Today I spoke on simplicity at our MOPS (Mothers of Preschoolers) group. Living freely and lightly is not as easy as it sounds. Here are the highlights:
There is a story about a spiritual seeker who wanted to spend a few days in a monastery. ‘I hope your stay is a blessed one,’ said the monk who showed the visitor to his cell. ‘If you need anything, let us know, and we’ll teach you how to live without it.’”
We don’t need to learn how to get more, but how to be okay with what we’ve already got…and what we do not already have.
Disclaimer: I am a minimalist by nature; passed on to me from my mom. It means I live by the principle, “Less is More” and I am okay with that.
You don’t have to be like me or live like me; but I hope you catch an awareness and resolve today to live intentionally in ways that are life-giving to you. You will have to decide what is enough for you.
Clutter in our lives has a way of collecting much quicker and more substantially than we often realize….and before we know it, our stuff has control over us.
Is it wrong to have things? Of course not! BUT I think having things control you in ways you don’t want to live…is a warning sign not all is well.
My Personal Rules:
- When something comes in, something goes out. Maybe you are young and are still in the accumulation stage. I have had years to accumulate stuff. I am now on the downside of all that and I am in the declutter stage: if I haven’t used it in a year or have duplicates, it gets tossed.
- Christmas – one decoration each year doesn’t get packed away.
- Thrift Store box: Right outside of the my kitchen door to the garage I have thrift store box; (BEST idea ever!) Whenever I find something in my closet or cupboards that has not been used in along time, it goes there. No spring cleaning (which can be overwhelming)…you clean as you go! (One time I put my husband’s letterman’s jacket in “the box.” Now he has veto power before it is taken to the thrift store.
Where does all this lead for me? I want to be able to respond to fresh invitations from God…to go, to give generously, to not be distracted by things. There may be other factors that might force me to say ”no” but I do not want my stuff to keep me from saying yes.
What might a cluttered life look like?
We live in a consumer society. (Our economy only works if you go in to debt). And we live in a distracted culture where our lives are pulled in a thousand directions.
What that means is there is little space in our lives to stop and ask ourselves, “If I keep doing what I am doing, where does this all lead?” Or, “Why do I do what I do?”
Our stuff consumes out attention! (We have to pay for it; insure it, clean it, and store it) and takes our focus away from the things that are most important and most meaningful. The overabundant accumulation of things creates a weight you were never meant to carry.
Maybe you are a “spender” (if you don’t know, ask your spouse!). This is a great time of year to take stock of why you do what you do; this needs to be a ruthless assessment but it will set you free (and relieve stress in your marriage).
Debt sucks the life out of you. There is nothing I want that is worth going into debt over. It takes it a toll, especially on your marriage.
Ask yourself the hard questions: Is this how I want to live? Is my life unfolding in ways that allow me to live freely and lightly?
I never feel discontent about my home until I go to someone else’s home. Comparing will cause you to do things you normally wouldn’t do.
You need to decide…When is enough, enough?
Scripture: Luke 2:15 “Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”
These are not just nice sounding words…these are words that describe the ways in which you were created to flourish.
If Hollywood has taught us anything it’s that the accumulation of stuff does not bring well-being, meaning or happiness.
It’s not just stuff: We clutter our lives with so much doing. We live hyperactive lifestyles. We think all this activity is what it takes to make us successful or important or give us meaning and purpose.
What is does is make us sick. We were not created to live at that pace. If we don’t slow down our bodies will make us.
Be careful about cluttering up your kid’s lives. There is huge pressure to have your kids “do it all” and “have it all.” (We are so afraid they will be left behind.) Ballet, soccer, piano, gymnastics, tennis, ….I am afraid our kids will burn out and/or grow up just like us.
A cluttered life will make it difficult to make decisions; Too many options paralyzes you. Have you ever tried to buy a pair of tennis shoes!?
It’s hard to dream if you feel stuck.
That’s why Mark Zuckerberg and Steve Jobs wear (wore) the same tee shirt every day…in a very crowded life, it is one less decision to make.
A few years ago I committed to 9 months of not buying clothes. The money I saved went to empower impoverished women around the world to help them become self-sustaining for them and their families. Talk about living freely and lightly!
When done with honest self-awareness, the journey toward living more lightly will help us to realize that we are blessed by less.
A cluttered life makes us forget what the good things look like.
When we say yes to something, we have to say no to something else. Invest in the things that matter and tenaciously guard that.
Living lightly is not just about the stuff we accumulate. It’s about an attitude of living with fewer burdens and encumbrances and living in an intentional way; living in ways that we really want to live.
Less stuff and worries opens space to live with more contentment and meaning.
As you continue to strip away the unnecessary stuff in your closets and mind, you will be able to see more clearly how much is enough and how much is more than enough.
It’s really a spiritual paradox that the less tightly I cling to my stuff, my way, and my concerns, the happier and more blessed I feel. Once I have enough, less is more.