Sunday, September 09, 2012

Sunday Afternoon Tea

 '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 or "The Shaker Hymn")

I've been thinking this past week about the subject of... Simplicity.

For years I've lived in what I call "Forced Simplicity", the cousin of "Forced Frugality"... when circumstances create boundaries which limit options.

My thinking lately has been that it is not such a bad thing.  A friend recently asked how I could keep my house so clutter free and I told her... besides having no small children in the house, of course... it was because I had to stay at home a lot and I rarely shopped.  I get a lot accomplished just a little at a time.

Although my ponderings were already wandering down this path, reading the nonfiction book Almost Amish added to my actions here at home.  While I plan to do an actual book review of it soon, the book inspires one to consider getting rid of excess stuff and keeping around us what truly makes our heart sing.

The downsizing started over ten years ago when we moved from our large house to Detroit and I realized how many boxes contained things I didn't really need... all moved at great expense of packing time and moving costs.  This started a process of peeling layer upon layer of stuff from my life.

I have had to be honest with myself as I decide what to make room to keep and what can be released from my limited space.  Part of the process was being honest with physical and financial limitations.  There were some projects I no longer had either the desire or the ability to accomplish.

Which meant I needed to give to charity or pass on to a friend stuff sitting on shelves for those projects.  What happened?  Just the process of getting rid of things I knew I'd never use brought peace... even if coming to the conclusion was difficult. 

Recently, I went through more bookshelves, dishes, teacups (ouch), and other items to rid myself of another layer of stuff and bless a new charity thrift store.  I was rather surprised to find I had so much left!  One accumulates a lot over the years.

It was like declaring freedom, no... really.

Now, I will never become a Danish Modern kind of girl.  I am a collector at heart and if one object is good, two are better, and three is the start of a new collection.  Not to mention my home is a canvas for my creativity.

I love being surrounded by my collections.  Whether they be books or dishes or pretty pictures or fabric or candles or... whatever... they come together to make my house a home.  But I am trying to walk the line between a collector and a hoarder.  I've already simplified my closet and my kitchen (believe it or not with the kitchen but it is true).

What is simplicity to one person is another individual's clutter and visa versa.  I see magazine articles of houses with all white rooms with nothing on the walls and few accessories... and think the house is thoroughly uninviting.

My daughter and I were talking about this very subject last week after I had been reading and she was basking on the beach at Cape Cod with a very bad cold (it is not fair coming down with a cold the day before one leaves for vacation).

It does not surprise me when we get on the save wave length, it's that whole Vulcan mind meld thing (one has to love vintage Star Trek to understand).  We had both been pondering ways to simplify our lives in such a way that we can live each day with value instead of volume.

Our talking helped me clarify my thinking as to what is true simplicity in my life.  Simplicity is when I do not have more stuff than I can emotionally or financially handle and being satisfied with what I have.

Now, I admire the way the Amish choose a simpler lifestyle.  But I want my choice to be to honor God and not due to legalistic rules... not to offend anyone but both Amish and Shaker simplicity was based on religious rules which truly stretch my understanding of Scripture.

I can understand where the Amish are coming from but cannot completely agree.   However, I do admit their lifestyle decisions limit their rubbing shoulders of all I dislike about today's world.   Hmmm... do I sound wishy washy?

I want items such as electricity in my life to make it easier.  I spent my early childhood years in a small country home with an outhouse.  It does not simplify life to have no indoor plumbing.  At the same time... when one admires a beautiful landscape at an art fair, there is never a mini van parked among the farmhouses or a 4 x 4 on the beach next to the ocean.

Will there always be that battle within between a simpler existence and stuff?  Does less stuff make life simpler or is it what we must do to buy the stuff that complicates life... the never ending desire to accumulate more?  Perhaps true simplicity comes in managing our expectations as well as our accumulations?

I am learning this... choosing to be content with what we already have is a way to honor and thank Him.  There will always be a seed of discontent within us, just as there is that "God shaped vacuum" within that is not filled with anything but Him.  I doubt we feel we have enough until we are standing in the atmosphere of Heaven. 

I want to live my life in such a way that I truly am in the moment instead of waiting for some future purchase or event.  

Sigh... I am certain the subject of simplicity and what it means will be one I ponder for awhile.  Especially as I continue to think through what it means in my everyday life.  But just thinking about it has brought about life changes for the good.


Anonymous said...

So encouraging! My husband and I are going through forced simplicity but we are also making choices to do things more simply. He got his dream job, but it pays less, at least, for now. Real estate is more expensive in our new location. Our house hasn't sold in our old location. So I am looking for a home that will meet our needs and desires but one we can also afford. It looks different than we thought it would, but I am looking forward to downsizing a bit and once the other house sells we will be in a wonderful place financially :).


