Are you riding the Marie Kondo purging wagon or perhaps the minimalist wave? Are you down sizing, right sizing, or sizing up condominium living? Perhaps you are smitten, like I am, with an urge to decrease your material footprint and live life more simply.
Judging from national best-seller lists, I am not alone in my existential quest. Readers are devouring less is more memoirs such as William Powell’s New Slow City, Living with Less in the World’s Fastest City (you guessed it, NYC), and home management manuals like Tsh Oxenreider’s Organizing Simplicity: The Clutter-Free Approach to Intentional Living. Via social media, popular speaker and author Jen Hatmaker is campaigning hard to renew interest in her unembellished and elemental lifestyle challenge, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, published in 2012. While this ideology is trending now, I’ve been on the path for a few years.
I’m not sure if this was a gradual awakening, a nudge from God, or the norm for senior citizenship. Perhaps it’s a braid of all three. Several of our friends are relinquishing back yards and bonus rooms for condos and townhomes. But fewer square footage is not their only impetus for change. A release from things that clutter up personal space is rising up in my generation. Quaker writer of Christian simplicity Richard Foster equates these desires as both a grace and a discipline. “We change our lifestyle . . . out of inner promptings, knowing that when the call is made the power is given.”
My particular faith tradition, The Brethren Church, finds common ground with Foster. From its beginnings, my tribe has prioritized a life of simplicity in both the inner self and outward experience. Some Brethren embrace it, some ignore it, some are impervious, or just plain unaware of this particular core value. But in concert with the writings from Brethren thinkers and theologians, folks in my circles are having conversations about seeking simplicity within their own contemporary settings. I don’t yearn for “the good ole’ days,” after all, the persecution of the early Brethren by Protestants and Catholics forced them into a homeless and desperate existence. I’m just trying to steer away from stockpiling stuff, and being okay with less spots to store what I already own.
I can’t help but think of soul singer Patti LaBelle when she belted out: I’ve tidied up my point of view, I’ve got a new attitude! Eighteen months ago our move forced me to adjust my attitude regarding all the furnishings, books, home decor, kitchenware, and clothes I had accumulated. Smaller rooms that necessitated less begged the question, “Do I really need all this?”
My kitchen counter space and dining area took the biggest hits. From spacious to cozy cost us a little pain as I gave away a few of my favorite things. It was no secret that I coveted my dining room table as well as my former chef’s kitchen island. Yet a voluntary relocation gave room for a bit of creative functionality. Living with less, I determined, would not mean less appealing.
I could bemoan shrunken spaces or recreate them into something special. Jim and I chose the latter and we are delighted with the outcome! When I enter my home, my heart is peaceful. My home is life-giving. Less has become more.
Simple, yet special spaces . . .
I think the Shakers best articulate what I hope to live into.
‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
- ‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
- ‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained,
- To bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
- Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.
- (“Simple Gifts.” 1848, by Elder Joseph Bracket)