Just a little over a year ago I opened up a book for the second time, 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, by Jen Hatmaker. (More on the first time in just a minute.) Can I just tell you that was a scary book to buy, knowing after I read it I would be responsible for how I handled that knowledge? And I had heard things. Things like “It will CHANGE you and how you think FOREVER.” (It’s true by the way.)
The first time I picked it up to start reading I felt all prickly and legalistic inside, as it dredged up old pieces of my faith that I struggle with from time to time. It was late November and I was just starting to do my Christmas shopping. (I LOVE Cyber Monday!) I could feel my heart threaten to shrink three sizes and I had a budding desire to ruin Christmas in a terrible Grinch-like fashion. That’s how I knew I was just not ready to hear all of those words about needing less and contentment. I couldn’t do it without twisting them into some horrible diatribe that would be unleashed on my family in what was supposed to be a season of joy and giving and celebration.
After the holidays were over, though, I picked that book back up. There was just something about clearing out the decorations and sorting through the mounds of old toys and clothes to make room for the new that helped put all of those things into a proper perspective for me. I was ready to hold all of my “stuff” loosely and see how God would lead me through that process of letting go of my excess. Thankfully I got to make that journey with an amazing group of gals. It’s always easier to do hard things with friends by your side.
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Throughout that book, Jen Hatmaker walks the reader through the scriptures about excess in a comical and transparent, yet powerful way. And it wasn’t just a simple reduction of stuff. There was so much more to it than that.
If you’ve got a kiddo or three, you’ll understand how quickly our homes can become inundated with stuff, from baby gear to toys, to the child’s wardrobe that would probably clothe four babies, not to mention the amount of clothes on the rack in our own closets to accommodate our ever-fluctuating waistlines.
Let’s just not even talk about the basement, please. It’s where old toys go to die in my house, along with the boxes and boxes of papers that our children bring home that we’re quite certain we could never throw away. Yep. I’ve got lots of stuff and I’ll bet you do, too.
But it was more than just learning how to let go of the physical clutter of our lives. Otherwise she could have just written a spring cleaning book and been done with it. Actually…maybe a pamphlet. It could read: “Get rid of stuff. Give it away. Throw it away. Just get rid of it. Then don’t buy more stuff to replace it.” So simple, right?
And so I journeyed through learning to let go. One by one…
- Possessions-stuff, stuff & more stuff.
- Food-I have a lot of food love affairs…especially bready ones! Ack!
- Media-Facebook addiction anyone? Trivia Crack? You’re not alone!
- Waste-it’s not easy being green. And what’s all this about composting?
- Spending-can you pick 7 stores to shop at? This one was a big challenge for me.
- Clothes-7 items of clothing? Surprise! I LOVED it! But it did make me realize how much of my wardrobe was based on what other people might think of me, rather than what I need.
- STRESS- Here’s a shocker…when you have less of all of the other things, you’re already well on your way to less stress. So instead, we learned to add something-Prayer. Lots of it.
Every time I choose to allow myself to think new thoughts, especially the kind that feel a little bit scary (like reading this book, because it will CHANGE YOU, people!), I have never once looked back in regret. Making the choice to be faced with my excess in all of these areas of my life was intimidating, but by the time our little group had worked our way through the entire book, I really felt like I had experienced a spring cleaning of my soul.
This is not to say that I haven’t slipped back into old ways from time to time. Because you know, sometimes a girl just needs a new pair of shoes. Or a chocolate bar. Or ten minutes to worry “in peace.” Heh. So obviously I don’t consider myself to have joined the ranks of the minimalists. But I’m learning that to do so might not be as terrifying as I once thought.
If your home and your life are full of excess and you’re living in the shadow of it, take some time to assess your stuff, from the physical, to the emotional, and everything in between. Learning to live with what we actually need frees us up to become the beautiful women God really wants us to be.