Soon my blog posts will be current, focused on what we are doing and what the Lord is teaching me in the here and now. But for this first “real” post I want to share a bit about what has been going down the past few weeks that has gotten me to today. I wouldn’t be blogging if not for all that I have been learning as I have experienced my first encounter with the world of minimalism and intentional simplicity! The Lord, in his grace, has been using that system to remind me about what it means to live with Heaven in mind. It all began just a few short weeks ago…
When I first began reading about minimalism in September I came across the Intentional Possessions episode of The Livin’ Lightly podcast. They took the old expression “time, talents, and treasures” and re-defined treasures to mean more than just money or possessions. Instead, they defined treasures as the things which we value most. As I thought about it, for me it was clear: my stuff is not my treasure. I treasure people. I treasure experiences. I treasure creativity, in all its various God-glorifying expressions. Most of all, I treasure Christ. Money and possessions are just a means to the end of getting to have more experiences with the people I love, to reaching the lost, to being creative, and to serving and spending time with Jesus. I began to evaluate my home based on this question: how are my possessions serving my treasures, protecting my time, and allowing me to pursue my talents? In all reality, many of my things were hindering what I valued most. I would be distracted in my time in the Lord by all the clutter and piles of papers in the kitchen, and that was when the kitchen was “clean”. Cleaning my little two bedroom apartment couldn’t even be done in an entire Saturday. I was wasting ridiculous amounts of time reordering the excess in my life, or as some would say, “organizing”. That physical clutter translated clearly into mental and emotional clutter that was hindering me from enjoying people. Now, to be honest, my home wasn’t always terrible. I could have people over. I wasn’t a hoarder. Sure, sometimes I had to throw a towel over the giant pile of dirty dishes in my sink when a surprise guest showed up. Maybe my bedroom had become a cast-all in the name of keeping the living room presentable. But hey, nobody’s perfect. I was just keepin’ it real! I honestly didn’t even realize how bad it had gotten. As I took my first step on the path towards simplicity I had no idea how much getting rid of a car-full of stuff would have a ripple effect on the rest of my life.
Getting rid of my things proved far easier than I anticipated. It was extremely addictive! The first space I cleared was my kitchen counter. It was the only space that I took before pictures of, and I wish I had taken more, but these give you a clear idea of what I was dealing with. It took me barely an hour, and my to-go pile was started. The effect that that one small counter had on me was astounding. The basket sitting there with the stack of papers had been a constant source of anxiety to me as it grew, and grew, and grew. Once it was gone, I was able to breathe a huge sigh of relief. It was as if I had been holding my breath and didn’t even know it! I put that basket in the to-go pile so that I wouldn’t have to confront that kind of clutter again. Because we had a lot going on, that was the only space I got to for that first week. But it didn’t matter. I was totally hooked. Any second I could find I was listening to podcasts like Simple Life Together and reading articles by The Minimalists*, Beginner Beans, and Becoming Minimalist to name a few. Finally, a week later I had the time while I was home to finally start hitting each room, cupboard by cupboard, space by space. I fell in love with the minimalism motto: only keep objects that serve a purpose or bring you joy.
Once I began evaluating each item based on this criteria I was surprised to see how many thing I had just for the sake of having. I’m referring to the fondue pot I used three times in the four and a half years we’ve been married. The vase that has been sitting on my counter for two years despite the fact that it’s color and style didn’t jive with the rest of my decor or even what I wanted my decor to be. The three bags of clothes stuffed in my closet for when I’d lose weight or the weather would change. Because, if and when I lose weight, I’m going to want to wear that three year old shirt, right? And because the weather in Southern California is so severe and frequently changing! Oh wait… As my to-go pile grew and I dug things out of hidden (and some not so hidden) corners of the house I was convicted as the Lord reminded me of His words, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth or rust destroys, and where thieves do not break in or steal; for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 16:19-21). I was always hesitant to get rid of things because of the great “what if?” But God is faithful and revealed this lack of trusting in my heart, and I kept on adding more stuff to the pile. When it was all said and done I had hit all the major areas of my house and had an entire van filled, floor to ceiling, with things that weren’t necessarily bad, but were hindering me from spending my time doing what I know God has called me to.
Now, my home won’t be getting published in a minimalist magazine! It is not anywhere close to the true definition of minimalism. Realistically, with one daughter and more kiddos eventually on the way, I don’t foresee that being a reality for us anytime soon. More importantly, at the end of the day it has never been about the stuff. It is about being intentional with every aspect of my life, questioning each part to determine if it is in line with the responsibilities God has entrusted to me. My Lord and Master is returning soon (Matthew 25:14-30), and the desire of my heart is to be faithful to Him until that day. The same principles that lead me to simplify my physical life lead to me evaluate my time, systems, goals, and pursuits and in doing so gave me greater direction in what kind of wife, mom, and woman I want to become. At some point I will put together a post on the specifics of how minimalism helped me evaluate those areas. But until next time, thank you for following along with me as I pursue simplicity, moderation, and grace in all things!
*The writers of this blog occasionally use curse words in their posts, so if this would be a stumbling block for you then I’d encourage you to move on to the other two blogs I mentioned. If it isn’t, they do have a lot of very helpful tools, such as their 21 Days to Minimalism series.