Saturday, January 18, 2014

Less is So Much More

It won't be long and I'll reach yet another year on this earth...41 years just around the corner. I'm a much different person these days as compared to just a few years ago, 15 years ago, and from my youth as I'm sure you are as well. You may or may not have noticed in the past year or two, there has been a lot of talk of "minimalism" in social media and in the news. My family has been on such a journey as well and today, I'd like to tell our story...and I'll "try" to keep it brief. :)

Gluttony is defined as "the act or practice of eating to excess." While today isn't about eating (although it could be), the parallel is relevant. We in America are known for not only eating to excess but buying, owning, and hoarding to excess. We are a society of get more, get it now, and don't stop. It often doesn't matter if we need it, it's if we "want" it. Truthfully, many of us don't even connect with "need" like the majority of the world does. We're all about "immediate gratification" and if we can't afford it, we borrow to buy it. (e.g. swipe a credit card to hopefully pay for later)

We were like that at one point as a family. Through the 1990s, we were young, sans kids, and living the life alone and near the beach. We were "good" Christian folks, went to church regularly, but very much lived for ourselves, occasionally each other, and when we wanted something, we bought it. Period. I'd say we thought we turned the corner in the 2000s...the post-9/11 time period. Kids began appearing in our lives, we rebounded from a tough time, moved, built a house (or two) and became hunter/gatherers once more. This time, it was about filling a house, always driving a new car, and seeing how much more money we could make. Still good people, in church on Sunday, me deciding to serve my country again, and feeling pretty good about family, finances, and our overall "spot" on this journey of life together. Then came deployment to war and returning home...with a reality check. No doubt, that was a tough time and a time at the bottom (yea, I found the bottom) of life as I knew it. It was absolutely the "fork in the road" in my life on this earth. That decision would define the rest of my life quite literally in every way. It spilled into every facet of my life to include my running (when, where, how far, with whom, and why), work, service, and my role as husband and father. We also, practically overnight, fell out of love...with stuff. It just.didn't.matter any longer. Since then, we've been selling, donating, and examining every purchase with a magnifying glass. Why do we want it? Is the feeling temporal? Do we need it? DO WE NEED IT?

Remember, we're a gluttonous society filled with the DNA to gather and consume as fast as possible. The technological world has only encouraged it and the outright assault by companies who sell what we don't even realize we "need" expertly infuse our lives with "gotta have it now" thoughts. It's almost like they have the ability to take the needle of "gotta have" and inject it into our bloodstream. Social media doesn't help as we look at others' lives and our perception of "them" which is almost always skewed from reality and desire what they have...and often, drop what we're doing and go buy it...or charge it...whatever. If you're in this mode, I encourage you to just stop. STOP. "But it's 75% off...I just can't pass it up." YES.YOU.CAN!!!

We have hit every corner of our house. My wife really has led the way. She has filled bags and bags of clothes, loaded boxes of little-used "tupperware" kinds of things from the cupboards, and the garage sale pile in our basement is at an all-time high (quite literally) right now. We have poured over bookshelves and taken those books to the used book store in Kent to sell, I've sold a used camcorder to Amazon.com's trade-in program (yes, you can do that!), I've sold power tools never used on Craigslist, a heavy bag, a workout bench (a very nice one!), and I've donated no less than 20 pairs of running shoes to organizations that'll give them a second life. Then there are the toys...oh my. All of those pieces/parts to those items our kids have gathered over the years through Christmas and birthdays. So much CRAP! Often, we'll just send them on down to the basement and ask them to add more to the garage sale pile...and they're really getting it! They are now able to look at toys (and clothes) and do the mental self-check. "Do I need this? Do I really even want it?" They have even been known to empty half of their closet out and bag clothes up for donation...without being told or asked to do so!

So how do you start? That's actually the key to it all. You HAVE to be intentional. Set apart some time and focus on ONE spot. For almost all of us, we could start in our closet. Taking that a step further, we should start with just one corner of the closet...or one shelf, right?! You can't start (unless you have all day) with the entire closet. You don't want to set yourself up for failure. Start small and go get some of those plastic grocery bags and take them with you. You're about to fill them up. When you look at things, ask yourself when the last time was you wore it. For some, you may have lost weight and you're holding onto things "just in case" you put the weight back on. Really? REALLY?! Stop mentally defeating yourself and GET RID OF IT! Someone else could use it...really! Shoes, sweaters, socks, etc., etc., etc. We could also talk about desk areas, garage walls, basement corners, boxes in storage that haven't been opened in YEARS. The way I see it, I want it to be EASY when it comes time to move...because we WILL move...eventually. I can honestly tell you today that I struggle with finding more to get rid of...but I'm sure I can do more.

Ever seen a hearse driving down the road in the processional towards the cemetery but towing a U-Haul trailer behind it? No? So why do we all think we just "gotta have" it all? We're not taking it with us, ya know. When we leave this earth, we leave all of this stuff behind for our families to deal with. Talk about selfish! So we gather for years only to let someone else sift through it all. How about this...how about we minimize today, ease the burden for later, and focus instead on loving others, creating memories, and leaving a legacy by impacting the world around us?

People will not remember you for the car you drove or what you had, they'll remember you for the person you were.

Today, we're in a much different spot in our lives. We're not saying we "know it all" or "have nothing left to learn." Quite the opposite, actually. We have much more to learn. However, we live far more intentionally today than ever before. We live every day as though it just might be our last. We insist on finding ways to laugh and experience life together as a couple and as a family. We realize that stuff just clogs the arteries of our life. It's not bad to like nice things...but when they are an idol in your life and suffocate you (and those you leave behind later), they need to leave your life. In a world that says CONSUME CONSUME CONSUME, I encourage you NOT be of the world...instead, choose to LIVE more and consume less...and pass on your stuff to those who really need it.

Resources:
Becoming Minimalist
becoming minimalist Facebook page
Declutter Your Closet with the Project 333 Experiment

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