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,



  • Angus MacInnes
    Posted at 13:46h, 19 January Reply

    We’ve just gone through a massive decluttering as we downsized into new living quarters. It was hard, almost before we knew it, we were skinny enough. The key for us was to ask what had we done today for this project every day (Sharon’s idea). At the end, we didn’t seem to miss anything although every once in a while we wondered where that book or that seasoning or that sweater was; never seems to be a real problem though, just a curiosity. Decluttering my life is another matter. Opportunities and events in our new community are springing up right and left. As my savant “Al” said, I am consciously taking it slow, not jumping too fast, trying to start with Angus-beneficial activities such as health club, reading/book club, sifting through contacts for new good friends, and the like. It’s not easy because everything seems to look sooo interesting and I am a natural joiner but I am working hard to check my natural jump-in instinct. And I continue to pray each day for God’s help with this as well as others things. Surprisingly, this doesn’t seem to take any time at all.

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