Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Road to Simplicity

Written by Donna Martin
Over the last 50 years, the difference between needs and wants has changed. Since the onset of the Industrial Revolutions, our society promotes consumerism, which has created discontent and a desire for bigger and better.

In our country there are unique standards on: how big a home you should have based upon the number of children you have; how much you are expected to buy on gifts for a child at birthday time; how much should be spent on a child at Christmas; and what should be spent on a child’s back-to-school needs with regards to clothing. While we are all trying to keep up with these unwritten standards, the stuff in our homes continues to accumulate to excess. Again, much of it comes from advertising, but does it seem to be working for you? What it has done is to drive people into extreme debt and make it necessary to work longer and harder to gain these self-centered goals.

When you decide to live simply, it is not just being a tightwad or being frugal. Simple living is enjoying less stress, living within your means, living with less stuff, focusing on a healthier lifestyle, and placing God first in your life. Simple living is not about poverty or deprivation. It is about discovering what “enough” in your life is, and discarding the rest. The road to simplicity is not an easy way to travel. It takes physical and mental work. It’s a different mindset that requires new learned skills.

The first step to moving down a simpler path is to identify how God views your possessions and how you spend money. In Ecclesiastes 5:10 the scriptures say, He that loveth silver shall not be satisfied with silver; nor he that loveth abundance with increase: this is also vanity.” I do believe there is a connection between our spiritual health and our possessions. In Haggai 1:6, it says that if you don’t make God first in your life, you will not find satisfaction in what you possess. Scripture also says that God owns it all {Psalm 24:1-2}. Our stewardship of His money and property needs to be handled with care {Isaiah 3:16-26} and should be used to bless others, if it’s just accumulating {Acts 2:44-45}.

From this point, evaluate the true needs of yourself and your family, which is a serious evaluation of your lifestyle. What do you need to sustain your life and the lives of your family? Review your eating habits, your home, and your job. Take a look at your debt. Can you do with less? Be aware of being held hostage by your possessions! When your stuff begins taking over your life and you have to climb over things looking for missing items, and fretting about where to put your next treasure, it’s time to realize you’re wasting your precious time.

It is not necessary to go to the extreme, but some folks may have to get radical. You and the Lord decide how far you want to go and what you want to accomplish. Make changes that reflect God’s priorities for your life. If this means emptying out the garage and storage area or trying to scale down – then do it! Get your family involved. Make a party out of it. Put some good praise music on and toss, toss, toss! {I don’t mean that literally. Donating your things to charity is much better. } You’ll be setting a great example for your children. What about your husband’s stuff? He may not be as thrilled about this project as you are, so you’ll have to carefully and respectfully let him choose what to get rid of.

How much is enough? I’ve seen articles written concerning this topic, and I’ve tried to find a realistic balance from it all. I heard a story about a Chinese missionary that helped guide me as I started to go through what I owned. He would go through his belongings every year to determine what he used. If he had not used them in two years, he’d give them away. As a rule, if you don’t use it, it’s nothing more than clutter. Does that sound painful?

How many types of linen do you have for one bed? How many outfits do you have for each child. How many towels do you own and actually use? Some of this will be easy to figure out. For linens, you shouldn’t have a couple sets for each bed. That’s only if you use flannel sheets for the winter. Get rid of all your worn out towels and sheets that are fraying and torn, or cut them up for rags.

In the clothing area, boys only need three pairs of pants and three pairs of shorts for the summer. For shirts, they should have five everyday shirts, and three church shirts that they rotate through. Girls should have five everyday dresses, and three church dresses. Babies and toddlers will need a few more outfits to take care of those days with messy accidents. Two pairs of shoes for a child and three pairs for an adult should be plenty.

Toys should be limited to one plastic trunk per child. If they can’t control the mess, make it less. In the kitchen, only keep what you actually use. Those electric appliances and utensils can take up a lot of space, so you’ll need to be realistic in this area.

This guideline may not sound like very much, but if you live in a small house, or a house with small bedrooms, it will work out better.  What I have described is a radical plan, for some but you can use a plan that fits with you and your family. If you want to simplify your life but you aren’t prepared to be radical, then go through your things room by room and make a point of eliminating the clutter. Getting rid of clutter is not about letting go of things that are meaningful to you. It’s about letting go of the things that no longer contribute to your life so you can have the time, the energy, and the space for the things that do.

Keep in mind that you may feel that your identity is connected to your stuff. When we start unloading it, it feels like we’re giving away part of ourselves. But unloading some of it can also help us move into the person we want to be.

I found an equation that makes great sense. Frugality + simplicity = liberty. So have a yard sale, bless your friends, or call the Salvation Army and have them back their truck up to your back door and have some fun! God will bless you for it.

Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal: But lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.
Matthew 6:19-21