7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
A friend recommend a book to me called 7 - An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess by Jen Hatmaker.
As someone who does try to keep things simple and not buy into the "keeping up with the Jones''" mentality, the topic intrigued me, so I decided to read it.
Now that I have, it's weighing heavily on my mind and I've got to figure out how to apply it and process it.
Let me explain...
Here's the Amazon summary and description of the book:
American life can be excessive, to say the least. That’s what Jen Hatmaker had to admit after taking in hurricane victims who commented on the extravagance of her family’s upper middle class home. She once considered herself unmotivated by the lure of prosperity, but upon being called “rich” by an undeniably poor child, evidence to the contrary mounted, and a social experiment turned spiritual was born.
7 is the true story of how Jen (along with her husband and her children to varying degrees) took seven months, identified seven areas of excess, and made seven simple choices to fight back against the modern-day diseases of greed, materialism, and overindulgence.
Food. Clothes. Spending. Media. Possessions. Waste. Stress. They would spend thirty days on each topic, boiling it down to the number seven. Only eat seven foods, wear seven articles of clothing, and spend money in seven places. Eliminate use of seven media types, give away seven things each day for one month, adopt seven green habits, and observe “seven sacred pauses.” So, what’s the payoff from living a deeply reduced life? It’s the discovery of a greatly increased God—a call toward Christ-like simplicity and generosity that transcends social experiment to become a radically better existence.
After reading the book, not only do I feel a need to further simplify and remove several unnessary "things" from my life, but Jen's motivations for this fasting exercise have resonated with me as well -- "a less of me, more of Him" approach. Fasting in these several areas of life allows space for God to do his work, instead of me trying to do *my* plan. And we all know...I like to have a plan.
Though I realize it's contradictory to publically document your fast (fasting instructions in the bible - Matthew 1:16-18 - say you should do it privately), I enjoyed Jen Hatmaker's very candid and real diary of her experiences and since I, like her, process well via experiment and documentation, I thought I'd give it a try and document my own version of her experiment.
My Own Version - 7 Weeks of Less
There are 7 weeks between now and when I leave for Chicago with my kids. 7 stressful weeks of a summer schedule with both kids at home when I can't work as much as I'd like to, and am likely be naturally irrititable, rushed, ungrateful and frustrated. Seems like a bad time for an experiment, yes, but perhaps that's the point. Since less of me, more of Him is the whole reason for the exercise (not to mention having a more simplified life), I'm going to do it now and hope that God will give me an extra measure of peace and contentment as I make these sacrifices.
Here's my plan. I can't commit to 7 months, and I probably won't even be as extreme as Jen was in her fasts for these short 7 weeks. But here's what I will strive to do and focus on each week for 7 weeks:
Week 1 - Food (May 20 - 26)
Rather than choosing only 7 foods to eat this week, I've decided to eat only from what we have, and not buy more. This means no eating out, no picking up bananas or flour or eggs, bread, etc. from the store and no accepting food from other people. Instead, I'll be eating food from the pantry, refrigerator and freezer that we have in the house right now. This would have been easier at the beginning of the month when we had recently been shopping. However, we have not been shopping in a week or so and *are* currently out of several things, so I imagine I will have to sacrifice plenty. In fact, I think we're almost out of coffee. That's serious.
I also will not eat any food after 8pm. Liquids only. The snacking fool in me will surely feel this sacrifice.
In addition to not eating anything we don't already have and not eating after 8pm, I'm going to be in charge of dinners this week, which is not normally one of my jobs on weekdays (yes, let's all do a GIANT cheer for a husband who cooks). But in an effort to not force Ben & the kids into my experiment, I will come up with and cook dinners this week instead of forcing Ben to consider my experiment before planning meals.
*Note - I will replenish food for the rest of the family if necessary, but won't let myself partake in those items.
Week 2 - Possessions (May 27 - June 2)
We have 10 rooms in our house, plus a garage - all full of stuff. A week is not even close to enough time to prune out everything we could, so I'm going to focus on getting rid of at leat 7 things (hopefully WAY more) in these 7 spaces:
- Kids Rooms
- My Office
- Closets (particularly the front hall closet & Paxton's closet, which is used for storage)
In addition to getting rid of all this stuff, I will NOT let anything new (for me) to come INTO the house.
