I've been interested, however, in the concept of minimalism in regards to resettling refugees or our homeless neighbors. How can we use what we've learned about minimalism + the contentment found therein to satisfy needs...rather than overburdening or setting these friends up to be vulnerable to the snares of greed + mindless consumption. I once helped set up a residence for a missionary family returning to the States on furlough. The amount of things that were brought into that house was crazy! Yes, there was well-intended generosity behind all of it, but I could see how it could breed discontent in a family with young children who planned on returning to the mission field.
There is a sweet spot that exists at the intersection of "enough" + contentment. How do we recognize it, stay there, + ultimately rest in it?
A time I keep coming back to is when we unexpectedly found ourselves moving back to the States from London with only the boxes we were allowed on the plane. We had very little money + we needed to spend all of it on housing...either a very small downpayment on a house...or first/last month's rent + deposit on an apartment. Our single vehicle was purchased on a credit card, + there was no money for furniture.
I made drawings + lists of what we would need to function as a family of four. Here is what I came up with:
-In the living room: lamp (it was January) + rug (if there was no carpet). We could do homework + eat dinner there. We could sit + read or play. We could grab our pillows + watch movies on a laptop. We could check out books from the library + stack them by the wall.
-In the bedrooms: mattresses, pillows + bottom sheets (mattresses are different sizes in the UK). Our clothes would go in closets. The girls' books + toys could go on the floor or in the closet. The laundry could pile on the floor.
-In the bathroom: shower curtain, bath mat, + towels (they took up too much precious space to pack).
-In the kitchen: we would make do with the plates, silverware, few utensils, tea towel, washcloth + pots that we brought.
-Also: stocking up on food, cleaning supplies, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc...all adds up too.
After having lived for three months in complete limbo at extremely generous relatives' house...not knowing day by day when we would get to go "home"...or where our home was...finally living in a space, all on our own, felt amazing! It was "enough".
Slowly accumulating the pieces on the round two list made it even better! Round two needs:
-In the living room: seating
-In the bedrooms: mattress pads, hangers, laundry baskets, a bit of storage for the girls
-In the kitchen: table + chairs, skillet, measuring cup, cutting board
-Also: washing machine, drying racks
(Craigslist was our source for furniture.)
Revisiting this knowledge of what we truly need is incredibly useful for me. Everything else is extra + I stay vigilant about recognizing the tipping point that leads me away from contentment + toward too much. I am happy to have some seating that is not on the floor now. :) I'm happy to have built in shelving, but just because it's there doesn't mean that I have to fill it. We don't need three side tables, because our drinks are fine on the floor. I love that the library stores all of our books. :) We are living in the sweet spot + I want to be aware of that!
I use this memory of starting (almost) from scratch as a reference point for recalibrating my current outlook toward gratitude + contentment. I consider the experience an incredibly empowering gift to my girls. In the same way, I think it's possible that our resettled neighbors could experience relief, "enough", and contentment in minimalism...not an imposed minimalism, of course, but an offered minimalism. We need to be aware of the possibility of overburdening them with things to "need". There is great kindness in "enough".