Monday, June 30, 2014

My Journey From Hoarding to Simplicity to Essentialism

Unfortunately, I come from a three-generation, pack rat family mindset. However, after helping my mother clean out my grandparents' home and helping downsize Mom three times in three different moves, I finally discovered the concept of simplicity. It especially appealed to me since I didn't want our children to have to go through what we did in sorting and distributing all our junk. But, I also began to realize this way of living was not honoring to the Lord Jesus Christ.

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As I was looking for more economical ways to feed our growing family, I read the More With Less Cookbook, which then led me to Living More With Less, both written by Doris Janzen Longacre. Though I had a hard time swallowing all the socialist ideals, these two books helped start the wheels turning in my heart and mind to seek a better way. These were followed by two books I found on the spiritual disciplines which also mentioned simplicity: Spiritual Disciplines For the Christian Life by Donald S. Whitney and Celebration of Discipline by Richard Foster. It also helped to read Joshua Becker's blog,, and to follow him on Facebook.

Those were a good start, but though I did a thorough purge when we moved from Illinois to Michigan, I have eventually filled up the house we live in now. It didn't help that our daughter and my mother who both lived with us shared my love of thrifting and garage sale shopping. However, with our daughter's marriage and the passing of my dear mother, the empty nest came on me suddenly. I knew we would need to downsize at some point, but I kept putting it out of my mind. I didn't have time to think about it.

Thankfully, during those busy days between Mother's passing and our daughter's wedding, I read a book by Greg McKeown called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less, which inspired me to stop despairing over the IMMENSITY of the job which lay before me and to begin sorting with essentialism in mind.

Here are a few examples of how reading this book has changed my way of thinking:

These are the six vases I found while cleaning out the hutch. Simplicity thinking would be to only keep the ones which I really like and are functional. Here's what that looks like:

As you can see, I now have only one vase per use for different sizes and mouth widths, and I've reduced my vase stash by 30%.


This is really only a different version of the old pack rat thinking. I had to ask myself honestly, when I bring flowers in the house, do I go look up just the right vase for it? Of course, not. I always grab a lovely Mason jar! Now, I have reduced my vase stash by 100%. The new essentialist thinking finally broke through.

Here is another example:

When I have held garage sales in the past, I have been overwhelmed with all the junk left over which has to not only be hauled out, tagged, and set up, but then has to be loaded up and hauled to the local thrift shop after a long, hot day of watching the sale. Even if they come pick it up, it's still a lot of work.

Simplicity would only get through the sorting and distributing stage; essentialism narrows down even what I put in my sale. It's the difference between what barely fills the bottom of a laundry basket and what really has value...

and what someone at a thrift shop might find useful which nearly fills two large, cardboard boxes.

These items are only what I purged from my hutch in the living room. Can you imagine what the rest of the house looks like?!? My hutch display may be getting pretty sparse, but I can now add the things which I truly treasure and are worthy to be displayed. And there is actually room now inside to fit my good china and linens. :)

I can't say I am totally immersed in the essentialist mindset, but I'm getting better at it. I have a vision and a goal and faith to believe the Lord will lead me in the way I should go as I seek wisdom and get understanding in living a more simple and clutter-free life.

Feels good!