You know you’ve found a good book when you all of the sudden stop what you’re doing and do this:
And then you enlist the muscles of your big, burly husband, and together you do this:
You also know it’s a good book when you finish it within five days, even though you’re supposed to wait and digest a chapter per week for your mama’s group. So you have overzealous reading issues. Eh. [It also helps if you’ve made an attempt to turn off the inter-webs after 9 each night and taken a digital sabbath every Sunday.]
The book? 7. Yes, like the number, although it boasts the subtitle “An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess,” helping all of us understand a bit more of what’s inside the cover. The author, Jen Hatmaker, creates an experiment for herself: for seven different months, focus on seven different areas of excess, each with their own – you guessed it – “seven” emphasis.
For instance, the first month, she eats just seven foods, no ifs, ands or buts, as she wants to understand and feel the excess dependence she puts on food (especially when many around the world don’t share this luxury). The next month, she picks seven clothes out of her closet to wear for the entire month; granted, I wear my yoga pants left and right, but this would certainly be a challenge for any North American human being, in my opinion!
But then she reminds the reader that, just for kicks, let’s say everything in the closet cost $10: she soon found that she’d spent a wasteful, excessive amount of money on clothing, much of which she was lucky to wear only three or four times.
So on Saturday I started cleaning out my closet. And then went on to the baby’s room. And the hall closet. And the kitchen and the living room and the pantry. And eight bags later, we’re just getting started. (Could the HBH’s side of the closet use sorting as well? Of course, but I learned early on in marriage that there’s only so many pairs of 2002 Old Navy jeans a wife can throw out before he begins to feel like the rug’s been pulled out from under him).
Here’s the irony of the whole situation: I pride myself on my ability to not hold on to excess schtuff. Whether it’s because I’ve moved almost every year since I turned 18, have lived in places that don’t warrant a large amount of space (ahem, Bay Area), or have pledged to heed Oprah’s simplicity advice, there’s always a pile ready for a Goodwill drop-off. But this past weekend, as I stared at my closet, I realized I’m really not above my own claims.
I still hold on to items for sentimental reasons. Remember when?
I hope that pre-baby, wore-them-5-years-ago jeans will still fit, and so in my closet they stay.
I keep a pair of shoes even if they give me blisters every single time I wear them, because I know how much money I spent on the blasted shoes.
I keep a book, even if I purchased it 10 years ago (and haven’t yet read it), because I have high hopes that I’ll finally get to it. So many books, so little time.
We can then add to the list, the “just in case” items, the “I’ll totally DIY this someday” crap and the “but it was a gift!” relics that adorn the darkened closets. Ouch.
But you know what? Decluttering – as always – feels great. Afterwards, we looked around the house, and realized that we didn’t need to keep the guest bed up in the Cancan’s room – not only has it not been used as it should [“Hey! Want to share a room with a screaming newborn? Have a nice stay!”], but it’s crowding what could otherwise be a calm and peaceful space. Now the baby actually has a place of his own – and we have a back room that can double as a reading spot, outside of the living room.
In that way, I’d say the book was a success, to say the least. As Hatmaker goes on to experiment in the next five chapters – with possessions, media, waste, spending and stress – each hit me in its own way, prompting me to live differently as a result of her stories. For her (and myself included, no doubt), choosing to live this way is part and parcel of being a Christian:
“Would Jesus overindulge on garbage food while climbing out of a debt hole from buying things He couldn’t afford to keep up with neighbors He couldn’t impress? In so many ways I am the opposite of Jesus’ lifestyle. This keeps me up at night. I can’t have authentic communion with Him while mired in the trappings He begged me to avoid.”
[Although Hatmaker’s applications can certainly be carried out in any context, she certainly writes from a very Christian perspective, both culturally and socially, which I would keep in mind if you choose to read this book.]
None the less, I want to live simply, and her book reminded me of that truth. As my friend, Dirk, noted on Facebook soon after the closet clean-out began, being clutter-free is “…an underutilized component of happiness.”
Yes, indeed, Dirk-friend.
And that is what I want.
For more information, visit the website, Becoming Minimalist, that I just came across today; there are so many articles and ideas out there to help each of us get started. What other websites would you recommend?
And what about you – what comes to mind when it comes to living simply? And what excuses do you come up with when it comes to clinging to schtuff?0