December 17, 2017

Book Review: 7, an Experimental Mutiny against Excess

I recently borrowed a friend’s copy of 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and devoured it in two nights. Yes, Jen Hatmaker’s writing is that engaging. I was so absorbed I hardly noticed the hours chapters go by. She had loads of humor and honesty all wrapped up in one little book.

And it made me think…

Do you realize, this is probably the first time in American history that living simply has become such a fad?

It used to be, people lived simply because they had no other choice. There weren’t hundreds of media interruptions in their day. There weren’t thousands of places to spend money on clothes, entertainment options, and eating out. Americans are literally overflowing with excess.

7: an experimental mutiny against excess

The first three chapters of “7” covered the areas of food, clothing, and possessions. For each respective month, Jen Hatmaker ate only 7 foods, wore only 7 pieces of clothing (tops/bottoms/dresses), and attempted to give away 7 possessions each day (which she far exceeded… but you’ll have to read the book to find out why).

Interesting concept, but not something I’m eager to do right now. After all, we are already living simply due to our current season of life.

Take food, for example. I love cooking from scratch, so keeping plenty of staples on hand is important to us. And with my health conditions, nutritious eating is important to us. So I frequent the produce section and the farmer’s market, and we easily get the recommended 5 servings of fruits and veggies every day. But we budget our food spending each month, and for us, that’s what works.

And then consider clothes and possessions. We’re in a transition phase, and right now it would be wiser to hold on to some of those things than to impulsively give it all away. I can’t imagine what my husband would say, if he came home one day and found the closets half-empty. We would just have to buy that stuff all over again later on!

Chapters 5 and 6, the ones on waste and spending, weren’t very relevant for me either. We already garden, shop at thrift stores, conserve water and electricity, and drive only one car – not to save the earth, but rather because that’s what our finances dictate right now. We don’t spend much more than absolutely necessary because that’s where we are in life right now.

So what did I like, you ask?

Her chapter on media. I am too easily distracted by email, facebook, twitter, and google reader. I fritter away my time on those things, when I could be doing more productive stuff like writing another book, reading, or praying for my friends. Sure, social interaction is important, both online and in real life. Sure, it’s helpful to stay up-to-date on everything. But do I really need to be glued to my computer for three solid hours, when there’s other more profitable things that I could be doing?

Also, a point she made about giving stuff away. It’s so easy, and so mindless, to just throw everything in the Goodwill bins. But what if we took just a few extra minutes to find a family who really needs that bag of clothes for the upcoming winter? Or a mom with children, who really can’t afford those fun things this Christmas? Or college students at our nearby alma mater, who can barely pay to be there, never mind pay for anything fun during the semester? Is it really that difficult to drop the bags off where they’re truly needed?

And finally, her chapter on stress. I found it to be less about stress, and more about staying focused on God. About pausing to pray, and resting in Him. She emphasized both taking a “Sabbath” rest (on whichever day you worship corporately with the body of Christ), and pausing seven times throughout each day to pray. It’s not quite “praying without ceasing” – but then, seven definite times of prayer each day would probably be an improvement over how frequently most of us pray right now.

So would I recommend “7” to you? Probably, especially if God’s been convicting you about having excess in any area of your life.

Would I buy it? Not right now. But maybe later, if we ever get to a point of having excess in multiple areas of our lives.

 

QUESTIONS for YOU: Have you read “7” yet? Are you taking a similar challenge? Why or why not?

 

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Comments

  1. I have read 7, and I liked it (I wrote a brief review of it here). It didn’t make me think I needed to replicate her methods exactly, but it got me thinking about areas of excess in my life.

    I’m not going to cut down to 7 foods for a month, but I liked Hayley’s take on it on the in(courage) blog. I’m interested to see what the other writers say in the rest of the series.

    And I think you’re probably more of an exception than most people in how simply you’re living. 🙂

    • Thanks, Sheila. Will go check out your review.
      Also, about your last statement – I have a feeling that most people living like we are probably wouldn’t bother reading that sort of book. But I was curious what all the hype was about. 🙂

  2. I’m totally with you on living simply. We live on a very, very meager part-time income. I talk a lot about living simply…my kids each have less than a weeks worth of clothes, I only have a small portion of a closet and no dresser, so, yes, we live simply. However, i am still enjoying the book. If nothing else, she is a hilarious and engaging writer!

  3. She is one of the funniest authors ever. I literally laughed out loud one night and woke Peter up. I don’t agree with her book 100% and of course “doing things” does not make you holier in God’s eyes…nor does God accept you any more or less– that said, it was one of the funniest books I have read in a looong time.

  4. This is on my “to read” list, but I haven’t picked up a copy yet. In the meantime, I thought you might appreciate reading this post by my friend, Rebecca. We worked with she and her husband in Indonesia back in 07/08, and she shares a different side of “simplicity”. I’m actually working on a post that ties into this (and am including Rebecca’s link). Have a great day! http://www.borneowife.blogspot.com/2012/08/whats-missing-from-simple-life-part-2.html

    • Your friend has some wise thoughts about the matter. I will add that Jen Hatmaker seems to have a true world-view as she does this experiment. They don’t just get rid of stuff, they seek to help others with what they have. They seek spiritual growth through it all… a sort of “fast” in a way. You should definitely read it sometime!

  5. Elizabeth, you and I have a unique perspective on 7 due to our current financial circumstances. However it is good to be reminded of how blessed we are even in our current situations.

  6. I have this on my shelf with a big imaginary question make on it. I lent it to a friend earlier this year, and she gave it back before finishing it saying, “It made me SO angry, I didn’t even care how it ended.” That made me curious, but also moved it down on my reading list. Then, just recently, I had two friends tell me that they were reading it and absolutely LOVING it. Interesting, right? I appreciate the balanced review here, and I definitely feel I need to pick it up fairly soon to measure what all this inconsistency is all about!

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