One Surprising Alternative to Buying More

How long does it take you to burnout on an item?  Maybe the thrill of the video game passes after just a few weeks.  Perhaps your new eye shadow isn’t quite the same shade as the one you just saw in a magazine.  Or maybe your home decor suddenly seems childish and unsophisticated compared to the house you saw on HGTV.

We are inherently subject to the law of diminishing returns.  As we seek to satisfy our desires for pleasure and fulfillment, we become more unsatisfied.  Overtime we desire more and greater things to satiate our ever-increasing need for more “stuff.”  There is one method to reduce or halt this burnout phenomenon – the discipline of contentment.  I will write more on contentment in the coming weeks; for now consider contentment not something to be received, but something to be cultivated.

The pursuit of simplicity and contentment go hand-in-hand.  One of the primary steps for either pursuit is the sloughing off or removal of nonessential “stuff” from our lives.  This may sound relatively easy, but many of us have found it to be a painful pruning process.  If it seems daunting, I suggest you consider another beginning step – stop accumulating more.  Rather than buying (or even trading) for “new” items, rediscover the ones you already have.  Living in a finite worlds means that you and I have limited time and attention.  As we accumulate more stuff, our attention to each item diminishes.  We quickly forget the items that once thrilled us.  We under-utilize perfectly fine items and opt instead for something new.  For example:  I recently had the idea that perhaps I should purchase a new lens for my camera.  It wouldn’t be difficult to make a case for the purchase or rationalize it to myself.  However, instead of shopping for lens, I asked myself a question:  Have I really maxed out the capabilities of my current camera?  The answer is no; I likely use around 50% of my camera’s capabilities, maybe.  My instinct is to look for a new tool, rather than maximize the one I already have.

I began to ask the same question of some of my other possessions.  The result was a list of items I under-utilize and the commitment to not make new purchases related to these items.  I hope this list catalyzes your own brainstorming.

  • Craft supplies – What supplies or craft tools have you used one or two times?  Revisit or master a previously attempted craft before moving on to a new one.
  • Magazines – Do you actually “consume” the magazines you already receive?
  • Cookbooks – Have you cooked even 50% of the recipes in the cookbooks you already own?  What about torn out pages from magazines?
  • Kitchen tools – What tools have gone unused for a year or multiple seasons?
  • Groceries/Freezer – Do you throw food in the trash each week because it spoils before you eat it?
  • Clothing – Choose a few unworn clothing items to include back in your circulation.
  • Makeup – Count the eye shadows, lipsticks and nail polishes you haven’t used in 6 months.  Do you still need more?
  • Children’s toys – Having forgotten or unused toys doesn’t mean your child needs new ones.
  • House accessories/decorations – Do the items displayed around your home add meaning or just clutter?
  • Tools – Do you want new tools because of the promise they bring or because you have broken ones requiring replacement?

What items do you under-utilize?  What items are you tempted to buy even though a true need is absent?

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find new uses for old things

What is simplicity & why should you care?

Simplicity is well-used buzzword today.  Although there may be some basic tenets of the philosophy or lifestyle, the spectrum of its meaning is broad.  There are also different shades of simplicity, such as minimalism.  I want to explain a few key points about my experience and definition of simplicity, or simplicity living.

First, simplicity is two-fold:  It is the pruning of unnecessary possessions, commitments, and activities in our lives to increase space for the things of highest value (family, community, faith etc.).

The practical expression of simplicity is unique to each individual and his or her values.  For one person simplicity might include elimination of TV programming, for another downsizing a home, for another declining outside commitments.  The practice of simplicity is not always dramatic.  Sometimes it’s subtle and includes small acts such as reducing your book collection or donating duplicate cooking tools.

First impressions of simplicity often include images of drab empty homes, sullen faces and cloistered families who reject mainstream culture.  Simplicity is not a state of barrenness!

Second, simplicity living is a state of fullness, not deprivation!  It is prioritizing the most satisfying and rich parts of life above the parts that detract from contentment.

From a young age, American media trains us that abundance or abundant living is found in possessions:  The more you own or possess the more abundant and full your life.  Simplicity involves a reeducation of the heart and mind.  Like any worthwhile pursuit, there are challenges, but the fruit of contentment is worth the effort.

Third, simplicity is the process.  The fruit is greater contentment, joy, and fulfillment.

I will write more on contentment as part of the 31 day writing challenge.  I am anxious to share several simplicity triumphs to demonstrate the freedom and fulfillment of simplicity.  And always – I would love to hear your stories!  I encourage you to read Not More, Better from Joshua Becker at Living Minimalist, one blog fomenting my simplicity pursuit.

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my simplicity expert

31 Day Writing Challenge – Almost Simple Enough

almost simple enough lgWelcome to my answer to the Nester’s 31-day writing challenge – Almost Simple Enough.  Many of you have seen snippets of my simplicity journey and I aim to share more during the month of October.  I admit the small challenge of writing even a few lines for 31 straight days seems daunting to me.  Like many of you, I stumble daily along my journey as a mother, wife, worker, friend, who has aspirations, doubts and chronic health struggles.  For the background story on why I chose to pursue greater simplicity, read Start with Broken.

Look for photos, tips, lists, anecdotes and experiences this month on increasing the simplicity and contentment in life.  Look for two themes in my experience – the pruning my toddler son provides and the contentment only God can offer.  I look forward to your comments and experiences as well.  Many of you are walking a similar journey!

‘Tis the gift to be simple, ’tis the gift to be free
‘Tis the gift to come down where we ought to be,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
‘Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gain’d,
To bow and to bend we shan’t be asham’d,
To turn, turn will be our delight,
Till by turning, turning we come ’round right.

Simple Gifts