I’ve grown accustomed to being made fun of at work for how I keep my work space. Back when I owned my business I shared space with another business. The space was plenty big enough for two business and both of our businesses did professional services where being out at a client site was the norm, so sharing office space worked great for us. Our employees got along well, but having a back office in this environment meant I’d get visits from my own employees, people from the other business, friends, and other business folks through out the day.
As people would visit me in my office quite often they’d look around and remark something to the effect of “Do you even work here, there’s nothing here but a computer and some stacks of paper!” I’d usually laugh and continue listening as they’d go on about the lack of personal effects in my office, nothing on the walls, no decorations to be found. As a motivated owner of a growing IT company what made me money was my laptop. I needed to work on technical systems, answer emails, send out quotes, and market my business online. To me, I was focused on building a company and having a bunch of personal effects or other items decorating my office didn’t help my mission of succeeding.
To me, having things in my office to remind me of my family seemed stupid. Why not drive ten minutes to my house and see them at the end of the day instead of staying in the office for 12 hours a day like some crazy business owners do? Why put motivational posters all over the office, instead of doing activities that motivated me to actually progress and get work done? Even today with my corporate job I’d rather leave my cube pretty bare because I’m there to get my work done and leave, not sit around all day and look at my “stuff”.
Now when it comes to my personal life, I’ll embrace “stuff” all day long. Let’s buy that new Smart TV, new Xbox, more clothes, better vehicles, nicer house, and on and on. For the last few years I’ve felt it wasn’t right to desire material things as much as I do, but couldn’t stop myself. Within the last few weeks I’ve felt convicted to move to more of the mindset I have at work when it comes to “stuff” in my personal life.
My wife and I have been going through the Financial Peace University courses to better our financial selves. We want to live more intentionally so that we can give more sacrificially to our church and others in need. To do so means we need to lower debt, so as we become less controlled by our debtors we can bless others.
As we’ve been working through the Financial Peace University courses I’ve been doing extra reading online (as I’m a nerd) to further impart the material into my subconscious. Tonight as I was reading an article about living intentionally I came across The Minimalists website. Josh and Ryan were two 20/30 somethings that were burnt out climbing the corporate ladder and felt their lives were missing something. They wondered why they should continue to buy “stuff” and feel empty. As I read some of their articles I saw they had a documentary on Netflix, and I had to watch it!
As I watched the movie on Netflix some lightbulbs and a-ha moments went off in my head. While Financial Peace University teaches getting and staying out of debt, Minimalism teaches owning only what’s needed in life, so you can be free to focus on the things that matter. While the two teachings may seem unrelated, they are forging ahead into one big movement in my life. Thou shalt not covet is one of the Ten Commandments I’ve struggled with immensely since I’ve starting working as a sixteen year old. I see someone with something cool and I want it, right meow! Or I see marketing on a cool new tech product and have to figure out how to buy it, finance it, or work extra hours to get it.
One of my worst mantras while owning my business was, “We don’t need to cut expenses, we just need to make more income so we can afford more things.” Lately as I’m pursuing God more in my life and becoming more like him, I’m being challenged in this area of my life. Coveting things is where I need to focus my attention and grow; I need to quit buying everything I want, quit insisting on going out to eat whenever I want, or buying the exact meal I want every time I’m hungry. I need to practice humility and discipline to purchase only what I need, not what I want. I need to pay with cash and remove my chains from debtors. I need to focus on doing the really important things, instead of focusing on buying “stuff” that just clutters up the office walls of my life and doesn’t fulfill me.