Ready or not, I will write about simplicity.
But are you ready to read words on simplicity by a woman who lives in a 7-bedroom farmhouse on four-and-a-half acres?
Because even if I explain that three of those bedrooms are on the third floor. That they don’t all have closets. That the ceilings slope against the eaves of the roof so that it is hard even to stand up in places; even then, I am describing abundance and not simplicity, aren’t I?
Here is where you might expect me to say that simplicity is a matter of the heart. It’s what’s on the inside that counts!
I am not going to say that.
True simplicity does reach all the way into our hearts, but it is also very much about our stuff. Our houses. Our land. Our clothes and cars and gadgets and machines. Our credit cards and bank accounts and pantries. The number of bedrooms, the size of our kitchens, the bins stuffed with toys.
All of it.
Why did Jesus tell so many, so often to get rid of their belongings? To store up a very different kind of treasure?
He wanted us to live like flowers. Like birds. Free of everything that would weigh us down.
It isn’t only my freedom at stake.
I recently found an old shirt in my closet. The label said Made in Bangladesh. I remembered the garment factory fire. I remembered how only a few months later, another garment factory collapsed. I wondered if the hands that had made this shirt were still alive, still sewing clothing for western consumers hungry for bargains. How had those hands suffered?
My desire for stuff, and the choices I make when I spend money have far-reaching implications.
You know this. I know this. But who has the time, the energy, the knowledge to make only perfect choices?
It’s all so complicated. So hopelessly complicated. When what I want is peace. What I want is simplicity.
Of course, there is one easy answer. One simple way to begin: live with less.
Don’t buy it (even though it’s cheap). Give it away (even though I might need it some other day). Let it go (though I wonder who I am without this possession).
I think about letting go, and I suddenly remember something important. How could I have forgotten? It was letting go that led me here. Here, to this abundance of bedrooms and growing gardens.
I let go of a career. I gave away the dream that had fueled my living for so long. I cast my bread upon the waters and what came back was the bread I longed to eat. The bread I could break over and over and give away: seven bedrooms (every one of which will be full this weekend) and ground to cultivate (food to eat, food to share) and words of life (my book coming to you next February).
So much wisdom on living in simplicity begins with giving stuff away. Clean out your closet, purge the toy bin, carry it all to the thrift store. Feel yourself breathe.
But I never understood. I am not a born minimalist. I like stacks of books (the more the better), I like pretty bits and bobs with sentimental value. I like knowing I can throw a party for a crowd with the contents of those three drawers.
Giving things away also felt like cheating. Isn’t it much harder to stop accumulating things than to give them away once I have?
But giving things away is like a muscle in need of exercise.
Give away the clothes, the toys, some books.
Give away the car, the job, the dream. Break the bread. Spill the oil. Keep giving until you wake up one morning and realize you have given away your life.
Because that is the morning you begin to live.
Love these beautiful words. “Free of everything that would weigh us down.”
Thank you, Erin. When we put it like that it doesn’t sound like deprivation, does it?
Yes. I love this and look forward to hearing more on simplicity, Christie.
Thank you, Kris.
Beautiful Christie! And so obvious and true in your life and who you are.
I love your blog!
Thank you, Lori! Glad to have you here.
I still remember the distinct feeling of vulnerability that came with repeated purges of our stuff when we moved – freedom often, I think, feels a little like being naked.
I will be thinking on this, “He wanted us to live like flowers.”
So much good here. We have been letting go of so much the last few months, in a way we were never able to let go of before. It is strange to realize that if we were called to move again we’d need a smaller truck to take our stuff. And it was basically the realization that we were holding on to so much that didn’t bring us joy. Now what is left, does- and there is such a lightness now. A knowing that we can react quickly and easily to whatever comes next, not burdened by so much that would hold us in place. I look forward to hearing more from you!
I am one of Myrna’s retired teacher friends. I so enjoy your blog It soothes and calmsmy soul while engaging my mind. After reading this particular post, I though to recommend one of my all-time favorite cookbooks, More-With-Less Cookbook by Doris Janzen Longacre. It fits with your theme of Simplicity.
This book is part of the World Community Cookbook series that is published in cooperation with Mennonite Central Committee, a worldwide ministry of relief, development, and peace.
I have the original edition, but a new 25 year anniversary edition has just been released.
Thank you for your comment, Ellyce. I’ve heard of this cookbook before, but have never looked it over. It sounds wonderful! And perfect timing, too, as I consider a future post on “simple eating.”
Just discovered your blog, thanks to NYT mention. I was so happy to see something positive written about a Christian in their pages!
Re Simplicity–it’s a topic Ive always loved …no secret why…as it’s something Im actually ‘good’ at. :-). I believe that visual & material simplicity is a gift that I have given my friends and family. Even my housekeeper once remarked, ‘I love cleaning your house’. …and I knew what she meant. There is an added dimension to simplicity, which I call ‘that’s good enough’. Many times a week, I stop myself and say, ‘that’s enough’..or …’stop here. I’m going to leave this (these) out’ . I believe that as Christians, its good to not fill in every space available, figuratively or literally. This type of simplicity fosters true fellowship– as it leaves doors open for intimacy & reciprocality.
I am so glad to have you here! And I love what you have written. An attitude of “that’s good enough” is something I’ve also been cultivating of late, though I hadn’t consciously associated it with simplicity. Thank you for helping me to connect the dots. I agree completely that this kind of simplicity fosters fellowship, as you put it, and I hope to have another post up soon exploring that link. Thank you so much for taking the time to write out your response. I am grateful.
….thanks Christie. I will tell my friends about your blog. I admire that you are able to share your gift of faith & writing while knee deep in Family Life. Over the years, I’ve been/am an artist, writer, cellist, evangelist, wife, mother…so I relate to your sensibilities. I love what Paul said, that he learned to be content with much and to be content with little. I accept the conundrum that is here to stay, until He returns.
I read a book last year called Simplicity Parenting. Lots of the same stuff. They talked a lot about how cleaning a child’s room, decluttering, getting rid of most toys and “things” can greatly decrease anxiety and have far-reaching effects. Also simplifying the lifestyle–limiting how many activities the kid does; lots of “empty” time as well. I’m digressing. But i’ve been thinking of all this, too. I cleaned out my kid’s rooms and put toys in the basement to rotate back in. But they were never missed, so I gave them away. We forget, if we ever knew, how easy it is to be content with less. This year i’m trying to replace “stuff” with “beauty.”
Danielle, I read that, too! So, so good. Thanks for reminding me about it. I’m compiling a list of books on simplicity that have been helpful to me, and I’ll be sure to add this one. Also, replacing “stuff” with “beauty”? YES.
This is so beautiful, Christie! I just discovered your blog recently, and I can’t wait to read more of it, and your book. I am in total agreement with you regarding simplicity, and am taking baby steps to hopefully one day get where you are. I feel like I’m good at giving things away, but way less good at not bringing more in. Baby steps, like I said. 🙂