Search This Blog

Monday, January 20, 2014

The art of simplifying

The definition of simplify means: To make less complicated, clearer, or easier. Now, anyone who has ever truly been on a journey to simplify their life, knows that it is anything but easy.

Almost two years ago I felt the Lord tugging at my heart telling me something was out of balance. I wasn’t handling something quite the way He wanted me to. It had to do with my stuff….and I had a lot of it. A lot of very nice stuff that I placed my identity in. Stuff that made me feel proud, and valued (by society)….Oh how I loved that stuff.

After a hard look at our finances, we traded our super cool vehicles in for ones that are…well, less reliable. ;-) They do the job and get us where we need to go…sometimes. ;-)

I have gone room by room and taken a hard look at all our possessions. If we don’t use it, need it, or if we know someone that could use it more than we could…it was shown the door. We had too much furniture, too many books, clothes, knick knacks (side note here…most people have too many knick knacks), dishes, etc. All of these treasures just add chaos! Can’t get all your dishes to fit in your cabinet? Assuming you have more than one cabinet, you probably have too many dishes. Have a closet full of clothes, but you only wear the first section? I bet you have too many clothes. Saving that dress from 1994, just in case you ever get to go on a cruise? You’ve never been on a cruise, but if you were going to go on one you’re sure this dress would be the perfect choice of attire. Donate that bad boy! If you ever get to go on a cruise just plan on buying something special for that occasion. You don’t need to hang on to everything for all the ‘what if’ moments that probably will never happen….and think of all the people you’ll bless down at the thrift store! 

Curriculum was another biggie for me! Was it ever! I actually had to move my homeschool room to a larger one to accommodate all of my books. Many people might disagree with me on this one, but I really don’t think it’s necessary to have every resource book under the sun. Heard of the library? It’s a pretty amazing place! And you know what else? You get to turn those books back in when you’re done instead of finding a place on your shelf. Amazing! This year I bought what we needed for this school year, and nothing else. We barely have enough time to get finished with what we’re supposed to for the school year; I don’t need to add more chaos to that by trying to do more. The kids have appreciated that!

Food. Seriously? Food? Yes, food! I joined a bible study with some friends this year on simplifying, and guess what the first chapter was? That’s right…food. I was like “I got this in the bag! My grocery budget is so small, this is going to be easy for me!” That’s funny…considering how I pretty much cried every day of the ‘food month’. What was the experiment? To eat only 7 foods for four weeks: Avocadoes, chicken, sweet potatoes, spinach, apples, almonds and eggs. Wow…it was hard! But you know what I discovered? Our pantries are full of stuff that’s not good for us, stuff we don’t need and shouldn’t eat, and that you can change the way you feel by what you put in your body. I should give you a warning though; if you have a sweet tooth like me, it’s pretty much going to suck for the first two weeks! I was like an addict walking around looking for something processed with sugar in it. Who knew I was really a sugar junkie?! (This is also an awesome way to shed those few extra pounds that keep following you around) If you're interested in doing this study too, the book is 7, by Jen Hatmaker.

Canning and preserving has to be mentioned, too. I garden and have an orchard. That means I can or 'put up' food during the summer for eating on during the winter. But canning stuff that you know your family won't eat, just doesn't make a lot of sense. I mean it use to make me, but not anymore. My extended family hoards food. I'm sorry 'family', but it's true. I mean what if there is a disaster and we might starve? Let's can this pickled stuff that no-one would eat...ya know...unless we were starving. I have actually done that for years now...every fall I spend oodles of time in the kitchen, not enjoying my children, to can food that will just be given to the chickens come next fall. Hmm...that was a waste of time. I still can and preserve...but only stuff that I know we are going to eat the following winter. No more squash pickles. You're welcome girls!

Alright this last one was the hardest for me!...I mean really hard! It was the horses. I have always loved horses…I mean super loved them with a passion!! I gave my horses away when the girls were super young, with the promise to myself that I would be a horsewoman one day again…when the girls were older and could enjoy it with me. They grew up faster than I could have ever imagined, and we once again became horse owners. We started with adding two little miniature horses that were just perfect for the girls. Their size made them very affordable, easy to take care of, and safe enough for the girls to play with without too much adult supervision. Since the miniatures had become such a fun little hobby for the girls; I naturally thought adding a couple of huge, expensive, and dangerous horses should be our next step. You don’t see the logic in that? Yeah, guess I don’t either…now. 

Anyone who has ever owned large horses knows that it is 90% work and only 10% fun. My girls soon found that out as well. The horses had become a burden, both financially and time wise. Sweet Man and I talked to the girls about it and asked them what they really wanted to do. The younger two were like “SELL THEM”, our oldest had mixed feelings…as did I. I loved those things so much! But they took two hours out of my day everyday…that’s two hours that I could be playing with my girls who are growing up too fast. So, we did the only thing we knew to do; make a list of pros and cons of keeping the horses. We had two items listed on the pros side, and actually had to start another paper for the cons side. Wow…the decision was pretty obvious! But, it was the dead of winter; nobody buys horses in the dead of winter. I prayed about it. I told the Lord that He knew I couldn’t just sell these sweet things to anyone. I had to know without a doubt that they were going to a good home where they would be cared for and loved. I had to have faith that if He was really leading our family to make this decision, He would work it out.  Within the first week of posting our two big horses for sale, I got a call that someone was interested in my halflinger.  They came out to see her, loved her, and then bought her and our other one, too! It was a family with two girls the same age as my older two girls, and they had just bought a farm with a very nice barn and a very large pasture for horses to roam in. It was an answer to prayer! We are back to just two small little ponies, and a realization that some dreams sound better on paper.

As I look around at my paired down belongings and simpler life, I am reminded that the Lord doesn’t bless us so much for us to keep the blessings to ourselves. He wants us to share what we have, to reach out to the ones who are hurting or are in need. For so long I have been collecting treasure that moth and rust destroy…I’m ready to live a simpler life in order to be able to bless others. What does this look like for us? With fewer expenses going out, we have been able to sponsor a sweet little girl through Compassion International. I’m not saying this to toot my own horn, but to give an example of how we can be a blessing. I won’t lie, this process has been hard. I have cried over getting rid of my ‘stuff’. I have felt the Lord strip more and more of myself away so He can change me into the person I need to be. Even though some decisions are super hard…they are super worth it. I am reminded of that every time I see the sweet picture of our sponsor child hanging on the fridge!