Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Simplifying Your Life – Part II – How Much is Enough?

We live in a society who always wants more – more clothes, bigger homes, better vehicles, more gadgets, more success, more money. We are constantly bombarded with adds for new iPods, laptops, iPhones, Blackberries, new vehicles – we live in a culture that is not satisfied with what we have, but is completely geared towards wanting and getting more. Yet, every item we own or buy says something about us, about what we think is important, what we like, what we think about, and ultimately, what our beliefs, goals and priorites are.

“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth…but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven…For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matt 6:19,21

Think about that for a minute…

What are your treasures? What do you spend your time doing and spend your money on? Is what you are doing/buying enhancing your goals or hindering them? Are you creating more work for yourself, or lessoning it? Is the activity/item going to bring your family closer together and increase your joy or cause distance, stress and strife? Are you doing it or want to buy it to fill an emotional void in your life, or an attempt to make yourself look trendy, in style, important and well off?

I don’t know about you, but it is difficult for me to put aside my earthly treasures – my clothes, house, vehicles, activities can start to take a very important role in my life. In the end, servicing, cleaning, storing, watching, worrying over and even praying for, can ultimately start to steal our joy and rob us of time better used and money better spent. It is not that any of these things are bad, but learning to live more simply will ultimately reduce stress and get rid of things that are not in line with your beliefs, goals and priorities.

So where do we start?

1. Pick one area and start slow.
Don’t just randomly start a whole bunch of projects – that will be good for no one and you will likely just be sorry you ever started and give up altogether. Instead, pick one area of your life and start to de-clutter that area. It could be finances, cutting back on your activities and commitments, removing the excess from your home – whatever is most important to you.

2. Try living without it.
You never know what you can live without if you never try. Maybe your family could live with just one TV, or maybe you can live without cable, or without cell phones. Make a list of all the things that cost you money, that cause you stress, or that you think do not line up with your family’s beliefs, goals and priorities and then decide – is this something I may be able to live without? Then try it for a week – you may be surprised!

3. Follow the 1-year rule.
If you have not worn it or used it in one year or more, than you need to really evaluate if you need to keep it. Lots of us hold onto items for sentimental reasons, or in hopes of one day fitting back into those jeans, but in most cases, if you have not used it within a year, you are not going to use it in the upcoming year. Keeping the item only causes additional clutter and disorganization with attempting to store it. (*Note: If you have not worn something due to pregnancy, please feel free to wait an additional year, but remember, our bodies change with pregnancy, what looked good before, might not look good now.)

I can already hear all the reasons why not to get rid of things.
(I do live with a confirmed pack rat and have heard EVERY excuse!!)

1. Getting rid of it is like throwing money away.
Unless it is truly garbage or not good to anyone, than you can sell it or donate it. Remember, you are saving both the money and time it would take to clean it, store it, repair it and insure it.

2. I am going to fix it one day.
If I could have a nickel for every time I heard this one…Alright, my husband (and husbands all over the world) says this to me all the time. To him, everything is “fixable”, but if you haven’t fixed it in the last year, the likelihood is that you never will. Either make a plan right away to fix the item yourself, get it fixed by a professional, or dispose of it. Packing your home full of broken down items only adds to your long “To Do List” and will add stress every time you see it or hear your spouse complain about it.

3. It was a gift.
Gifts are suppose to bring you pleasure and comfort, not stress and chaos. I personally think that it is perfectly fine to re-gift an item, if you do not use it and enjoy it and someone else that you know will, why not give it to them? Getting rid of something that was given to you does not mean that you do not appreciate their thoughtfulness, and unless you were given a precious family heirloom, don’t feel guilty about getting rid of it.

4. It has sentimental value.
I admit, I may be a tad less sentimental than some, but I rigorously limit what I decide to save in the way of keepsakes. People do enjoy looking through old photos, souvenirs, awards, newspaper clippings and so on – when they are organized, accessible or displayed, or stored neatly in a chest. These items can not be enjoyed when stuffed in countless boxes or drawers all over your home.

5. I am going to fit into it again one day.
This is a HUGE one for women; we are notorious for holding onto clothes in hopes that we will one day fit back into our high school or pre-pregnancy jeans. The problem is, that if you are always looking backwards, you are not trying to look your best today; you are just striving to be what you were. Our bodies change, and even if we are carrying some extra weight, we can still dress ourselves beautifully and take care of the bodies that we have today.

If you have items hanging in your closet that do not fit and they are in good shape and have a classic fit (meaning they are not likely to go out of style) and you really want to keep them, store them away, but if they still do not fit you in one year – get rid of them! Find someone who can use them and learn to appreciate your new shape.

6. I may need it in the future.
Oh, how many times I have heard this one from my husband or children! The problem is that they are not likely to FIND it in the future! When your life and home is cluttered, not only is it difficult to keep track of what you have, but it is difficult to locate it as well.

God is very clear - owning a lot of stuff does not fill our life with meaning, it just leads to a lot of clutter.



  1. Great advise! That was just the motivation I need to clear out some "old" clothes I have stored away in my closet. I'm on my way right now to remove any/all clothes that have not been worn in a year! Maybe I'll get some extra cash out of them at the cosignment shop and be able to pay off some debt.

  2. You mention your family’s "beliefs, goals and priorities" in the last couple of posts. I'd be interested to learn what your family's beliefs/goals/priorities are and how you established them. Was it a formal process with the whole family? Are they written down somewhere? Etc.

    Living with only 1 TV would be just fine if it weren't in my bedroom. I am getting tired of kids smuggling food in there and leaving crumbs in my bed.

    I agree about re-gifting. Do it all the time!

    And excuse me - but I really will fit into some of those clothes one day! LOL.