Week 3 - Clothes (June 3 - 9)
I will choose 7 items of clothing to wear this week. That's it. Wash and wear. All week long. Underwear & socks don't count. The only jewelry allowed are my wedding rings. No makeup (ouch). Hair gel is allowed.
- pink ribbed tank top
- black & pink running shorts
- black sundress
- blue sundress
- turquoise ribbed tank top (changed to white camisole tank)
- tennis shoes (changed to turquoise dress)
- flip flops (add tennis shoes. Jen Hatmaker counted two pairs of shoes as one item...so will I!)
I will also take inventory of my clothes and try to get rid of as much as possible. I've done this recently, so I'm curious how much more I can prune.
I feel like this week won't be too hard (though kind of boring). Since it's summertime, I won't need things like jackets, hats, jeans, sweaters, etc. Having only one set of workout clothes is going to be the hardest. That will require daily laundering. And I'm going to miss wearing earrings.
Dang. And I just realized I'm scheduled to drive to Nashville this weekend for a bachelorette party. No makeup & no jewelry? Jazz.
Week 4 - Waste (June 10 - 17)
Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. This week I will find ways to be green and more environmentally aware. I like to do these things and regularly practice a lot of "greener" things, but know I can improve and make better choices such as:
- Drive less (ie. exercise at home instead of the rec if I don't have any other errands to run, combine errands to one outing)
- Use fewer napkins, paper towels, and other one-time-use conveniences like zip lock bags, plastic bags, etc.
- Recycle more. Find a place to recycle glass especially and be more diligent about getting papers, cardboard, plastic & aluminum to the recycling bin instead of the trash
- Think of second (or third or fourth) uses for items before they become trash
- Fix things that might otherwise be thrown away.
- Save energy and resources by turning off electronics, lights, the water, etc. when not in use.
- Take out the trash & recycling, roll it to the street & back, etc. Normally this is something I leave for Ben to do..I'll take responsibility for it this week as a physical and visual reminder of the waste we produce.
Week 5 - Shopping (June 18 - 23)
I confess, I had to save this week for after Ayla's birthday party. I'm simply going to have to make several purchases to get that done and taken care of. But once that's over...
7 days of no spending - on anything other than bills that are due. Plus, I want to find places to cut spending. I guess I better be sure the car is full of gas before this week starts!
I don't even know if this week is going to be possible. I'll reevaluate this "fast" and make more specific rules closer to that week. Regardless of the specifics, I'll try to be aware of how often I spend a little here, a little there and how much that adds up to.
Week 6 - Media (June 24 - 30)
- No Facebook (except SignsbyAndrea-related)
- No Pinterest checking and surfing.
- No blog reading.
- No television.
- No Netflix or Hulu.
- No radio.
- Just telephone, email and texts for communication.
I'm actually looking forward to this week. I spend entirely too much time surfing the web, reading blogs and checking pinterest and facebook again and again and again and again.
Week 7 - Stress (July 1 - 7)
Ha! This should be interesting, because it's the week I'll be packing and getting myself and the kids ready for a month-long trip to Chicago to visit with family and live out of a suitcase, sleeping in campers, hotels and basements. If planning for a 4 week trip with two children across the country with a business to run while you're gone doesn't sound stressful, I don't know what does.
To reduce stress during this time, I want to try a variation of what Jen Hatmaker did with several set-aside times throughout the day to pray and refocus. I'm not sure I can do all "Seven Sacred Pauses", but I'm going to commit to four of them and each day I'm going to dedicate 5 minutes to each prayer - which I realize is nowhere close to an hour, but these are baby steps:
- (7:00 am) The Awakening Hour: Remembering God's goodness and complete control over my life and trusting in Him.
- (11:00 am) The Hour of Illumination: Honoring Jesus' sacrifice on the cross and recommitting to giving my life away in service, love, and peace.
- (2:00 pm) The Hour of Wisdom: Praying for wisdom and perspective.
- (6:00 pm) The Twilight Hour: Expressing gratitude and serenity during the witching hours.
I think I'll set alarms.
At the end of each week, I'll compile my journaled experiences and thoughts and share them
I hope you'll join me in this experiment if you feel inclined to do so. Read the book and come up with your own variation of the experiment. or just let it adjust your perspective on the abundance of stuff in our American priveliged world. However you participate, I believe you'll be positively affected.