Are you an ‘all or nothing’ type? I am. My wife reminds me of this frequently. If I’m going to involve myself in a project, I’m 100% all in or I’m not going to participate. It’s the way I was created. I have found productive ways to leverage my addictive personality. Take triathlons for instance. I’m not content just dabbling in the sport, I must submerge myself in it totally.

As of late, I’m trying to learn to be content through simpler living in order to gain some margin in my life.

Five years ago, I looked around and we owned a bunch of ‘stuff’ and all that stuff cost money. Then I came to the realization that we did not own all this stuff, the stuff owned us. We were working to purchase and maintain expensive stuff. The amount of resources we were dumping into stuff was staggering.

Kathryn and I made an intentional choice to simplify our lives. We were faced with the challenging questions;

  • “What is important in life?”
  • “What do we need vs what do we desire (want)?”
  • “What does my ‘stuff’ and spending say about my values?”

Recognizing the symptoms:

  • When your mortgage consumes 35% or more of your budget, there’s a problem.
  • When your car payments steal from your future plans of sending children to college, its time to reevaluate priorities.
  • When you have no money left at the end of the month in which to give generously, you feel ineffective in a world of need.
  • When your debt weighs on every financial decision you make, it’s time to change.

We live in a culture that manufactures needs out of desires and transforms the spirit of gratitude into a spirit of entitlement. We tend to tip our hats to the problem and passively go on about our lives. When we are passive, the culture ‘trespasses’ in our lives and causes discontent.

  • Do I really need a new car or can I make the one I have last?
  • Do I need to buy that shirt or can I give away the 20 hanging in my closet that have not been worn in 3 years?

Good Choices lead to Freedom:
Every choice we make has value and leads to an outcome. Every time I have taken a step to simplify my life, I have really gained some freedom. Removing the non-essentials from life has become a game of sorts. I have a lot of fun with it. By saying ‘no’ to stuff I desire, I am saying ‘yes’ to things of real value, like my walk with God, my relationships with Kat, our children, family and friends.

Everything we purchase requires time and money. The more unused ‘stuff’ that fills my house, the more time I spend maintaining it or picking it up off the floor. I keep a lot of piles and boxes of crap. However, I’m improving in the simple living area by getting rid of it.

We’ve been on this path for a while. However, we began engaging it on a deeper and more spiritual level over the last two years. It has yielded a sense of freedom while allowing Kathryn and I to concentrate on raising our family.  It’s not easy, just refreshing.

Work toward the middle:
I’m in no way suggesting getting rid of everything and live in a tent by the river. I’m just pointing out that I’ve found a great deal of value in life by taking tiny steps to simplify. I’ve worked from the outside toward the middle. Perhaps a garage sale is a good start? Or giving away those unused dress shirts from 1987? (Of course, keep that really cheesy one for Halloween, etc)

Don’t force it on yourself or on your spouse. Just experiment with some small stuff first. See how it fits.  Kat was cleaning out her closet one day and I just followed her lead without saying a word.

If you are interested in learning more about this subject, I recommend reading;
‘Margin’ – ‘Restoring Emotional, Physical, Financial and Time Reserves to Overloaded Lives’ by Dr. Richard Swenson, M.D.

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