Tag Archives: minimalism

Our Controversial Valentine’s Day

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Valentine’s Day is just around the corner, and Robby and I have made a controversial decision: we’re not buying anything for each other. Nothing. No cards, no cutesy teddy bears, no plastic hearts filled with candy, no bouquets of flowers.

Why is this controversial? Because the media would have us believe that excess is best, that stuff leads to happiness, and the only way we can show our love is by buying gifts. But this year, Robby and I are saying NO to commercialism.

Here are a few reasons why.

1) Budget

Now that we have a little one in the house, we’re tightening our belt more than ever. Sharing gifts is nice, but it just doesn’t fit into our budget this year.

To help keep us on track, we’re using the app GoodBudget, which is like an electronic version of the envelope system. I definitely recommend this app if you’d like to monitor your spending and establish a budget this year.

2) Minimalism/ Simplicity

As I’ve shared before, Robby and I are trying to simplify our lives, and minimalism is a big part of that. We’ve come to realize that we have way more than we need, and we certainly don’t need to add more trinkets that we’ll need to store, dust, and organize forever.

If you’re interested in simplifying your life, I recommend the resources by Joshua Becker on his site www.becomingminimalist.com. (Read my review of Becker’s insightful book, The More of Less, on my goodreads page.)

3) Zero Waste

Something that’s recently come to my attention is the Zero Waste movement. The idea is simple: reduce the amount of waste we produce so we can leave a cleaner, better world for our kids. This starts by turning our shopping habits upside down, first by buying second-hand items or hand-making gifts. If it’s necessary to buy new products, then care should be taken to buy ethically-sourced items. For more info, check out the various Facebook groups dedicated to Zero Waste, such as this one.

What are we doing?

This Valentine’s Day, Robby and I will enjoy a nice dinner at home with the little one. We may also exchange handmade gifts, such as homemade cards and handwritten notes. I might try to make a nice dessert, and Robby can pick me a bouquet of flowers from our yard (hint, hint, honey!).

The media wants you believe that you have to spend money on stuff, even if you don’t want it or can’t afford it. But Robby and I are choosing a simpler way this year, even if that seems a bit weird or controversial, and I encourage you to do the same. Say no to the ad agencies and enjoy Valentine’s Day (and every day!) in a way that brings you joy and not debt. If you’re looking for more ideas, check out this article I wrote, “To Romance Your Wife, Consider Her Love Language.”


What are your plans for Valentine’s Day? How are you incorporating your ideals, such as sticking to a budget, minimalism, and zero waste? I’d love to hear your plans and DIY hacks!

3 Truths to Set You Free From Anxiety

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The Problem

No one likes to feel anxious. As soon as worry sets in, your heart races, your palms sweat, and your lunch turns sour in your stomach. Over time, this feeling can become debilitating, causing a downward spiral in your health and social interactions.

Yet God tells us repeatedly in His Word that we should not fear. In fact, the only thing we are told to fear is God Himself—and that kind of fear is a holy reverence, not a fearful fight-or-flight response. (See Deuteronomy 6:13 and 13:4.)

Still, we deal with fear every day. Here in the U.S., many of us struggle with fears like these:

1. That we don’t have enough stuff.
2. That we don’t have what others have.
3. That others want what we have, so we must guard it carefully.
5. That we have to hoard a lot of stuff to ensure we’ll have it when we need it.

In other words, we’re consumed with consumerism.

We serve it like an idol, both afraid of it and compelled to act on its behalf. (Read more in my recent posts on fear and simplicity.)

The Freedom

In his book Celebration of Discipline, Richard Foster states that we can experience freedom from consumer-based anxiety by practicing the spiritual discipline of simplicity:

“As Jesus made so clear in [Matthew 6:25-33], freedom from anxiety is one of the inward evidences of seeking the kingdom of God first. The inward reality of simplicity involves a life of joyful unconcern for possessions. Neither the greedy nor the miserly know that liberty. It has nothing to do with abundance of possessions or their lack. It is an inward spirit of trust.”

Once you’ve put God first in your life, you can begin to see your possessions in a new light. To help you exorcise the anxiety and find freedom from consumerism, I’ve developed the following list of truths based on what Foster calls the “inner attitudes.”

1. “Everything I have is a gift from God.”

Think of everything you value—not just your phone and your car, but your family, experiences, education, and job. You may have worked hard to get where you are, but don’t be fooled into thinking you did all this by yourself.

Ultimately, it was God who gave you these things. It was His breath that gave you life. His spark that gave you intelligence and emotions. His desire that filled your heart, and His grace that keeps you going. (See Psalm 37:4-5, Matthew 7:7-11, and 1 Timothy 4:4.)
Thank God for all the wonderful things in your life, for they are a sign of His mercy and love for you. Then let your thankfulness turn to the deeper emotion of compassion for those who live without the luxuries you enjoy.

2. “God is the Boss.”

When you have a job, you’re responsible for showing up on time and getting your work done. But when you own the company, you’re responsible for everything—from keeping the lights on to employee safety.

Fortunately for us, God is the Boss in His Kingdom. You may have belongings to maintain, a career to develop, and relationships to nurture, but you perform these tasks as a manager. At the end of the day, God is the Architect and Protector of your life and everything in it. (See Psalm 127:1.) Your job is to show up and be obedient. (See Luke 12.)

Imagine, for a moment, all the belongings and relationships in your care. Now, add God to the picture—not as a bystander but as the Boss. You’re His representative, but He’s the One in Charge. You can trust Him to take care of you and to give you direction. Let that fact permeate your spirit until you’re filled with His peace.

3. “My belongings have a purpose.”

