Wednesday, May 07, 2014

The On-Going Effort to Simplify

I've been in a long-term battle with "stuff" for quite a while now. A few years back, I did a 40 bags in 40 days project for Lent, removing 40 bags of unnecessary items from my home during that time. In the years since, I've tried to do 40 bags during the course of the year. Last year, I only hit 20. This year, however, I'm up to 25 and I just bought a Bagster so that I can get rid of all the junk that is sitting in the storage area of my basement because it is too big to fit in our city-issued trash barrel and is no good to anybody else. So, I would say my chances of hitting 40 bags this year are very good.

Overall, however, I've been trying to live a need-based existence, both out of financial necessity and because the books we've been reading in the Bible Study I belong to have all been encouraging a life in which one embraces poverty (not destitution - there is a difference!) in order to be able to share what you have more freely, whether that sharing be with your Church, family members who are going through a tough time, or people who are starving in your community or around the world.

Indulging an occasional want isn't a bad thing. For example, while I sometimes give up chocolate for a time as a temporary fast, I definitely prefer life with it and will happily indulge that want. But, the chocolate isn't taking up long-term residence in my home. I eat it and enjoy it and it is gone.

Our relationship with the more permanent stuff can be much more complicated. What do we need in our lives? What do we have that we can do without? What do we have that someone else could make better use of?

I recently read Living Simple, Free & Happy: How to Simplify, Declutter Your Home, and Reduce Stress, Debt & Waste and found this quote by Cristin Frank to be inspiring:

What comes into our lives is not really ours; it's just ours to take care of for a certain amount of time. Even our children who were born out of our own bodies will grow up and live on without us.

Does this perspective change your attachment to the things in your life? Attachment is where problems occur. Our needs control us. When you can't live without something, you've lost control over that thing, and it now controls you. Is it worth sacrificing your freedom to an object? Isn't an object meant to serve you instead of you serving it?

Recognize that things come in and out of our lives every day. They rarely start with us and rarely end with us. You have a temporary amount of time with them. So what do we do with these things? Enjoy them, preserve them, appreciate them, or improve them. After you've done one or all of these things, pass them on to someone else who will do the same. Don't let the things you hold onto hold you back. 

We are simply guardians of history, preserving and advancing what has come into our lives - knowledge and possessions alike. We make a difference with every seedling we nurture, table we restore, helpful tip we share, and heirloom we carefully pass on to the next generation.  

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