When Grandma died and my family went about the business of cleaning out her things, we joked that she was a packrat. Her home was full of boxes upon boxes of things- worthless things, really. Just bits and scraps from another era that she held onto for whatever reason- because she was too tired, or too busy thinking about others to clean out her old things, or maybe because of an attachment to the memories they held.
I didn't think much about the things when I was growing up. I wasn't bothered by her clutter. I was entranced by it- that each thing on her shelves held a story, and I would tease the stories from her one by one as I handled each of her knick knacks. Her home was clean despite the tchotchkes. I couldn't say the same thing about my own home.
My parents are abysmal housekeepers. There, I said it. I love them deeply and we have a great relationship, but we are opposites. My tendency toward perfectionism and cleanliness is either a strong testament to nature over nurture or it's residual evidence of my adolescent rebellions against them. Some kids went to underage drinking parties and got tattoos. I learned how to scrub baseboards with an old toothbrush and organize my shoes by color.
A devout life does bring wealth, but it’s the rich simplicity of being yourself before God. Since we entered the world penniless and will leave it penniless, if we have bread on the table and shoes on our feet, that’s enough. (1 Timothy 6:6-8, MSG)
That doesn't mean that the hoarding bug skipped me altogether. Actually, it bit me pretty bad, too. In college, every spare surface in my dorm room was covered with mementos. I was deeply sentimental and held onto things that reminded me of the people I loved and my life back home.
It wasn't until the first time I lived totally alone- no roommate, no boyfriend, no children, no family- just me and my two kittens in a shabby one bedroom apartment on the Southside- that I got the first taste of the thrill of decluttering. I'd just ended a bad relationship, and looking around, everything reminded me of my ex. I think I filled the dumpster outside my apartment complex halfway to the top that night. It was exhilarating.
My style has become more minimal each year since, especially since meeting the Holy Spirit head-on in my helplessness the week after Seth was born. I'm learning to clutch lightly to the things in this world: to hold my possessions with open hands. There's so much freedom knowing I can't take my things into eternity with me.
That doesn't mean I don't want things anymore. As a matter of fact, among my sins, covetousness is worst among them. I burn with envy when one of my friends moves into a home nicer than mine. I can't get really comfortable among people who I perceive to be richer than me- which is nearly everyone I meet.
Don't be fooled, we're just barely middle class over here. I'm struggling every day with a feeling of inferiority: a feeling that I fail everything I ever try, and chiefly because of our economic status. Now, thanks to the wonder of Facebook, I'm reunited with all the people I ever knew as a child, and once again I size myself up against them and I often feel like the report cards for our adult life are being handed out and I've once again failed to get an "honor roll" ribbon on mine.
Yesterday, I pulled out every single thing from my closet and hung them on the doorframe in my living room so I could size up what I still need for a fall capsule wardrobe. Sarah recommended I check out the Unfancy blog for help with that project- and wow! She has so many great tips for a minimalist wardrobe, including a recommendation to aim for no more than 37 pieces in your closet.
I counted the hangers in my doorway. 39. How about that?! I thought. I'm already off to a good start.
Somehow, I still managed to get rid of a bag full of stuff that I don't wear anymore. I eventually carried two big garbage bags to the thrift store to donate yesterday afternoon- stuff that the boys had grown out of and stuff that I don't wear. This has become a regular thing for us- I probably take two or three bags every couple of months, and I look around my little house when I get done and wonder how I had room for all that stuff.
When I stood back and looked at my closet after I finished, an impression passed through my mind- this brief sense that God allows us to be humble financially for a reason. That He's been taking me through a process of learning to live more simply for His glory. That living on the margin of what our society expects of someone with my level of education and ability gives me a special sensitivity for people who are grappling with true poverty. How blessed I am to have less!
I don't know where He's going with this, but I really wrote all that just to share that last paragraph. I'm far from expert on this kind of lifestyle (hence the tag I created on Instagram yesterday- #beginnerminimalist) but I want to share more about what I'm learning as I go. I'm a believer that nothing in this life is accidental and the impressions God gives us in passing can have powerful long-term implications if we honor them!
Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness, for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions. (Jesus - Luke 12:15, ESV)