Why simplify?

So, I didn’t hear from 40, 30, or 20 of you who said you would join me on the “Minimalist Challenge”, but I am going for it anyway.   A few of you are joining me.  Some said they would start in January — not a bad idea.  I have looked ahead and faced the reality that I am going to have to give away 14 things and affirm 14 people on Christmas Day.  I think I can, I think I can, I think I can…

I was looking around the house yesterday thinking, oh, yeah, I’ve got plenty to get rid of!  But why?  Why don’t I want to hang on to stuff?  Why do I want less?

Is it a coincidence that I started ‘the purge’ on the last day of my ‘ultra simple diet’? Maybe, maybe not.  I was amazed, and a little irritated, by how little I could be satisfied on.  If everyone in my house followed the ‘ultra simple diet’ I would spend a lot of time cutting, sautéing, and steaming vegetables, but our grocery bill would be relatively low.  Rice, legumes, chicken, fish, vegetables. Period. Ok, I was allowed to use spices like sea salt, turmeric, garlic, and thyme.  But really, it was pretty simple.  I didn’t spend any time hunting for recipes or running out for that one specialty item.  I went shopping once and got everything I needed.  It was simple. I like simple.

When we moved to St. Louis is 2004, we got rid of more than half of our possessions.  We fit everything we owned and needed into one mid-sized U-Haul truck and our eight-passenger van (the kids and I were in there, too).  We lived on campus at the Seminary in an apartment that was less than 900 square feet.  We had a small storage space in the basement.  Our life was simplified by the lack of stuff, but also by the fact that we paid our rent every month and that was our only bill.  (We had paid off our vehicles before we went.) It was also simplified by the fact that a grounds crew took care of our lawn, maintenance workers did any repairs in our apartment, and coffee and groceries were within walking distance.  We had plenty of other things to worry about — new job, new church, new school, new life — having few possessions and an uncluttered life made way for some of that.  It was simple.

In 2008, after four years at the Seminary, we bought a large home and started acquiring stuff — two sofas, a bedroom suite, a few upholstered chairs,… For that season, while our kids were in middle and high school, it was nice to have the room to spread out.  It was nice to have three levels of house. But, with more house, and more stuff, came more responsibility — lawn care, utility bills, snow removal, house repairs, home maintenance.  It was satisfying to have a home to call our own, but it took a big chunk of our time every day to do the work of maintaining it.

So, when we moved back to Michigan this past summer, we did it again.  We got rid of more than half of our possessions in order to move into a home that is surely not much more than 900 square feet.  We have the luxury, again, of having very few bills.  We are spoiled by campus workers who mow our lawn, rake our leaves, empty our trash and recycling bins, and shovel our snow.  If something breaks in our home, I send an email to the director of properties and he sends a guy out to handle it.  In this simplicity, my husband and I are able to devote our time to the things we really care about, which sometimes includes a little home decorating or a little gardening.

So, if it’s so great, why get rid of more stuff? Why not? Why hang on to things that I don’t need, don’t use, don’t care about? They are sitting in piles on my desk, crammed into the drawers of my dresser, and crowding the rod in my closet.  These items aren’t providing me any security, utility, or value.  They are just cluttering my little house and my life.

Perhaps in letting some insignificant stuff go, I will be more aware of the things I truly value.  I’m up for that challenge.  Wonder what’s going today….

Matthew 12:34

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.

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