Hey guys! More on this topic today. Pour yourself a cup of coffee and get cozy. This one’s a little long.
Two weekends ago, I cleaned out Aiden’s closet. I didn’t know why but the more we sorted through, the more overwhelmed I was. I started crying, and I didn’t know why. A few things had piled up in my life and this was the last straw. This was it. I was done.
On a regular occurrence I do at least two of the following: A. Stand in my closet with enough clothes to fashion a small village, and complain that I have nothing to wear in a loud enough voice for Jamin to hear (usually as part of an elaborate scheme to obtain more of said clothing to cover an additional small village). B. I hover in our fridge and pantry, staring at all the food we own, and bemoan that it’s not what I’m craving. C. Complain in general about the status of something in our lives. Plain and simple: I’m not living in the present. I think I’m entitled.
I can’t even see what I do have, for all the stuff. This stings to admit how selfish I’ve been. While others in the world crave the taste of fresh water, I really have been missing the mark.
I’ve been in such a rush to “get there”. Wherever “there” is. In the process, I’ve been fighting a losing battle. I’ve felt so suffocated by it all. I can’t blame it on the ‘survival mode’ of life anymore. It’s time I stepped back, took a deep breath, and thought about where on earth I’m really rushing to. Is it a bigger house? A nicer car? Prettier clothes? More… stuff?
And then what? Isn’t that how we live our lives? In search of the next big thing? Let me clarify: there’s nothing wrong with stuff in itself. It is a part of our lives. But there is something wrong with the excess of it all. When it starts to take over, when you’re constantly managing it… when there’s a mindless consumption taking place and blatant wastefulness dominating. When I have to mindlessly shove the fiftieth object in a drawer, or my kids can’t find half of their toys for all the pieces…. I think there’s a problem.
The scariest part of it all, is that I’m called to a higher responsibility. I have children. Little citizens of the future world. What am I teaching them? Over the past year, there have been little whispers taking place in my life. Marked by small moments of realization. Slowly but surely, the blackened places of my heart have been whittled away, and I feel as though I’ve been brought to this place. In the past, I’ve been in too much of a hurry. Rushing towards something I don’t even think I really wanted. Frustrated by something I couldn’t put a finger on. Hoping for things that don’t really matter. Comparing myself to some invisible line of attainment that is never possible anyway, because I would just keep raising my own bar. (I am SO ridiculous!) And if it were attainable, at what cost? Why do we do this to ourselves?
I can’t ever keep up.
They say that writing is an act of discovery. Never, my friends, were truer words spoken. When I went back and read all your comments from last week’s post, there were things I was feeling, that I couldn’t quite put my finger on. You did that for me. Apparently less is the new more, because you guys made it very clear that I’m not the only one feeling this way. I truly believe that with our economy in the state it is in, and as products of a past generation, we’re simply ready for something different.
Here’s a little of what you had to say, one eye opening comment at a time:
Amanda at The Paper Arrow wrote: Natasha….we DID that. The downsizing part. In the spring, I suddenly felt this sickening feeling that enough was enough and too much was just that – TOO MUCH. I felt overwhelmed, my husband works 80 hours a week (every single week) so that we can live in our giant home and send our kids to private Christian school, etc. So I told him I wanted to move somewhere simpler. I was ready to move from a 4000 sq ft home to a 2 bedroom apartment for a year to regroup my thinking about life.
We didn’t go that drastic because I finally realized that we didn’t have to, but here we are….sold our big house last week and are living with friends for this past week (with only the items we could fit in our 2 cars) while our new (old 1956) home is being cleaned, slightly renovated, and freshened up for us. And I’m happy. As I unpack each box next week, I’m going to do it intentionally and if I don’t NEED it, it’s going away somewhere.
We ultimately have chosen a bigger yard, a smaller home, something closer to my husband’s job and my son’s school, so that we can make more of family time, less time on the road going from place to place, more outdoor time and less indoor time, as much as possible. The kids bedrooms are tinier, their single shared bathroom is smaller, the kitchen is a third of the size with equally less space, but it will be home. That is all that matters to me anymore.
Also, we will be choosing a child from Compassion shortly to sponsor and showing the kids the beauty of helping in that way. Also, at their birthdays we will be asking for no gifts from friends, but optional donations toward their sponsor child instead. Hoping to teach them love and sympathy and understanding of others and awareness of how very, very blessed they have been. It’s an ongoing battle though, but one that I feel mothers are up for. ASHLEY – You just wrote this post as if it came straight from my mind. I am sharing this on Facebook today because I think my friends think I’ve gone nuts and this explains it all. LOVE YOUR BLOG.
Elizabeth Wrote: My family has struggled with this in the past and recently as well. Being a military family, it always hits the hardest when it is time to move, again. We go through this HUGE purge of stuff, only to find items after the move that we don’t need or want anymore. Why is there always such a huge excess of stuff in our lives? So we, as a family, decided that we needed to change and that it wouldn’t happen overnight. We now have a system of monthly goals, as a means of establishing habits, as a family. Every month, we pick a new goal: “Find one item per person to donate everyday”, “No shopping at stores that are not locally owned”, “No television”, “Donate a book a day”. By establishing a goal, talking about it, tracking it, having a deadline, and working together as a family, it has established habits that work without having an aspect of singular responsibility, i.e. “That’s not my job!”. It doesn’t happen overnight, but the little steps add up to so much more than expected.
