Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Tuesday's Top Ten [Concepts that Help Me Live with Less]

Our home was built in the 1940's. It's a cute, quaint little place that drew our attention for many reasons. First was the giant yard, second the porch, the garage, the excess of storage space, and all the potential the space held. We've been working on that potential, while quickly filling that storage space. Suddenly this space we thought was enough was not big enough for me. I wasn't satisfied with the small closets. I wanted a walk-in closet. I wasn't satisfied with my library, thinking a whole room would make me happier. Although a walk-in closet would be nice and a whole room as my library with floor to ceiling shelves would be amazing, those things are not going to make me happy eternally. Besides, when I die, I can take none of this with me.

It wasn't until a few months ago that I realized that the stuff was causing me to lose my Christ-centered focus. It made me overwhelmed and frustrated. There was no joy in picking up, it was simply a never-ending task. Most of my day was spent in general pick-up and I couldn't take it anymore. I was tired of being frustrated with my girls every time I sighed, "time to pick up!" (Deep breath needed even as I type that.) Suddenly the idea of a tiny home appealed to me! I could so easily leave everything in this house behind and start over. I was secretly hoping that God would pull an Abraham and tell me, "Becky! Go from here to the land that I will show you, tomorrow." That would mean that I could only take what I truly wanted or needed. Instead I decided to take a more realistic approach, so I began watching minimalist videos online. Reading blogs. Soaking in the idea of less is more! I read The Joy of Less by Francine Jay and I was hooked.

Then - in God's perfect timing - we hit a verse in 1 John during our Sunday morning study that solidified this minimalist mindset:
"Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world - the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride of life - is not from the Father but is from the world. And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides forever." 1 John 2:15-17
Our pastor kept asking, 'what do you value the most?' If the answer is not Jesus Christ, re-evaluate. I did some deep soul searching, praying that God help me value HIM most.

Confession: I am a shopaholic, especially when it comes to thrift stores and garage sales. It's hard to pass up those deals! So my home filled with more and more stuff I didn't need. It wasn't until God convicted my heart that I was blown away at how the world entices our eyes and the desires of the flesh. They advertise "BUYING THIS WILL MAKE YOU HAPPY!" or "Owning THIS is the key to your happiness!"

It is not the things of this world that bring happiness. It is the memories. The experiences. The people in it. Most importantly, the ETERNAL joy is in Jesus Christ alone.

With that story comes ten concepts that helped me purge my home. I have donated or trashed 19 trash bags full of stuff. I've sold countless items and I'm already noticing a difference when it's time to go to work, for example. I don't stress over what I'm going to wear or trying to find what I want to wear. The house isn't left in a disaster. My children see less of my wrath as I stress to get out the door on time. I found out that packing, even for a weekend getaway, is way less stressful! And I STILL have more work to do! Even with more to purge, I can already see the results of how less stuff = less stress!

Also, that cute, quaint little home I talked about in the first paragraph is beginning to shine again. I'm back to loving the SPACE and all the potential it contains to play and make memories as my husband and babies use the stuff that actually helps us in our day and/or offers enjoyment.

Our focus on Christ is central because there's less to distract us!

If this rings a bell with you, my suggestion is to follow the advice of those who have been down this journey for years. My journey is brand new. It's only a few months old and I have a lot of work to do, so I joke I'm only a minimalism enthusiast at this point in my life.

Read Francine Jay's book, visit minimalist blogs and websites like:

Take their advice. I'm glad I am. Here's some concepts they shared that have worked for me:

1. Start small. I began with the decor on my walls and shelves. I spent hours decorating for each season. My upstairs shelving served no other purpose than to decorate. I began to sort through what was already there and purge the items that held no significance what-so-ever than to be pretty. I repurposed it as a shelf that held my favorite books, with a few decor items I enjoyed. I fell in love with its purpose, the memories they held (books do that for me), and its aesthetic value. I moved on to the kitchen, then my clothes (which took FOREVER, see #10), to the playroom, my library, and now I'm moving on to another section in another room. I only tackle small pieces at a time. I'm months into it, but my suggestion is to start in one spot in one room.

2. Celebrate the small things accomplished! What I found is that I thoroughly enjoy repurposing and purging! I celebrated each bag filled and again with each bag donated. I danced or jumped or squealed in the new found space! I also found that as each bag was passed on, I couldn't remember what was in it! YAY! Not one item is missed.

3. Make it fun. One minimalist suggested that you turn on your favorite, most motivating, or calming music, make your favorite drink, and enjoy the process. When the time came to purge, I found that by doing these simple things, I couldn't wait to do it.

4. Make a goal. My goal is fill and donate (or trash) 40-50 bags/boxes. I wrote this goal down in my bullet journal so I see it everyday. I'm well on my way with 19 donated, many more trashed, and countless other stuff sold.

