An Anti-Consumption Lent February 8, 2024

I most definitely do not live in a minimalist household. My husband, son, and I all hang on to things, possibly because we might need them again someday (or so we try and tell ourselves) but more likely due to inertia or downright laziness. It is far too easy to get tempted by acquiring stuff and the faster/easier routes.

Almost a decade ago, I read a short article with a catchy headline along the lines of “Forty Bags in Forty Days” about purging during Lent. The article suggested that, rather than just mindlessly giving up candy or coffee, we invest the time and effort to both re-home items so they don’t end up in landfills and re-examine our decisions about what we buy and keep.

My first Lenten attempt at purging was easier to implement. I committed to tackle one cabinet, shelf, or bin  each day in Lent, and tried to make up for missed weekdays with longer weekend stretches of decluttering.I joined my “Buy Nothing Project” group to share items with neighbors, confident the items would get reused. Bags of clothing were donated and boxes of books  were hauled to the resale store.  My son had outgrown so many toys and baby items that could easily be sold or shared so I reached the 40 bag goal with minimal effort. 

Each Lent since, sometimes more successfully than others, I have tried to include an additional practice to my routine to be a more faith-filled consumer of material goods. One year, I read up on residential recycling in Hennepin County and invested in reusable items for dining and food storage. I committed to less processed meals and eating through leftovers, giving extra attention to food waste. Another year, I decided to support local small businesses rather than relying on far-too-easy doorstep delivery. Last year I started buying quality second-hand apparel to lengthen the lifespan of clothing and this year I’m recycling more of my household items with an organization called Ridwell.

In his 2019 Lenten message, Pope Francis defined fasting as “learning to change our attitude towards others and all of creation, turning away from the temptation to ‘devour’ everything to satisfy our voracity and being ready to suffer for love, which can fill the emptiness of our hearts.” 
Although my family still has a lot of stuff and all too often choose paths of convenience or ease, the fruits of focusing on anti-consumption every Lent remain with me throughout the year. May I, in the words of Pope Francis, “escape from the insanity of hoarding everything for ourselves in the illusory belief that we can secure a future that does not belong to us.”

Melissa Streit
Director of Engagement