“One of the clearest signals that something healthy is afoot is the impulse to weed out, sort through, and discard old belongings.” ~Julia Cameron
If Julia Cameron is right, there must be something very healthy afoot in my life right now. I have been positively itchy lately to go through and get rid of things. It’s on my mind all the time, and I’m driven to keep it going.
I’ve been slowly savoring Wayne Muller’s Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives over the last few weeks. I’m reading it in parallel with Richard J. Foster’s Freedom of Simplicity because the two ideas (Sabbath and simplicity) seem to be intertwined for me right now. Both desires stem (for me) from a longing for stillness and peace in a busy world.
As I’ve read through this book about Sabbath and am reminded of the gifts that it brings, I have found myself considering ways to create a real Sabbath as an intentional practice in my own life—not just an occasional break, but a committed practice to take a day off every week from my usual chores and busy work and to-do lists to settle into spacious time for rest and renewal.
“Here’s what I’ve decided: the very least you can do in your life is figure out what you hope for. And the most you can do is live inside that hope. Not admire it from a distance but live right in it, under its roof. What I want is so simple I almost can’t say it: elementary kindness. Enough to eat, enough to go around. The possibility that kids might one day grow up to be neither the destroyers nor the destroyed. That’s about it. Right now I’m living in that hope, running down its hallways and touching the walls on both sides. I can’t tell you how good it feels.” ~Barbara Kingsolver
I’ve written several times about my struggles with hope, the way that I resist it, the way that it survives deep inside even when I think I’ve sacrificed it, the way it rises from its own ashes. For me, hope has long been both a painful struggle and a necessity, and the attempt to integrate those two aspects of it has not been a smooth road by any means.
It’s New Year’s Eve as I write this, a time when my mind naturally turns to looking back over the last year and forward to the next one. Even though I gave up on New Year’s resolutions a number of years ago, there is still something about this time of year that encourages reflection on changes that I’d like to see in my life.
As I look back on 2012, I see yet another year of much change—both external and internal. While this change in 2012 has at times been challenging and has caused me to make some fairly radical changes to where I thought I was headed, overall the year has been one of positive changes. This is especially true compared the amount of difficulty and heartbreak that 2010 and 2011 brought with them. It’s encouraging to note that I seem to have turned the corner from the process of being completely melted down to the start of the process of being rebuilt into something new in this journey through the chrysalis.
I tend to think of simplicity (at least in part) as being a reduction in the number of things I own—a reduction of clutter and excess. And I tend to think of creativity as the production and proliferation of new things—new ideas, new products, new creations.
I am currently working on reducing the amount of “stuff” that I own, AND my creative work is also exploding. This means that I am constantly bringing home new tools, supplies, and equipment. In fact, my entire dining room table (normally an empty space) has now been entirely taken over by jewelry making “stuff.” I now have inventory to store and keep organized (of supplies and of finished items).
So I’ve been feeling a tension between these two parts of my current experience. I am cleaning things out and letting things go at the same time that I am stocking up and bringing home new things. And while I can argue that one is related to my personal life and the other is related to my business, I am still aware of the tension between the two.
Shopping for Christmas presents has become ever more challenging as I have gotten older and an increasing number of people on my gift list already have everything that they really want and need. This tends to make the season more stressful than delightful as I struggle to find gifts that are more than just clutter.
This past week, I found several posts that take a look at ways to simplify and declutter Christmas, and there were a number of great ideas within these posts for gifts that will not add to clutter, as well as suggestions for reducing the clutter of Christmas decorations and for what to do with gifts that we receive that just add to our own clutter.
I’ve been thinking a lot this week about simplifying and reducing and letting go of “stuff” of all kinds. Some of this pondering has been prompted by encountering various posts about minimalism, and some of this pondering has led me to searching for more information about minimalism.
I am definitely not a minimalist now, and I’m not sure that’s really where I want to wind up. But I am inspired by these people who have really dedicated themselves to simplifying their lives down to the minimum in order to make space for the things that matter more to them: travel, freedom, choices, or other rewards. Today’s list of links are a few of the recent (and not so recent) posts that I have found helpful as I consider my own next steps.
I mentioned earlier this week the discussion at Sunday’s worship sharing about simplicity. Afterwards, one of the members of the worship group shared the following quote (from Inward/Outward) and suggested that using the word “simplicity” in place of the word “poverty.”
“The true rule of poverty consists in giving up those things which enchain the spirit, divide its interests, and deflect it on its road to God–whether these things be riches, habits, religious observances, friends, interests, distastes, or desires–not in mere outward destitution for its own sake. It is attitude, not act, that matters; self-denudation would be unnecessary were it not for our inveterate tendency to attribute false value to things the moment they become our own.” –Evelyn Underhill
Simplicity does indeed involve giving up those things that ensnare us and get in our way in our spiritual lives rather than giving things up just for the sake of denying ourselves. In fact, self-denial for its own sake can be a snare in itself.
I attended a worship sharing gathering at a Friend’s house this evening. Worship sharing are Quaker meetings where we sit in silence until someone is led to speak, and then members of the group respond to that sharing and others that may have been voiced. This is a unique form of discourse in that each person simply shares their thoughts on the topic at hand without the usual requisite agreeing or disagreeing with those that have spoken before. Although previous comments obvious spark thoughts in the people who later share, it is not a conversation or debate as many discussions are in today’s world; it is just a sharing of your own thoughts on the topic as you feel led to share.
Tonight’s topic wound up being simplicity, and the thoughts that people shared on the subject ranged far and wide, from the story of the rich young ruler in the Gospels to end of life issues to dealing with downsizing to how our pride is wrapped up in our possessions to the challenges of knowing how to apply Jesus’ words to our lives today. As always, this conversation gave me much to ponder.