Ya’ll, I like books that mess me up a little bit. 7 was one such paperbacked adventure. Firstly, the tagline is just brilliant, don’t you think? “An experimental mutiny against excess”. Secondly, Jen is a hilarious, honest, and engaging writer…and a Texan. Thirdly, this book will change the way you think about living in America. In a really good way.
“7 : An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess” – 7 is the true story of how Jen 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. – from Jen’s website
“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.”
A bit of background. When 2014 rolled around, Hans and I got this itch to minimize. Our possessions, our commitments, our stresses, and our spending. This was born out of a desire to live simply and purposefully instead of excessively and chaotically. I don’t need to tell you that America is one hot mess right now…we live in opulent abundance, and yet we’re burnt out and running circles in the rat race.
There has to be a better way, right?
Hans and I think so.
So, we have a mini Mount Everest of things we’re getting rid of sitting in our garage, awaiting a summer yard sale. We’re saying “no” to ministry, time, and relational commitments that don’t align with what God is calling us to. We’re envelope budgeting like bosses. I do freezer meals to eliminate mid-week cooking.
In the upstart of our whole simplifying kick, I started reading 7. The book is told in a sort of journal format as Jen went through 7 months of eliminating excess from her life: Food, Clothes, Spending, Media, Possessions, Waste, and Stress. What I love about Jen’s writing style is that she is very honest. She doesn’t “sanitize” the experience for her reader. For example, the middle of her month on food, Jen remarks, “I want a soy vanilla latte so bad I could spit”. While cutting down on waste, Jen and her husband bought a Suburban (sidebar: it did use FlexFuel).
Jen’s premise is that we have too much, and it’s time to cut back. “Excess has impaired perspective in America; we are the richest people on earth, praying to get richer. We’re tangled in unimaginable debt while feeding the machine, because we feel entitled to more. What does it communicate when half the global population lives on less than $2 a day, and we can’t manage a fulfilling life on twenty-five thousand times that amount?…It says we have too much, and it is ruining us.”
Jen’s tone is never preachy, bossy, or guilt-inducing. She airs her dirty laundry and admits she’s just as stuck as the next person. She admits when she messes up. She’s also honest about the struggles she has with God during her 7 month mutiny, and she shares what He teaches her along the way.
7 was an encouraging and inspiring read during this stage in my life. Jen gave me lots of practical ideas on how to cut out the excess, and lots of insight into the good that can come from doing so (more God, less stress, better health, less clutter, more peace). I would highly recommend it for anyone who is looking to buck the system and experiment with simpler life. You won’t regret it.
What do you think? Is staging a “mutiny against excess” something you would like to do in your own life?