Editor’s Note: This is a post in the new series, Simplicity in Action. If you’d like to submit your story of how simplicity has worked in your life, please read more here. You can write about anything from decluttering a junk drawer to simplifying your diet. Let your small and big changes inspire others.
I believe that simplifying one’s life can make it happier, more satisfying, and save a lot of time looking for things. That’s what I believe, but I’m also a pack-rat. My approach to simplifying my life up to this point has usually taken the form of organizing my stuff better so that I don’t see clutter and can find things more easily. This is good, but there is a limit to how much organizing can accomplish. Eventually the closets are packed too tight and my spiritual side calls me to a deeper level than just organizing.
I used to justify saving and organizing our family’s stuff by the “just in case” principle. When raising our four young children there was always reason to save a coat, shirt, pants, etc. for when a younger child would grow into it. I saved even less obvious items just in case it could be used as a Halloween costume. Old clothes of mine were saved just in case they would come back into style. After all, bell-bottoms reappear every 20 or so years. I’m a futurist.
I saved our kids school papers and awards just in case they would become president one day and archivists would want to dig into their past. As our children moved out on their own, I saved old but serviceable dishes and toasters just in case they needed them to furnish their first apartment. I finally faced my limit, however, when I had carefully saved maternity clothes and baby clothes, just in case a daughter or grandchild could use them. Saving the baby crib did come in handy recently to bed our first grandchild, but I’m learning that standards for cribs and strollers are changing and even these classic items may not meet the safety standards of today’s conscientious parents. This is what prompted me to undertake a deliberate letting go of many of the items around my house.
If you are like me, procrastination and lack of big chunks of time keep me from downsizing in one fell swoop. (People who move often have an advantage here, since moving often forces one to prune possessions.) But I decided to embark upon a “One-A-Day” approach. Each day I would search for one thing to give away or throw away.
This is not just a practical endeavor for me, but always a spiritual one since I believe Christianity (and most world religions) calls us to share what we have and live simply so that others may simply live.
Although I am not wealthy, I have more than I need. As St. Basil the Great said, “When someone steals another’s clothes we call him a thief. Should we not give the same name to one who could clothe the naked and does not? The bread in your cupboard belongs to the hungry; The coat hanging unused in your closet belongs to the person who needs it; The shoes rotting in your closet belong to the person who has no shoes; The money which you hoard up belongs to the poor.
Since Lent is also the religious season of joining with the sacrifice of Jesus, I decided that choosing one item a day for 40 days would be a manageable goal and be more useful than giving up candy. As I share how this process impacts me, I invite you to join me – not only through your words but also through your own experience of letting go in order to lead a fuller life.
Read more from Susan at her blog Living Lightly.