, under constant barrage. Citizens have their backs against the wall, but the fight is pressing forth. Business and finance gurus, including Dave Ramsey, Suze Orman, Clark Howard and others are directing the charge, sounding out the monetary reveille. I think “tightwad” may no longer be a negative term. The uniqueness of debt is this simple truth: markets cannot function without it. Banks are the common example, since lending is needed for the purpose of loans. Microcredit, consistently connected to Muhammad Yunus, is a small loan for impoverished entrepreneurs. And oddly enough, when one stops to ponder how little citizens of third world nations live on, the ability to turn a microcredit loan into a realized dream is truly amazing.

Debt will continue to live on, but more and more consumers will pull back. The credit cards will be shelved or shredded. Modest is the new lavish. I’m one of those people who pick up coins on the sidewalk. Everyone is included: Washington, Roosevelt and Jefferson. Who can forget the one cent though, the 16th President of the United States? This zinc coin brings to mind a time tested adage Lincoln just might concur with: “Watch your pennies.”

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