Clothes and shoes are meant to be worn, books are meant to be read, and furniture is meant to be used. Yet we fill our closets, basements, and storage units with these valuable items. We spend time organizing them, we pay to insure and store them, and we agonize over what to do with them. Meanwhile, there are people in our own communities who go without.

God calls each of us to be generous but, before you can do that, you have to realize that your belongings have a purpose. It’s certainly not sinful to have multiple pairs of shoes or a stack of unread books (I sure do). However, it is important that you become aware of the needs around you and your power to fill those needs with the very items God has entrusted to your care. (See 1 Timothy 6:18-19.)

Here’s a short prayer to help you foster these inner attitudes of simplicity:

“God, thank you for all the belongings, experiences, and relationships you have given me. I didn’t earn them, and I don’t deserve them, yet you have given them freely to me. Now, please give me wisdom to manage them appropriately, and help me to acknowledge that you are the Boss, not me. Please soften my heart to those in need around me and give me the means and courage to help them as you see fit. I surrender my anxiety to you and gladly accept your freedom. In the name of Jesus, who gave all He had for me. Amen.”

 

[Click to Tweet: Don’t be consumed by consumerism. Seek spiritual #simplicity. #faithlife #bigsisterknows]

 


This post includes content from my book Girls with Gusto (click here to learn more). It comes from the section “Practice Simplicity,” which is step five of eight in the spiritual journey.

 

4 Questions to Declutter Your Home

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In a recent blog post, I mentioned that Robby and I are exploring the “simple life.” Part of that involves decluttering the home—not just reorganizing, cleaning, and buying more storage bins, but letting go of items we no longer need or want. It also means not buying more stuff that we don’t need.

I’ve actually tried to do this for years, but I couldn’t seem to make a dint in our boxes of stuff. Finally, I realized my approach was all wrong! Before, when I would try to get rid of something, I would ask myself, “Can we use this?” I’m a creative, resourceful person, so I would often think of several uses for it. (Empty glass jars can store juice in the fridge, loose buttons, or change. Torn items can be repaired. Old t-shirts can be torn into rags to wash the car. And so on.)

Now I ask myself different questions—and I’m getting a different response! We’re letting go of items we don’t need and we’re making the most of what we do keep. Even better, we’re helping others by passing down good items that still have some life left in them. It’s a win-win!

Here are four questions that can help you declutter the house and avoid buying more junk.

 

1 – Is it necessary?

We all need clothes, toiletry items, blankets, pots and pans, etc. But do you need that particular item?

  • You may have needed it in the past…but do you still need it?
  • Is it still in proper working order, or is it missing a lid, broken, or damaged?
  • Do you have multiple versions of the same item, or a similar item in better condition?

Consider letting go of duplicates and items that have outlived their usefulness.
Avoid buying new items that are not necessary for your health, wellbeing, or everyday needs.

 

2 – Is it beneficial?

Most of us would probably consider the majority of our belongings as “beneficial.” Why else would we have bought them in the first place? Comfort items (e.g. extra blankets, pillows, candles, and decorations), make our homes feel cozy—until we have so much it becomes suffocating. Sentimental items bring back happy memories—if we can actually find them. Even kids’ toys and electronics can lose their value to us if we have more than we can use and enjoy.

Is all that stuff really beneficial to your household?

  • Does it stay in a box, out of sight, for most of the year?
  • Does it take up valuable space that could be used for something more important?
  • Does your family appreciate it the way you do?
  • Does it give you joy or stress you out?

Focus on those items that are really special.
Consider limiting items to a certain number of boxes or a specific closet shelf.
Avoid buying more until you’ve gone through all the items you currently have.

 

3 – Is it affordable?

We usually think about cost only when we make purchases, but that’s just the beginning. Expensive items—like cars, lawn mowers, phones, TVs, and computers—must be insured and maintained. Technology items usually require installation and periodic updates. All items, regardless of type or cost, take up space in our homes. They also take up our time as we store, dust, and organize them. All of this adds to the true cost of the item.

The question, then, is not just can you afford it, but do you really want to pay for it?

  • Does the item’s benefit to you outweigh its true cost?
  • Would your money be better spent elsewhere?
  • Will you have to pay for someone else to maintain it?
  • Will you have to insure it?
  • Will the item become obsolete in the near future, requiring you to upgrade it?

Consider your goals. If an item doesn’t help you meet those goals, then it may not be worth buying or keeping.
Avoid the expensive “bugs” of new technology. Instead, look for tech items that have been on the market for awhile.
Avoid buying brand-specific items that only work if you use components by the same brand.

 

4 – Would it benefit someone else more?

For Robby and me, the simple life isn’t just about decluttering the house; it’s about putting God first and foremost in our lives. As we focus on Him, we lose interest in consumerism. We walk out on faith that God will provide for our future needs. The natural by-product of this is generosity.*

The question then becomes, should you pass the item on to someone else who needs it more than you do?

  • Do you use the item, or does it sit on a shelf or in the garage?
  • Do you know someone personally who could really benefit from it?
  • If you no longer owned the item, would you be glad to have more space in your home?

Recognize that you are just a steward of your belongings. Ask God to show you people in need and give you the courage and opportunity to help them.

[Click to Tweet: 4 Questions to Declutter Your Home #minimalism #thesimplelife #bigsisterknows]

 

Let me know your thoughts!

What is your goal in decluttering your home?
How do you determine what items to keep or pass on?

 


* See my post Practicing Simplicity for three great books on the discipline of simplicity and how it fosters generosity.

You may also want to check out the blog BecomingMinimalist for practical posts on living the simple life.