The Process of Living Simply
I’ve read the studies and articles explaining how clutter causes chaos. The mere presence of too much stuff, or the wrong stuff, is a stressor in our lives. We can be sitting, reading a book in total silence, and yet, not be at peace because we know we’re surrounded by a mess. It may feel good to ignore for a few minutes, but deep down we know it’s still there.
If you want to sleep well, don’t put a television in your bedroom. If you want to have financial freedom, create and live to a budget. Do you want to eat well? Be sure to plan your meals.
For years, yes, years, (Why does it take us so long to learn certain lessons?) God has been talking to me about simplifying and being disciplined.
When we simplify, we tend to get rid of things such as material possessions and activities. This is the most obvious place to start since it’s what we can see right in front of us in our homes and on our calendars. We know we have a problem when the saying “everything has its place” no longer applies and we have no room for delays, mishaps or accidents. Once we clear things out and free up our time, we need discipline or before we know it, all those things will find their way back into our lives.
As I was praying and journaling the other morning, I wrote down these three words: organized, simplified and open-handed. Simplified living begins by knowing where we’re starting and ends with a willingness to go somewhere new.
I love to take assessments. When I clean out a closet, I don’t just take everything out and put it back repackaged. I sort as I remove the items. I look at each article, ask a few questions and make a decision. I remove things that no longer make sense and find myself excited about what remains.
It’s the same with activities, budgeting and even my spiritual life. What am I doing to grow in my relationship with God? What activities have I outgrown? What attitudes and behaviors crowd out the work of the Holy Spirit? In what new ways is God calling me to connect with Him?
“Then I saw and considered it; I looked and received instruction.” Proverbs 24:32 (ESV)
This process calls me to acknowledge what’s true in my life, both good and bad, and holds me accountable to the next steps.
It’s completely possible to sort and organize only to keep everything. Experience is a great teacher! Again, this is where discipline comes in. The follow through of getting rid of items, saying no to certain activities, living within a budget, and so on is how I can stay simplified.
“Teach me, Lord, what you want me to do, and I will obey you faithfully; teach me to serve you with complete devotion.” Psalm 86:11 (GNT)
The process of being faithful to my decisions is a spiritual process as well. Personally, I know I’ve allowed distractions and the chaos of life to intrude on the purpose God has called me to live out. Simply put, my purpose is to honor and glorify God in all I do. He has created me and gifted me in certain ways and I have the joy of honoring and glorifying Him by means of those gifts. Discipline helps me keep those gifts from getting buried, misplaced or forgotten. Living a simplified life keeps Him and His purpose always in front of me.
When I originally journaled about this topic, I questioned the term “open-handed”. Did I hear and understand correctly? What does being open-handed have to do with simplified living?
“If anyone is poor among your fellow Israelites in any of the towns of the land the Lord your God is giving you, do not be hardhearted or tightfisted toward them. Rather, be openhanded and freely lend them whatever they need.”
Deuteronomy 15:7-8 (NIV)
The idea of being open-handed is wrapped up in generosity. I can close my hands and hold tight to what I think I should do or have, but those closed hands also won’t be able to receive anything new. On the other hand, open hands lend themselves to open minds and open hearts. Simple living creates space for me to be generous with time, money and possessions.
We serve a generous God and He uses each of us to express His generosity to others. With open hands, I let go of my plans and receive God’s plan. God's plans of generosity extend beyond this lifetime. The more space I create for God, the more filled with Him I become. And the more filled with Him I become, the more of Him overflows to others. My willingness to be open-handed in receiving what God has for me leads to an outpouring of His generosity to another.
So, in what area of your life do you need to get organized? How could taking an assessment help you clear out space for God to work? Is there something or someone to whom you’re holding on tightly? Is there something or someone to whom you are unwilling to extend a hand?
God is leading you to a new way to live: His way. Ask God to help you simplify, sorting through and removing what no longer belongs so you can receive and be generous with all He wants to give.