Simplicity is a bit of a foreign concept with me. While I have strived for simplicity at different times in my life, basically I am neither simple nor live simply. When I read about the practice of simplicity in books on Spiritual Formation I am perplexed. Why is this so far out of my understanding?
Recently I have been more convicted of this lack of simplicity in my life. We are in the process of getting our home ready to sell. Our goal is to downsize. We must unclutter! While I don’t see myself as a tchotchke (and who knew that’s how you spell it) kind of person, I have come to realize I often overbuy and store massive amounts of stuff in my closets. It really is embarrassing.
Yarn, notebooks, books, clothing, and purses are just a few of the overabundance I have stockpiled in this house. As I clean out closet after closet, there is a great opportunity to donate or giveaway. But really, how did this happen?
A funny thing has come about as I’ve gone through each closet. There is a certain bondage in owning all this stuff. I can’t help but think: I’ll need to unpack it at some point. Perhaps my inner thought of “I’ll use this someday” is not a place of frugality (even though I often purchase items on sale, because, hey, I can’t afford not to buy it) or freedom, instead they have become a burden. Certainly, this is not for the best.
In Richard Foster’s book Celebration of Discipline, he devotes a section on the practice of simplicity and he gives ten ways to help in the process of living a simple life. To be honest, there are several things I do follow from this list, but others are a challenge. I have much work to do.
- Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
- Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
- Develop a habit of giving things away.
- Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
- Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
- Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
- Look with a healthy skepticism at all ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes.
- Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
- Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
- Shun anything that distracts you from seeking first the kingdom of God.
If I were creating a list such as this, I might add an eleventh: Learn to discern what is a need and what is a desire. I don’t believe that all desire is bad; there is much to be learned about ourselves in determining our desires. However, we must take the time to discover the source of those desires. Are our desires from God or from the evil one?
This moving process has been good in that it has shown me my lack of simplicity. Now the challenge is to put into practice what has been revealed to me. As I shop, it will not be without an inner discussion of “do I really need this?”
As I walk around peering into newly cleaned closets and I see the lack of personal knickknacks around my house, I actually feel lighter. I have a sense of accomplishment. I realize I like to see what artists call “whitespace” around my house. The whitespace allows me to focus in on what is really important.
Is this a struggle in your life? What benefits do you see in living in simplicity?
P.S. I’m probably gonna have a massive garage sale in July or August. It will be a humbling experience as my “treasures” will be on display. But it will also be a relief to see these things go on to be used by others.