[Editor’s Note: This is Part 2 in a series on simplifying. If you missed Part 1, you can read it here.]
The process of simplifying can be quite complicated. If simplicity is less about leading a user-friendly life and more about making room for divine interruptions, then eventually we have to get to work and start clearing some stuff out, yes?
Last weekend, I had a yard sale. What seemed like a fairly simple, All-American, rite-of-passage into the suburban way of life awakened every alter-ego I have attempted to ignore. Penny Purger was on a mission from God to cast off every volume and trinket circa the Reagan administration. Holly Hoarder restocked her middle school yearbooks in the likely event that someone might one day need to access them to complete her memoir. Fanny Fast-One slipped her husband’s Radiohead posters into the purge pile beneath the toile bedding. And Jenny Justice-Mission had guilt because her yard sale proceeds support no worthy cause other than her family’s upcoming trip to Disney World. One night, Penny, Holly, Fanny, and Jenny were all lying in my bed aching from hours of Rubbermaid-tipping when it occurs to them that their mattress is shot, and they really ought to add it to the yard sale pile.
No they shouldn’t.
Yes they should.
Would he notice?
Wonder what we could get for it.
On the day of the yard sale, I was holding back tears in the middle of my driveway when a customer announced that my hand-sewn baby crib bumper will make a perfect bed for her dog.
I wondered why I was getting so emotional and if this is any indication that I should reconsider having more children. I began frantically re-binning the nuks, the boppies, and the sling (pausing to think how these sound more like torture devices than infant gear) while reevaluating my family’s entire future … and all because I thought a yard sale sounded like a brilliant idea.
WARNING: the process of simplifying anything can be a painful and complicated one kicking up the dust of desire, confusion, and even paranoia. But once you take a deep breath in the wide open space of your formerly occupied property, you may just become a spokeswoman for traveling light.
Here are a few streamlining essentials to get you started:
1. Establish Your Top Priorities.
There really ought to be no more than three. Okay, maybe five. But how do you rank the important stuff when it is all … important stuff? Ask yourself, “What can I simply not live without?” Or better yet, “What am I simply not willing to compromise?” This looks different for every woman, but for me, the answers are:
- FAITH (Christ and His commands)
- KEY RELATIONSHIPS (Family, friends, and mentors)
- WELLNESS (emotional, physical, financial, etc.)
Granted, I will spend a lifetime upholding these chief pursuits and no doubt look up at them from the base of their overwhelming size and think, “There is no way on Earth I will ever get this right.” But as long as there is breath in me, this will be my aim. So help me God not to overshoot entirely.
2. Take an Inventory
You cannot tell where you are headed unless you first know where you are. Take an honest look at your schedule, your possessions, your entertainments, and your activities and ask the question, “How does (or doesn’t) this enrich my life or someone else’s?” Depending on your answer, this practice can be either extremely liberating or terribly depressing. Either way, taking personal inventory can reveal your assets and your limitations, both requiring sober awareness before you can proceed.
3. Fix — Don’t Fixate
Going on a diet, cleaning out the attic, and getting out of debt are all worthy endeavors, but no matter if you are busy making room in your pants, your pantry, or your pocketbook, be sure to periodically pause and ask the question, “Am I working my systems or are my systems working me?” lest you fall into the obsession trap. Even things that begin as healthy pursuits can result in unhealthy fixations.
4. Evaluate and Upgrade
What works now or what worked in the past may not (and will most likely not) work forever. Jump start your stalled momentum by asking the question, “Is this (pursuit, activity, relationship, etc.) still bearing fruit? We cannot expect our priorities to just swing on a hinge until the Second Coming. We must constantly remeasure and re-calibrate our focus to keep the priority pathways cleared of unnecessary clutter.
Is simplifying your life easier said than done? Absolutely. There is nothing convenient about clearing the space in your life to make room for divine interruptions. But I suspect that in hindsight, the reward might just be greater than anything we ever thought was worth hanging on to.