The Simplicity Challenge
I’ve been reflecting on Simplicity lately. I remember back to my days in high school when I had on average 29 pairs of shoes and more clothes than I could fit in my closet. At least 5 different purses or bags and 6 different coats on top of that, and all this ‘stuff’ combined to make the whole process of getting dressed and out of the house each day a struggle to be on time for anything.
Even with all that, I recall thinking quite frequently, “I have nothing to wear!”
During my early college years I was living in a household with other women and I started to see other women’s various approaches to ‘stuff’. In other words: how they used, maintained, and organized their clothes, shoes, and personal belongings. A few of the women had very particular and intentional approaches to their material possessions. I couldn’t say what it was at the time, but I knew their way was a better way than mine. Their side of the room was tidy. They were never late to something because of spending too much time picking out an outfit. They were quick to lend their belongings to friends. Even though they were not always buying new things to wear, they always looked cute and put together and quite lovely. Through living with them and observing them, I was compelled to have less stuff, to take better care of my stuff, and to be more generous with my stuff. However, that was really hard for me to actually do, and I had to bring it to the Lord.
For one, I really liked buying stuff. Didn’t matter what really, anything that was cute, fun and occasionally purposeful. Secondly, I had acquired the bad habit of living contently amidst piles of stuff all around my room - clean clothes, dirty clothes, bags, shoes, schoolwork, mail, etc., you name it, I had a pile of it somewhere on my floor or desk or even bed! I could look at it all and ignore it. And it worked for me! That is, until I started living with others who had good habits in this area. As I continued sharing space with them, and ultimately growing in love for them, I started to see that my approach to ‘stuff’ affected other people!
Well it took more work than I could have imagined...more self-denial, more discipline, more help, and more time than I would have liked, but I have grown some in this area. I love to host parties and dinners, and my love for hosting has helped me to conquer my distaste for cleaning. Gotta have a clean room when friends come over, right? Another thing I have trained myself to do is to commit my money to go to the most important things first: bills, tithing, supporting mission, buying my groceries, so that I often just don’t have any left over for buying clothes and other ‘stuff’ - and I am surviving. Actually, I am better off! The pile on the floor of my room is now the exception, not the rule, and I have a “Ten-or-Less Pairs of Shoes” principle for myself. I have come to understand that my approach to stuff is a matter of Simplicity [or NOT simplicity], and as a Christian, the Lord has called me to excellence in this area.
Recently I have come across a handy list, which I would like to offer to you as a challenge. It is from an excellent book called Celebration of Discipline, by Richard J Foster. I could have saved myself a lot of trouble if I had known of a list like this and embraced it long ago. Therefore, I would like to pass it on to you dear friends, and invite you to consider it.
Celebration of Discipline: Simplicity List
Buy things for their usefulness and not their status.
Reject anything that produces an addiction in you.
Develop a habit of giving things away.
Refuse to be the custodians of modern gadgetry.
Enjoy things without owning them.
Develop a deeper appreciation of creation. Simplicity means to discover once again. that the earth is the Lords and the fullness thereof.
Be skeptical of ‘buy now pay later’ schemes.
Have plain honest speech. Let your yes be yes and your no be no. If you consent to do a task, do it. Don’t consent to things you don’t have space to do or won’t follow through on. Avoid flattery and half-truths. Make honesty and integrity the distinguishing characteristics of your speech.
Reject things that breed the oppression of others.
Shun things that distract, even things that are good: job, position, status, friends, security.
One of the best lessons I learned to help towards simplicity was a rule instituted by my mother when I was a small child. However, I only started to apply it in situations of my own choosing 15 years after she taught it to me! Every thing should have a place, and when you are not using it, everything should be in its place. Thanks, Mom, you are so wise!