Here’s a little categorical overview of how I came to stumble on simplicity as a challenging concept that keeps changing me in new ways to better steward my time, possessions, space, resources, and gifts – all for the glory of God.
So often, I can get stuck in my North Dallas bubble and justify so many things as necessary that to the majority of the world would seem lavish approaching insanely wasteful. Usually I feel like I know where the line is, but 2016 brought that line much further back, and it continues to move back as the needs of the world press in. Doing something is better than doing nothing, especially if that something is well-thought out and researched and contemplated. As with so many things that are true, it’s impossible to return to old ways of living when the light finally shines through.
Last August I went through one of those random cleaning phases we all go through and wanted to clear out some of my clothes. In late August, I texted my friend LeeAnn and said “cutting down my closet and need some executive decision help”. She came over the next day. I knew some things I wanted to get rid of at once, and others I put into a huge “maybe” pile – that was what I wanted help with.
What I really wanted was permission to keep most of that maybe pile. I wanted someone to help me justify keeping those clothes I hadn’t worn in a year or three but could see potential in. LeeAnn was the wrong choice for that, as I found out. Get rid of it, she said. So I hemmed and hawed and kept it in a big pile for 2 weeks. I didn’t even remember what was in the pile after that long, so I just packed it up and brought it to donate. That felt freeing. Oh, I didn’t even know what awaited me then!
I am a big re-organizer of my space from time to time, and I have probably re-done the layout my my very small apartment 5 times in the 20 months that I have lived here. The first layout lasted almost a full year, and then I changed the position of my kitchen table, changed it back, put some of my furniture in my garage, got a blue armchair I’d wanted for so long, got rid of the TV that had broken in my move summer of 2015!, and with the help of my friend Erin, she arranged my carefully collected pieces into a gallery wall at last!
Last August my sister and I went on the trip of a lifetime! But the multiple international destinations and the last minute change due to a certain military coup blew through my budget and quite a bit more than I had planned for. Upon my return, I focused on paying it off but found my finances were dwindling – so I investigated. I am not a “shopper”, but I found nearly 40% of my budget going to shopping! I was appalled and tried to catalog the purchases, most of which I had already forgotten about. Target was a culprit, to be sure, with that constantly changing “dollar” section and aesthetically pleasing seasonal home goods strewn across the store. Even cheap adds up… to a lot, apparently. So I started keeping a closer watch on my money, a tighter reign especially starting in November.
What prompted me to make even more changes was my pastor’s sermon about generosity. “What you have that you don’t use – consider that it might be for someone else” – this has stuck with me. I got home that day, determined to go over with life with a fine tooth comb. I started in my closet – I just went through and counted my shoes.
I am not even a big fan of fashion or curating the perfect outfit. That leads me to ashamedly admit that I had 60 pairs of shoes. 60. 6-0. That is ridiculous and embarrassing. I immediately eliminated half of them, and was left with 30.
I decided that 85% of my Christmas gifts would be given out of my existing possessions, and began to see that planning ahead would be crucial. There were some tough decisions in my future, and I needed to learn what this would look like.
All these aspects of my life culminated in the second half of 2016: my garments and possessions, budget, space, and generosity, created the perfect storm for me to re-think the way I was living my life.
I was living on default and that was not the way my King has called me to live. Everything should be filtered through the Holy Spirit, nothing can be excluded, even things that seem normal and typical, even traditions or continuing a way of life because that’s all we know or because that is “how it’s done” or even seems “normal”.
Not a good excuse anymore. 2 Corinthians 5:17 says I am a new creation in Christ, and that means an overhaul, however slow, of every single facet of living.
I had heard this word before and the only thing that came to mind was sparsely furnished glass houses with no signs of living, no personal effects, no color, life, or art. I didn’t want that life, but I figured there had to be more than the image in my mind. So I started researching online, found people like The Minimalists, watched their documentary, Courtney Carver, founder of Project 333 and her blog bemorewithless, and Joshua Becker, author of The More of Less, which I read, and Nancy Ray’s contentment challenge. I decided to jump in with both feet.
On January 1st, 2017, several things commenced, all to be a better steward of the resources God has entrusted me with, and to give Him glory for having resources to begin with:
- Changed the way I give: firstfruits, on a monthly basis instead of a yearly basis
- Changed the way I save: prioritized saving for a number of things and one big thing in particular with a deadline
- Change the way I spend: New budget to only 1 meal out a week (a feat in a city like Dallas that is so centered around eating out), 2 drinks out a month (sonic, starbucks, etc), and 1 treat a month. That did not go perfectly according to my plan, but I’ve edited and had some success and some failure
- Project 333, wearing only 33 items of clothing for 3 months
- Contentment challenge, not buying any household goods or anything unnecessary for 3 months
- Downsize / eliminate a large amount of personal possessions. I always knew I had a big affinity for books, and holding onto them got to be an issue as well. In my garage, I had 11 boxes of books from my younger days and gave away over 500 books on January 1st. It has become even more apparent to me over the last three months how much of a weakness books are! Especially with amazon only a click away and prime shipping!
- gift out of existing possessions – Christmas and Valentine’s Day
I want to expand on all of these and more in blog posts coming soon. I will update this post with links when I publish!