7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess
by Jen Hatmaker
More. In America we live with a mentality that we always need more. We need more food, clothes, toys, bigger homes, bigger cars, etc. It’s a hard thought process to avoid when we’re constantly berated by commercials and ads for all of these things. As I mentioned in my One LittleWord Post, I’m already trying to get away from that this year. Someone recommended I read this and though it’s not one I would normally gravitate towards, I picked it up.
The book chronicles the author’s own attempt to get rid of the excess in her life. Each month she picked one category and worked on that. She limited herself to seven items in each category. For example, in the food month she was only allowed to each meals created from the seven foods she’d picked. In the spending month she only spent money at seven locations.
Jen's voice is so frank and funny that I think it makes the whole concept escape the condescending tone that this experiment might have in another author voice. You understand her earnestness and want her to succeed. She pokes fun at her own dependence on certain things without chiding the reader at the same time.
She challenges you to look at your own life and priorities in more detail while still being honest and open about her own failings. Her struggle to minimize her life comes from a place of earnestness, not self-righteousness and that makes all the difference. Her goal is also rooted in her faith, so the experiment might not be for everyone. But I have to say, the base goal would apply to almost any life that’s driven to simplify and refocus on the things that truly matter.
While her experiment was obviously extreme, there were so many aspects of it that I really loved and like to try to incorporate into my own life. At the very least you gain an appreciation for the excess of wealth that pretty much anyone in the middle class enjoys. Since she was able to restrict her diet to seven ingredients and her wardrobe to seven items, it makes you look at your own pantry and closet with new eyes. When I think about how many items of clothing I had to choose from every day it blows my mind. When I think about all the tiny things that I spend money on a dollar at a Redbox kiosk, picking up a bottle of wine at Trader Joe's, dinner out at our favorite Mexican place with my husband, I just have so much to be thankful for.
I love the active elements that she added into the book. Instead of just denying herself the things she wanted, she and her entire family, including their young kids, got involved in the local community in a dozen different ways. They served meals to the homeless and donated items of clothing. Those are the ways that we give back, the ways that we teach our children and the next-generation to serve more than just ourselves. I love that they learn how to garden and how to live off less than what they were used to.
BOTTOM LINE: I loved the ways this book challenged me to look at the excess in my own life. Read it if you’re already feeling convicted about scaling back your life and want to see practical ways that someone else did it.
Shortly after I finished reading this I saw another review of it at Shelf Love!