There’s an old boating safeguard of throwing cargo overboard to lighten the load of the vessel during times of distress. The official word for the cargo cast overboard is jetsam.
The throwing off of unneeded cargo or equipment can help to lighten the vessel, to stabilize it during a storm, or remove flammables during a fire.
I can remember first hearing about this practice when I was kid hearing the old story about Jonah and the whale. But this is a practice that is still used today.
I think the analogy is helpful as we consider minimalism in a crisis—the benefit of removing unneeded cargo from our lives. To be fair, this principle applies to any crisis we may be facing such as the loss of a job, an illness, or a natural disaster.
But today, allow me to address minimalism during a societal crisis. Specifically, what we’re all going through right now trying to make the sense of COVID-19.
There is a reaction that some might have during a crisis to gather as much as possible and hoard as much as they can in their homes. We can see that reaction around us as people run to the grocery store or the pharmacy, grabbing as many things as they possibly can in their cart.
But there is an opposite response to this crisis we should consider: throwing off the non-essential cargo from our lives. Rather than hoarding possessions, we would use this crisis to begin removing the ones we do not need to help us find better stability.
Why use this crisis to own less?
Let me offer five important benefits:
When we own less, we find more freedom in our spaces and we find more freedom in our life.
When our homes are filled with unnecessary possessions, the environment is constricting and frustrating. But as we declutter our spaces, our homes become calmer and more peaceful.
Another reason we throw off non-essential cargo is the flexibility that it provides us going forward. The world is going to change, no doubt about it. Your life is going to change. Normal will be new.
Who knows what tomorrow holds? Who even knows when this storm is going to end? But when we own fewer possessions, we become more flexible for the future—whether we need to move, find a new job, or make changes in the way we live.
3. Financial stability.
As we own fewer possessions, our life costs less. It costs less to maintain our things. Even more importantly, we begin to buy less going forward. Suddenly, it is easier to find financial stability than before.
4. Benefit others.
Another reason to embrace minimalism in a crisis is because it helps us provide goods to those who need it. I realize, at this point in time, different locations have different guidelines in place for donations. But if your local authorities have deemed it safe, this is an important time to help those who desperately need it.
One last benefit of throwing off unneeded cargo during a crisis is that we begin to look for security in places that can actually deliver. One of the problems in looking for security in material possessions is that possessions never provide the security we desire. That’s why people start hoarding more and more and more. They believe the added items will help them feel safe, but they never do.
Instead, we can turn to friends and family and faith. We can turn to things that we know to be true about ourselves: our talents, our abilities, our work ethic. When we begin to rely on those things for our security going forward, we begin to find more lasting security in a crisis.
Now, don’t mishear me. I’m not saying it is wise to go out tonight and throw away every single thing you own.
What I am saying is this: Whether you are going through a personal crisis or societal crisis, begin to see how owning less can help bring back control of your life. Minimalism will bring intentionality. It can bring freedom and flexibility and financial stability going forward.
As you remove the items from your home and life that you do not need, you will be more stable and more equipped to weather any crisis that you may be going through.