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The Simplicity Challenge

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.

  1. Buy things for their usefulness rather than their status.
  2. Reject anything that is producing an addiction in you.
  3. Develop a habit of giving things away.
  4. Refuse to be propagandized by the custodians of modern gadgetry.
  5. Learn to enjoy things without owning them.
  6. Develop a deeper appreciation for the creation.
  7. Look with a healthy skepticism at all ‘buy now, pay later’ schemes.
  8. Obey Jesus’ instructions about plain, honest speech.
  9. Reject anything that breeds the oppression of others.
  10. 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.

 

Grace & Such strives to advance Christian growth among women. While we believe the Bible is the inspired Word of God, we also recognize human interpretations are imperfect. Grace & Such encourages our readers to open their Bibles, pray for wisdom and study for themselves what the Word says. For more about who we are, please visit the About Us page.
Rebecca Montie Preston
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Rebecca Montie Preston

Loyal wife. Empathetic mom of 2. Permissive Nana to nearly 7. Caregiver to a variety of wile pets. Hopeful pessimist. Smasher of false narratives. Mystic wanabee. Gardener extraordinaire. Tolerable creative artist. Reluctant writer.Loved by God no matter what.
Rebecca Montie Preston
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9 Comments

  1. Sarah Robinson on July 3, 2018 at 8:40 AM

    Oh, this hits a nerve. When we experienced a damaging hurricane while living in the Gulf Coast, the ensuing flood took the contents of those closets you describe. I vowed afterward, no more! That was in 2005. It’s become a discipline to avoid over-collecting things for later use. I’m going to go now and make another run to Goodwill.

    • Becky Preston on July 7, 2018 at 9:11 AM

      LOL. Not meant to be a guilt producer, but really a change in thinking about what is necessary in our lives, and what is not. It’s almost counter cultural.

  2. Ruth on July 3, 2018 at 9:42 AM

    I’m still learning so much about this practice. Thank you for this. I recently read that the opposite of simplicity may also be the outcome of living in fear that somehow we will run out or be in need… the whole “Life Without Lack” concept… I want to be more free…..

    • Becky Preston on July 7, 2018 at 9:12 AM

      Absolutely. Or a messed up sense of frugality…similar to the depression era thought process.

  3. Laura Rodger on July 3, 2018 at 1:03 PM

    Alas, it is a struggle for this girl, too! I’m very prone to keeping stuff that has a ‘story’. This is where ‘learning to enjoy things without owning them’ would be useful to remember.

    • Becky Preston on July 7, 2018 at 9:13 AM

      Yes. I have many family pieces, and I love them dearly, but if we go smaller and my kids don’t want them, I might have a bit of a meltdown.

  4. DianeK on July 3, 2018 at 1:50 PM

    I am not one to have a lot of stuff, but your addition to that list – of knowing desires vs need – certainly hit an interesting nerve in me. Thanks for the thought-provoking post, Beck! Can’t wait for the garage sale (;o)

  5. Gretchen on July 11, 2018 at 12:58 PM

    Oh, man. As someone who is cleaning out the house of two who have kept EVERYTHING in their nest since 1975, with no garage sales, no clean outs, no donations of any kind, I salute you. Your kids will thank you later. My inlaws are downsizing to a one-story home from a 3,000+ structure, and it’s been a huge lesson for my husband and I as we think about the legacy we wish to leave. Being totally vulnerable, here, it’s tempting to be pissed at my inlaws for living in such a mess. BUT not only do we definitely suspect some, or even most of this is out of their control due to mental illness (which makes us feel badly for being upset), but we also realize that we, too, have a giant log in our own eye, so to speak. And we totally sympathize with the emotional turmoil involved of leaving one’s home after 42 years. No, we aren’t even a tenth of as cluttered as they are. BUT, we’ve only lived here for 17 years, not 42. And we still have way too much stuff. I really relate to the lighter feeling you describe whenever we organize and declutter. We will go back next month and keep trying to help them continue with the process, and I will especially check my attitude; may it be one of sacrificial love and compassion, rather than eye-rolling (even to myself) judgment.

    I’m reminded of the “traveling light” lifestyle of Jesus and His disciples. He was simply about being in the moment, and allowing his followers to experience Him as they experienced life together.

    Yes…your post has me thinking. I have much to learn, as well.

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