21 Ways to Live Counter-culturally

After living in China five years, I came back to the U.S. drinking hot water, line-drying all my clothes, and being shocked that I was expected to wait in lines instead of moving as a mob as we did in China. But living abroad changed me at the soul level as well, so I didn’t want to jump right back into the same life I lived before.

 Lately, I’ve been brainstorming ways to live counter-culturally in our western culture of excess and materialism.

The following list is not meant to cast judgment (because the last thing we need is more guilt over not “doing” enough). But in grace, I want to invite you to intentionally consider ways that we can live more counter-culturally. I personally want to live according to the ideals of Jesus instead of just floating along in culture’s stream.

Here are 21 ways to live more counter-culturally with a few resources listed below some of the topics (not in any particular order). I’ll be expanding on many of these in the months to come, so be sure to subscribe to emails or follow me on Facebook or Twitter so you don’t miss out on the discussion!

Here's what I've come up with so far:

1. Buy second-hand clothes, cars, toys and furniture.

The True Cost, a documentary now on Netflix, revolutionized the way I think about my clothes.  Now I'm attempting to buy as much as possible second-hand. Here are some ways to do that (besides Craigslist or Ebay):

Clothing consignment stores (buy & sell): Once Upon a Child (kids), Clothes Mentor (women)

Online used clothing (buy & sell): ThredUp (women & children), Kidizen (children)

Article: 35 Fair Trade and Ethical Clothing Brands that are Betting Against Fast Fashion

2. Prioritize getting out of debt.

Financial Peace University has many resources to help with this.

3. Have significantly less (or no!) toys.

Book: Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne, has a great section on kids' toys.


"Why Fewer Toys Will Actually Benefit Your Kids," by Joshua Becker

"Why I Took My Kids' Toys Away (And Why They Won't Get Them Back," by Ruth Soukup (and her follow-up post one year later)

4. Live in a smaller home (and have kids share bedrooms).

Cheaper to buy, less to clean and maintain.

"Why parents are choosing to have kids share rooms even when there's space," by Danielle Braff for The Chicago Tribune

5. Have just one car.

Not possible for everyone, but certainly for many!

6. Don't just give out of your surplus (if you go to church, why stop at a 10% tithe?).

Ask yourself: Does my breath catch a bit when I give?

7. (Especially if you're white) Educate yourself about the race problems in the United States.

As a very basic start:

PodcastBlack & White: Racism in America, The Liturgists

Book: Just Mercy, by Bryan Stevenson

Article: How White Privilege Affects 8 People of Color on a Day-to-Day Basis

8. Use your credit card like a debit card (don’t spend money you don’t have).

SNL skit: “Don’t Buy Stuff You Cannot Afford” (with Steve Martin & Amy Poehler)


20 Ways Americans Are Blowing Their Money (2014, USA Today)

2015 American Household Credit Card Debt Study (referenced by Huffington post)

9. Have a routine of rest and Sabbath.

Scraping Raisins blog post: Sabbath Rhythms

10. Purge/declutter frequently.

Book: The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo (you can read my review here)

11. Avoid cable T.V. (especially commercials!)--or don't have a T.V. at all.

12. Seek actual friendships with people who are different from you.

Scraping Raisins post: The Ugly Truth about Diversity

13. Read more books.

Podcast: What Should I Read Next? (Anne Bogel)

Blog: Modern Mrs. Darcy (Anne Bogel)

Site: Goodreads

14. Have personal and house rules about technology.

Scraping Raisins post: Overcoming Smartphone Addiction

15. Have an exchange student or international student live with you.

Here's a post about our experience: When the Nations Come to You

16. Think about what you’re putting in landfills. Buy in bulk. Use reusable containers.

40 Ways to Go Greener at Home...Besides Just Recycling, by Tsh Oxenreider

17. Prioritize people.

Scraping Raisins posts: When I Forget to Notice People and White People are Boring

18. Be a front yard person instead of an inside or backyard person (get to know your neighbors).

Blogger Kristin Schlle set up a turquoise table in her front yard to build community in her neighborhood. You can check out her story here.

19. Be open to adopt a child, be a foster parent or join Safe Families.

Safe Families is a program some of my friends have done where kids live with you temporarily so they don't have to go into the foster care system.

20. Sponsor a child internationally.

I've participated in Compassion International before, so I can vouch that they are legit. I also have relationships with an organization in Uganda called Focus that is doing really great work with college students and slum children in Kampala.

21. Practice hospitality and opening your home to others (even if it isn't always pretty).

Check out If Gathering


Additional Resources:


The Minimalists, The Art of Simple, Becoming Minimalist


The Minimalists, The Simple Show (The Art of Simple), Shalom in the City


Simplicity Parenting, by Kim John Payne; 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker


Which of these would you like to read more about? 

I have some ideas and research in the works, but would love to hear your opinions! 


Previous Post: The Cult of Calling {A Life Overseas}

Next Post: When Life is Less Radical Than You Imagined {Mudroom}

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