A little more than a month ago Mark said that he thought we should simplify. We were hoping to move to a place with some property and that would mean that our home size would probably diminish significantly. Generally in our relationship, Mark tends to be the one more hesitant get rid of things, so when he said simplify, he didn’t have to say it twice.
In the last month we’ve gotten rid of countless bags and boxes of clothes, toys, games, books (yes, even books), dishes, kitchen gadgets, furniture, etc. We filled one side of our garage with things that were no longer needed or used and asked our friends to come take what they could use. The remainder was consigned or donated to the Council for the Blind or Knox Area Rescue Mission.
Our home looks better, stays neater and is easier clean. As a result we’re all more relaxed and spend less time picking up and tidying. The children play more games and have more appreciation for the toys that we kept.
No one seems to miss anything that we got rid of and often the kids will spontaneously mention how nice it is to have less stuff to get messy.
So here are some things that I’ve learned:
Extra stuff wastes time. I’ve always been aware that storing, cleaning and maintaining things we don’t use is a waste of time, that’s obvious. What I didn’t fully appreciate is that keeping things that don’t fit with our family’s vision and priorities can encourage us to waste time by tempting or allowing us to choose activities that don’t fit with our goals.
Let’s use an easy example. If we keep DVD copies of movies which are time wasters, unlovely or not commendable then we are more likely to waste time watching a movie that doesn’t fit with God’s calling on our life. A movie doesn’t have to be ‘bad’ to be a bad choice for a believer. The standard is true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent AND worthy of praise. (Phil. 4:8)
If our house is full of entertaining items: video games, fluff books, sports equipment, toys, etc. it’s easier for us and our children to make a decision to be entertained rather than being productive or educated.
How expensive something is/was (even if we didn’t purchase it or pay full price) does not equate to how much enjoyment we receive out of it.
When we have too much, we enjoy each item less. Remember the story in the Little House books where Laura and Mary receive a piece of candy in a colorful wrapping? They took so much joy out of this unique experience that years later Laura recalls it with enough joy and wonder to include it in her memoirs. I’m not sure about your kids, but I don’t think that mine would be that impressed.
This was particularly evident in the toy/game category. Before Phase 1 of our simplification project (more about phases in another post) we had a closet full of games that were rarely played and a couple shelves of toys that were dumped out on the floor (not played with as intended) when the children went downstairs to play. We got rid of half of those games and three quarters of those toys and the children are playing games nearly everyday and the toys that we kept are mostly (we still have more work to do in this area) being played with rather than just dumped.
It’s also easier for me to look in my closet and find something to wear and I wear more variety now that everything in my closet fits and is nice enough to be worn in public.
Simplifying is not a one time thing, as you live with less, you see more surplus. This has been true in all areas. As the children play with the games that we kept, we are more easily able to identify which games are still neglected. As I wear more of the clothes in my closet, I can more easily see the items that I rarely choose. And as we cook more in the kitchen (because we got rid of many of our time wasters) we can more easily see the items that are just taking up space.
Are you working on simplifying? What have you learned?