Rebecca said...

There IS a fine line between collector and a hoarder! I so agree. I walk the line daily (and try to keep honest with myself about it.....)

I have come to think that "simplicity" has different implications for different periods of my life...

I think this afternoon I might take some time to reflect as you have here; come up with a general definition for myself; and then consider what that means for me at age 63.8 (as Social Security defines me at the moment).

Joy @gracefullmama said...

I completely agree Brenda. What a challenge {and a gift} to be able to manage our expectations and truly be content with what we have. I am constantly challenged to keep my heart in check as I find myself wishing or wanting something different than what I have. I treasure your wisdom as I walk the road of becoming a godly woman. Thank you.

Unknown said...

I always struggle with getting rid of stuff. I end up reorganizing it instead. My things have become old friends by now, but I still try once in a while. I can't really afford to buy new stuff anymore and so that helps. I have gotten rid of a lot of stuff that I later wish I had, but much of it I never missed. If I need room for a new project then it is easier to get rid of the old. I always enjoy your thoughts. I love reading about the Amish. I haven't heard of this book. I'll have to check it out. Linda

Anonymous said...

I can't tell you how many articles I have read on this very subjects. Yet yours gave the whole matter clarity!! That line almost to the end of the post that is in black says it all. Sorry I cannot remember it all at the moment. I intend though to post it in my home to ponder seriously. That is a problem I seriously have and this line says it all. Now is when we live and things to use for the now are what we should have around us. I wasn't expecting simplicity to be your subject for today but it was Exactly what I needed to be reading today. Sarah

Cheri said...

Love your phrase 'value instead of volume'. Now with our children residing in the corners of the country, I would prefer to get rid of everything and enter my 'vagabond' stage.

I always thought I would maintain a cozy home for the grands. Well, with travel costs being what they are, it makes more sense for granny to downzixe drastically and hit the road.

I am gently prodding my semi-hoarder hubby to see the light. :)

karen said...

Brenda, there is so much truth and wisdom here that I may have to write out quotes from this post on index cards and hang them on the fridge-to remind myself!

Vee said...

"Simplicity is when I do not have more stuff than I can emotionally or financially handle and being satisfied with what I have." Oh I like this and would add for myself only, of course, one thing: more stuff than I can handle physically.

I love how you cogitate on a concept until you have written an entire essay. It's a beautiful gift.

Hope that your daughter's vacation was redeemed in many ways to make up for a rotten summer cold.

Thickethouse.wordpress said...

First, I just have to say that the colors of those zinnias are stunningly beautiful together, if one can use the stunning for such a subtle beauty. I just want to leave the comment and go back and look at them some more.

I am trying to downsize. Not so easy because my physical strength is not what it was. I have to keep practicing that "little by little" that I know does work, but seems to be such a struggle for me.

My children encourage me to "bless other people with your stuff". I know from experience that I feel such relief when I have done this, even just a little.

Mama Squirrel said...

"At the same time... when one admires a beautiful landscape at an art fair, there is never a mini van parked among the farmhouses or a 4 x 4 on the beach next to the ocean."

Well, there's always Family and Rainstorm, by Canadian artist Alex Colville, 1955. It shows a mother and two kids hurriedly getting into their car as the storm clouds come in. :-)

But yes, even though we are like you in "two or three become a collection," we keep trying to trim back too. A lot of our thrifted books end up back at the store, eventually, or passed on to someone else. One problem, though, is that our children get very attached to whatever comes into their lives, so we have to keep decluttering even more than maybe we would like to, just to try to be good role models.

Kim said...

I have had this marked to read, but haven't had the time. Just sat down for a break and read. This is exactly what I needed. Thank you sooooo much!! I am empty nesting and know I need to downsize, but don't know where to start. I am so attached to things, but I need to let them go. It is too much for me to physically handle. Thanks for giving me some direction and a kick in the seat to get started!

HeatherMavis said...

I'm still in the midst of raising children. Two teens, one almost teen and one 7 year old.
We live in a cottage at a Bible camp- take a double wide mobile home , cut it in half then stack the two, add stairs, that's our house. One of the "rooms" is a second story porch. We are cramped - compared to most families of our size. I believe it can work. It's not so easy though. How can I pass on your thoughts to them? Just how many Barbies do two girls need?? Most of them come from other people! How about those stuffed animals? Part of my job description is "stuff manager".
There must be something I need to learn about Phil. 4:11 &12. "...For I have learned how to get along happily whether I have much or little..." NLT