In 1999, my mother-in-law passed away after a short illness and left my father-in-law with an unenviable task. He had to sort a house filled with possessions spanning 50 years of marriage and four grown children. My husband and his siblings offered to help, but suffered along with him. In the end, my father-in-law sold his home “as is” and let the new owners deal unemotionally with what remained. That was the beginning of my intentional living toward a simpler lifestyle.
For the past few years, part of my personal development has included the habit of reading about simplicity. I do this because I have a sense that my stuff weighs me down spiritually, emotionally, time-wise – in every sort of way. I feel like I can’t find God sometimes because He’s buried underneath all my stuff! And since I can’t exactly throw everything away, I have asked myself how can I really know what’s worth keeping.
In the book, A Place Called Simplicity, the author tells a story about the early years of her sister’s marriage, when finances were tight. Their mother had sent the sister money for a new winter coat. She chose a very practical black woolen coat though she admitted that the red one looked better. Later she realized she had made a big mistake. “If there was ever a time for a red coat, it was that year.” (Pg 71). Her intention to live frugally had caused her to miss the gift of an uplifted heart.
Keep and Donate Joy
When I begin my purging of closets each year, I remember that story and I weigh my choices to keep or toss by thinking that through. My method of selection now consists of honestly asking this one question: does it bring joy to our home?
This year I decided I would find specific charities to either give my unwanted things to, or to sell them on eBay or Craigs list and give the money to a charity instead of shifting them to storage or giving them to the local thrift store. It seems a more intentional way of giving as I unburden my household.
In the end it comes down to this: we can use what we have as a reminder that we are blessed, like wearing the red coat, or lose it as a way to bless someone else. Both seem to be ways of finding God right where I live.
This drawing is of something my mother-in-law gave to us the Christmas before she died. It’s a keeper because it reminds me to keep things simple while enjoying the simple things.