5. Include your kids. I didn't do this at first because I feared the battle over their stuff. I didn't purge stuff they actually played with, but I would sneak something I never see them play with, hide it, and if they didn't notice it for a month, away it went. That isn't a bad idea, but I realized after one mom suggested teaching your children the value of less stuff and giving to others, that I needed to apply that concept. We read the story Jesus told of the man who found a treasure chest in the field, sold all he had to purchase the land that contained this hidden treasure. Her thoughtfulness about building treasures in heaven helped me understand the value of less stuff and more Jesus. Bean enjoys the process as much as I do!

6. Keep reading and watching and learning from others. If you type 'minimalism' in the YouTube or Pinterest search bar - you will find countless others who have the same mindset. Listening to what they have to say is motivating and you will learn something. Hearing someone else's story is inspiring! I can't get enough of their wisdom.

7. Reason for each item. I'll use my decor to explain this one: I love books and to me they make wonderful decor. Poetry books are some of my favorite to pull off the shelf and read one or two. Top it off with a frame of my adorable children, and I have the perfect decor in my opinion. Plus I like to have things hanging that remind me of my purpose: Christ alone. Love God. Love others. etc. etc. As I purge, I'm realizing that most of the stuff I collect serves one purpose: aesthetic value. If that was the case, most of the time, I chucked it. Especially if it was easily broken. I don't want a space where my kids are not free to be kids. For each item I asked: does it point me to Christ, or take my focus away from Him? Does my husband need or appreciate it? Do my children need or appreciate it? Does it give me joy? Why? Thinking through each item as I struggled on whether or not to rid the house of it, really help me determine why I wanted to keep it or if I should keep it at all.

8. Multiples? This was especially helpful in my kitchen and closet. I had two dresses, same cut, one black and red the other multi colored. One I hadn't worn in years. Gone. I had multiple blue T's and many, many high school and college T-shirts. I kept one or two and threw the rest. I felt no guilt. In fact, I felt freedom as I LET IT GO! In my kitchen I had two sets of wine glasses - ugh - TWO! Why?! I kept my favorite set, donated the rest. I had 3 mixers. Seriously. I only need one. Many crockpot cookbooks. Again, why? 3 sets of bowls. More coffee cups than fit the cabinet. &etc. Although it's embarrassing to admit this to you, pulling out what I had multiples of and keeping my favorites helped clear space in my over crowded cabinets. Also, the coveted counter space has improved, I'm no longer battling the stuff to make dinner and clean up is so.much.faster!

9. Create a mindset. Francine Jay compared purging to dieting. If you go into purging without a lifestyle change, you'll end up back where you started. Be mindful of the things you purchase. If you purchase a new dress for your closet, for example, get rid of another. That way your stuff isn't growing and you spend less. I loved this concept. I also wanted to take it from a Biblical perspective. The message in 1 John was so helpful and it was then I began searching for Christian minimalists, because I do believe, the more I dive into it, that minimalism is (as my pastor's wife puts it) eternal living. Allie has a post that helped me create this mindset: How Minimalism is Biblical. Also, my mind is set on Christ. He permeates into every other portion of my life and I do not want to be in the place I once was - when I let my stuff get in the way.

This last one I came up with because I tried many methods to slim down my closet, and they failed. This was the only one that worked for me:

10. Find joy in giving. Although I knew it was a source of stress for me, the one place where I was struggling to let go was my closet. It drove me crazy how much time I sat staring at my clothes wondering what I should wear, if I wore such-and-such recently, and that it was so overstuffed that I had a hard time searching for things. I followed the advice of others to completely empty the closet and sort your "I love it!" pieces from the donate or why do I want to keep it piles. This helped a little bit, but when I began putting everything back, I was still overwhelmed with how much there was. I liked everything in it! So I began praying, God, put someone to mind that would want or need cute, clean clothes. He answered my prayer immediately with a name. So I messaged her and she told me, There's a reason I came to mind, I've been praying about clothes, mine are all starting to wear out! Hallelujah. This time when I sorted I thought, Ooooo! This would look great on her! I changed my focus from what I like or want, to her! It was so much fun. I filled two trash bags for her. It was so incredibly freeing and fun! It was a huge answer to prayer for both of us! As another week went by I realized I needed to do it again. So I began praying about it and messaged another person who was my same size, asking her if she'd like some clothes. I had another woman to think of and bless as I went through everything with her in mind. For me this was the only thing that worked because my mindset was changed from me, me, me to spoiling someone else. I am so thankful for a God who takes care of one person's prayer by answering mine - I can actually look in my drawers and closet without the muscle needed to shove stuff to the side and I'm less overwhelmed. He works in miraculous ways.

Plus one: talk to others. Someone asked me what I was reading as she checked out her pile of books. When I told her how much I was enjoying Francine Jay's book, The Joy of Less, and why I picked it up, we had an amazing conversation about Jesus! Come to find out both of my sister's were thinking the same thing and it opened another avenue of motivation when I talked to them about it. I opened up to my pastor's wife and the women I discipled. My pastor and his wife had been purging their home longer than I had and we couldn't get over how God was working in our life through our stuff - together - without ever knowing it! And one of the women I discipled was encouraged to do the same, for the same reasons. I stand in awe at how God worked in the lives of those around me, while also doing the same work on my own heart.

God is so incredibly good.

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