The process of lightening up my living

A few weeks ago, my whole life flashed before my eyes.

Well, maybe it didn’t actually flash. But, I really did feel I re-lived my 33 years of living in five days.

In those five days, I looked at all of my stuff and made a choice about whether to keep each item (not the goal), throw it away (the least ideal), or give it away (the most ideal).

I saw my baby pictures, the stories I wrote when I was in elementary school, photos and other mementos from high school, college, and my travels. I considered each item of clothing, each book, and every office supply I have accumulated over the years.

It was emotionally exhausting. And it was terribly necessary.

You see, I moved; from a large space to a smaller place. Before I moved, I didn’t feel like I was living with integrity. So, after this move, I actually blocked out some serious time to really sort through everything I had and make a choice about whether it was necessary for me to continue carrying it around.

I had a feeling it might be hard to let go of things and I was a little afraid. I thought I had psychologically prepared myself when I devised a formula I thought would be effective. My rule was that in order to keep something, two out of three of the following questions had to get a “yes” when I considered each item:

1.) Have I used it recently?

2.) Do I really like it? and

3.) Do I really need it?

Certainly this was a very time-consuming and difficult process, but it was extremely worthwhile.

I’m in my new space now and feel less crowded, thank God. Basically I am sighing out all sorts of relief. I am finally living in much more simplicity than I was–in line with the modesty I’ve desired. I’ve been longing for this simplicity for years.

Nope, ironically, since college and my study abroad experience in South Africa (when much of my desire for simplicity began) all my possessions have multiplied. They once filled a medium-sized moving truck. Or, in the most recent case, all my stuff filled a bedroom, an office, two closets, and a sprawling storage area in a basement.

I am a woman who entered religious life eager to try to imitate the radical poverty and simplicity of Saints Francis and Clare. (And Jesus Christ himself!) Therefore, the magnitude of my stuff was, frankly, just embarrassing.

It feels good that pretty much all my things now fit comfortably in a room that is about 180 square feet. In a way, I feel as if I am actually living in a cell like my elder Sisters sometimes did. And, I love it!

Plus, with the loss of clutter around me physically, I’ve noticed drastically less clutter in my mind and, correspondingly, in my prayer life. I feel more centered, more grounded. This has done a lot for my human relationships too.

My desire for greater simplicity and smaller living isn’t only rooted in my admiration for Saints Francis and Clare and their radical way of living the Gospel. I have also been influenced by my admiration for contemporary movements and trends, such as the tiny house movement, the Catholic Worker movement, and even the simplicity of the small houses in the IKEA stores.

There was good reason for me to have less, to simplify. I realize that for most people in this world, space and material stuff is a total luxury, and I want to live in solidarity with them as much as possible. I also recognize that our landfills and incinerators are quickly filling. I want to be a better steward and tread a little more lightly on this precious Earth.

This was the type of simplicity I long for: the beauty of nature. “Above La Verna, Italy” Photo by Julia Walsh, FSPA

Now, a few weeks into living with less stuff, I can admit: It certainly was quite a process to lighten my living, but I am finding that it was totally worth it.

My life is simpler. I feel lighter. I have less stuff but I have more freedom and joy. I feel a sense of integrity. Most importantly, I feel closer to God.

Totally worth it.

4 thoughts on “The process of lightening up my living

  1. Love it Julia. Particularly this awareness, “Plus, with the loss of clutter around me physically, I’ve noticed drastically less clutter in my mind and, correspondingly, in my prayer life. I feel more centered, more grounded. This has done a lot for my human relationships too.” So true from my perspective.

    I’m just finishing a book on Tiny Houses and other approaches called, Tent City Urbanism: From Self-Organized Camps to Tiny House Villages. It is by Andrew Heben. I particularly like the concept of “unhoused” instead of “homeless.” You might enjoy. There is a similar return to simplicity that I find compelling.

    1. Thanks Tenneson!
      That sounds like a totally intriguing book. I’m going to be on the look out for it. So cool, thanks!
      “Unhoused” instead of “homeless” either way, we need to allow all people to live a life with dignified shelter, right? And, not define others according to what we have or don’t have….

  2. I’m going through a similar process, Julia, sorting through 21 years of stuff I’ve collected while living in the Twin Cities, preparatory to moving to the motherhouse. Simplifying is one awareness. Another is that I’m engaged in an activity of gratitude for overwhelming Blessings! I come across a clever birthday card with a loving message from a friend who has since gone to Glory. This goes into the box of Keepers. I pick up the book a church friend wrote about her experience of overcoming the horrors of sexual abuse in childhood. Now she uses the book in her ministry with immigrant women who have had similar experiences. She says an FSPA Ministry Grant for her work gave her the courage to go forward. This I may pass on to Corrina for her new ministry with women escaping trafficking. Thank you, Loving Creator, for so many amazing & inspiring friends in these 21 years!

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