For my husband Daniel and me, this has been the year of less. It’s been a year of downsizing, reevaluating and refreshing.
Let me tell you about it.
The Lord had been speaking to our hearts about simplicity and contentment with less. A few things that inspired me were Seven, a book by Jen Hatmaker (highly recommend); some friends of mine who had been living out of a Winnebago and loving it; and all the things Jesus said about possessions. Last summer, He gave us the perfect opportunity to walk it out and put it into practice.
The good news is this: Jesus got us out of the rat race.
We were getting ready for a multi-month bicycle trip, and our lease was up on the house we were renting. The plan was to store our belongings in a small cargo trailer while we were away. We wanted to take as little as possible with us to the next stage of our lives. We’d also been exploring the possibility of living in a tiny house or camper at the time and knew we’d have to majorly downsize for that.
I was overwhelmed as I looked at all the things that filled our house. It’s so easy to just fill up the space we have, isn’t it? As I started to go through our belongings one by one, I couldn’t believe the amount of stuff we’d accumulated. A birthday present there, a thrift store find here, a few Christmas presents each year…you know how it goes. I don’t think anybody intentionally sets out to be tied down, or overcome with stuff. Yet it seems almost inevitable at times, right?
I went through our belongings piece by piece, asking myself: Do I really want to bring this into the next chapter of our lives? Does this bring us joy, and do we actually use it? It’s easy to keep something “just in case” we might need it later on, or because it was a gift. We started to pare down, and it became easier and easier the more we let go. With each thing I gave away, the more free I felt. I truly didn’t realize how much the stuff was weighing me down until it was gone.
To give you a better idea of what this looked like practically, we went from a two-bedroom house full of furniture and possessions to being able to fit everything we own in an 8 x 10 cargo trailer and our cars. We gave away all of our furniture except the bed. We kept only the books we absolutely love. I downsized my wardrobe by about half, and then again in half more recently. I gave away our bread maker, rice cooker, extra mixing bowls, a juicer, etc. Only what we used daily made the cut. We gave our washer and dryer to our neighbors across the street and found such joy in doing it. It was so sweet to find homes for some of our stuff and be able to share it all with our friends. The more we gave, the more freedom and joy I felt.
We went through that whole process and then spent the late summer months biking and camping through the West Coast. We carried everything we needed on our bicycles. This gave me a fresh perspective on how much I truly need to live and be content. We carried a few pieces of clothing, a book, a small camp stove, one pot and food. I found deep contentment in the simple day-to-day living and exploring with my husband. When we returned and prepared for our move to Fayetteville in December, we looked again at what we had stored away during the previous few months. Let me tell you, it looked like so much stuff. We were bewildered. How did we still have so much after going through the painstaking process of gutting it all? So we had a Round 2.
We took everything out of the trailer, piece by piece, and gave away more.
Now that we’ve been living our pared-down lifestyle for about five months, here’s what I’ve learned: Less stuff means less time maintaining and managing it all. We have more time for the things that are truly important to us, like relationships. We don’t have a TV (and haven’t for about seven years), so we spend our time at home together talking and reading. We don’t have Internet at our apartment either (something that I originally resisted pretty hard), and that allows our time at home to be restful and free of distractions.
Decluttering isn’t limited to our stuff, though. Sometimes my schedule needs decluttering. In our society, productivity is exalted and busyness is admired and praised. It can be hard to go against the grain and choose a slower, quieter living. I am the type of person to automatically say yes to everything. Inevitably, I am overcommitted, stretched thin and worn out. There came a point where I just had to say, “Enough.” There is no joy in frantically running from thing to thing. I’ve learned to say no, to resist the pressure to do it all.
The good news is this: Jesus got us out of the rat race. I’m no longer a slave to those things that once held me—expectations, productivity or keeping up an image.
Now I’m attempting a gentler, softer way of living; attempting to find balance, to say no sometimes and to leave space for quiet. I want to leave room for spontaneity, too, to not be so busy that I’m unwilling to say yes to the Lord when He puts someone in my path unexpectedly. A saying that I love and keep coming back to is, “Do few things, but do them well.” I invite you to join me in surrendering everything in your life to the Lord and allowing Him to do with it what He will. My stuff, my money, my time, my relationships—none of it is really mine anyway.
What would it look like if we all laid it at His feet and waited to see what He asked us to do with it?
Rachel and Daniel have been living in Fayetteville and worshipping with Grace Church since December 2016. Rachel graduated from Harding University in 2014 and works as a school nurse at Fayetteville High School. She enjoys yoga, cycling, cooking and blogging.