Rebecca said: We lost our home in the April ’12 tornadoes and pretty much lost all of our belongings. It’s a horrible feeling to lose your ‘home’, but it quickly didn’t take long for me to realize I wasn’t missing any of my ‘stuff’. As we were sifting through debris trying to recover things, I even found myself tossing out things I could have saved because I’d quickly realized that I didn’t need them. Through blessings of insurance we have a lovely home and quickly started buying things back. It was actually a nice feeling to live in a home that didn’t have ‘junk’ laying around. I find myself tossing things out much easier these days and don’t just stuff things into corners or boxes out of the way because I don’t want to get overwhelmed with ‘stuff’ again.
So over the weekend, I picked up and proceeded to absolutely devour Jen Hatmaker’s book, 7. Run, dear sweet readers, do not walk, to your nearest book store and purchase this book. This book will challenge you regarding all things American consumerism and the way we tend to mindlessly lead our lives. What cutting back could mean for us, and the lives of others and what we’re really called to do… It’s one of the most inspiring, convicting, and funniest reads I’ve ever put my hands on.
7 was recommended to me originally by the lovely Nester this summer (see her own awesome post, here) and to be honest I think I was afraid to read it. I was already on the edge, and when I finally picked it up, Jen just pushed me over the cliff. (It was a good cliff once the fear wore off. We went cliff diving.)
Did you know (per 7-Jen’s book) that if you make 35,000 dollars a year we’re in the top 4 percent of the world’s wealth? And if you make 50,000 the top 1?
Wow. Let’s just let that sink in.
We have more of a responsibility with our money, as much as this scares me to admit, to do more with it than surround ourselves with STUFF. And in the process (because I love how all of this ties in) won’t our homes ultimately be more of what we’re striving for?
Never have I wanted to run so far away from the proverbial Joneses. I don’t want to keep up with the stinkin’ Kardashians. My entire life has been a struggle to ‘keep up’, whether I realized it or not. My inner competitor wants to feel ‘worthy’. I want to feel like I have ‘enough’. But I am never satisfied. I’ve been focused on the wrong things in a culture brainwashed by the desire for MORE.
I can’t keep up. It’s impossible.
But I can purge my home that is full of STUFF. I can bless others with our surplus, and I can teach my children a different way of life. This will be a process. A messy, emotional, exhausting, ugly, embarrassing process. After a week of processing, I’m ready to take action. I’m ready to make this change.
This Lazy Gal Series and my original intent for it, is only scratching the surface of what truly lies beneath in a world of potential. It’s scaring me. I think it’s good to be scared.
So here are a few things regarding my own personal plan of action. I really hope you’ll join us:
1. The Lazy Gal’s Great Purge. In January, we’re completely purging our home. From the bathroom cabinets, to the attic… Of anything we no longer use, didn’t know we had, and haven’t touched in months. Of anything I’ve been guilty of “stuffing”. Of anything I’ve held on to out of guilt. I’m donating our clothes, extra toys, and things to those who can really use them. I’m establishing recycling bins and paring it down. It’s just best for us, and best for others. It’s time to make a change. Sound radical? I need something radical. Consider it a grand kickoff in the name of change. Hold me. I’m scared.
2. I’m having a gargantuan hoarder’s purge garage sale. This is what it shall be called. Handmade Home style. On February the 2nd of 2013 (if the Mayans don’t rapture us up on a spaceship commanded by Thor). There will be food and music and good times, and a portion of this money will go to those less fortunate. (We’re working on the deats.) So if you’re NOT purging your home (I will not be an enabler) or if you’re looking for something new to you, feel free to come over and hang out with us. I know it will be decor and furniture and original art at fair prices. I can’t wait to get rid of it. I know that if I set my date, it will be done. February the SECOND. Road trip to Alabamer, anyone? Write it down! I will have more of this coming up.
3. Lazy Gals UNITE. Here’s the really important part. Are you still with me? I truly believe that big things are accomplished by conquering them together. People who are of the same cause. Starting in January, in the grand tradition of Auld Lang Syne, and all of you inspired by the idea of less being more, (I’ve dubbed January ‘The Lazy Gal’s Great Purge’) I’m also opening up a section of our site for you to share your own projects in your own homes. What are you cleaning up? What are you cleaning out? What are you getting rid of? Befores + afters, shameless piles of stuff, thoughts + musings… Goals accomplished and even total fails… amazing inspiration created by you for others.
I’d love to see. I think we all would. There is strength in numbers, and its good to let others know they’re not alone in this venture (where all of our friends and family now officially think we’ve lost it…) I’d love for you to post here, even if you don’t have a blog. If it’s just a simple start with cleaning out a messy drawer, or if you’re going for radical, we would love for this to be a place where we can come and be encouraged by each other’s efforts. I’ll have more on this coming up, so stay tuned, and start thinking about what you’d like to share in your own lives.
Just a side note: Don’t worry. There’s more to all of this. There will be systems. There will be prevention and proactive steps so that more stuff will not replace the initial stuff. One grandiose over the top purge is not the end of our story. I’ll have more on that too, and I hope you can find some of it to work for your own homes and families. It’s a big step, and it’s a lot to tackle. But there really is strength in numbers, and strength in the process.
(Cue the part where I really hope there aren’t crickets…)
What do you think? Are you with me? Please tell me your thoughts!