18 Jan Simplicity, Part 1
Simplicity. That is my word for 2018, and I am embracing it with a vengeance.
One of the reasons that simplicity is my focus this year is that I recognize within me a deep hunger and longing for it. I am coming off a year that was complicated and messy, with events coming at me almost faster than I could handle them. I was in survival mode, and by the grace of God I did survive. That is no small thing, and I am profoundly grateful for God’s goodness and faithfulness during a difficult time. But, I am also tired of surviving. I want to thrive. And for me to thrive, I need some “soul space”—space to breathe and pray and read great books. Time to play the piano for no special reason or take a leisurely, “ponder life” kind of walk. Time to putter. I am a big fan of puttering.
Another reason I am feeling desperate for simplicity is that I recognize that when my schedule and head and heart are cluttered with lengthy “to do” lists, I am crowding God out of my life. There is less space to notice God’s presence, to rest in God’s grace, and to listen for God’s voice. As I wrote last week, I want to be more aware of God, not less, so de-cluttering has become, for me, a deeply spiritual practice.
The last reason simplicity has grabbed hold of me is that I want to deal more honestly with why I have SO. MUCH. STUFF. As I have shared before, I am a bit of an organization freak, so when people walk into my house, “cluttered” would not be their first impression, and likely not even their fiftieth. But, I know the truth. Every drawer is crammed. The closets are bursting. Paper threatens to take over the place. The pantry looks like we are expecting Armageddon—tomorrow. Even though I can usually find what I am looking for, when I open my closet I don’t have a sense of spaciousness or peace. I feel suffocated. And I have a sneaking suspicion that I can’t thrive if I can’t breathe.
On a fairly regular basis, I clean and organize things, but that has not gotten me to the root of the problem. I knew I needed a different approach. One insight that proved enormously helpful was author Julie Morgenstern’s declaration that just because something is organized doesn’t mean it isn’t clutter. If I don’t use something, it is clutter, no matter how neatly it may be put away. That was useful, but it still wasn’t enough. I needed to get at what my attachments were. Why do I hold on to things that I haven’t worn or used in years? I identified the “scarcity” mindset, rooted in fear, that was causing me, mostly unconsciously, to keep my fist tightened around things I don’t really want or need. This insight, too, was enormously helpful and freeing.
But there was one more question that seriously kicked me into gear: how much is enough? Do I need multiple sets of dishes, hundreds (if not thousands of books), a dozen pairs of black pants—all different sizes, different fabrics and weights, etc., etc., etc., but really? I felt the nudge of God’s Spirit—was it possible that if I would let go, freedom was waiting for me on the other side? That simplicity was the gateway to space and peace for body, mind, soul and spirit? I had the unmistakable sense that the answer was a resounding, “yes,” and that if I would exercise some faith and discipline, I might be astounded at the results.
I started. It was a struggle at first. The attachments were strong and the “what if” mentality has a tenacious hold. But, I kept asking the questions: why am I hanging on to this? What am I afraid of? When was the last time I used/wore this? How much is enough? I began to get more honest with myself. That was hard, but good. I was making modest progress, then I got on a roll. With every box I filled of things to donate, space opened up in both my closet and my head and heart. This was different. It wasn’t just reorganizing. This was a purge. And the more I purged, the better I felt. The closet took a few hours, but I couldn’t stop. I moved on to the drawers. Then the linen closet. Then under my bathroom sink.
It wasn’t a total success. I had some debates with myself over several items and I lost—for now. But, I keep thinking about those things and I know I can do without them, that I have enough without them. And, because I immediately began experiencing the gifts of simplicity, I am more motivated than ever to trust that letting go truly is the way to freedom.
Next week, simplicity in the areas of food and time.
Yours for the Kingdom,