Epilogue – The Journey Continues
I have now made a first pass through most of the rooms and corners of my house and I have begun to realize that this was only the beginning. I have only given away my excess. I have not really made any sacrifices. I think of the Biblical story of the widow’ mite and I know I am no were near her level of giving. This summer I plan to start over, move forward, and dig deeper.
This spiritual, mental, and physical journey I’m on has morphed into other areas of my life as well. For instance, I have embraced the recycling movement. Most of my life I did not really see the need for this. I tossed my cans in a bin if it was convenient and that was about it. I was fairly ignorant and unconcerned about how much trash I created. The week I tackled the art room I began to feel guilty as the bags of trash, mostly paper, piled up. I guess it was the amount that got me. A little trash here and there didn’t seem to matter, but four bags of mostly paper that could have been recycled seemed like such a waste. I decided that day that it was worth the inconvenience of sorting and delivering recyclables in order to make my trash reusable instead of just adding to a landfill. Now I collect plastic bottles, paper, tin cans, glass, cardboard, and aluminum cans. In addition I use cloth bags when I shop. It’s a start.
Another area of growth has been financial. Now that I am rid of so much excess stuff I certainly don’t want to refill my house. I find myself buying less. I look at items critically before I purchase them to decide if they will be useful and/or bring me joy. I try to decide if this purchase will only end up filling a thrift store bag later. I’m especially skeptical of giveaways. All too often those are the items that morph into clutter.
An extension of these two areas has led me to want to purchase used items whenever possible. It seems that there is so much stuff in the world, it is a little wasteful to buy new. I recently lost some weight and needed new clothes. It would have been so convenient to go to the local department store, spend a couple hundred dollars and get what I needed. I decided instead to put my new values to work. I went thrift store shopping. It certainly wasn’t as easy and it took more time. I went to several stores the first day. I discovered which stores in my area had the best selection of plus-size clothing and which ones were organized by size to make shopping easier. The selection was somewhat limited but when I did find an item that I liked and it fit, I felt a surge of accomplishment. It was like a treasure hunt and it did not break my budget. There was an element of faith involved as well. I was asking God to provide for my needs rather than just relying on my credit card.
One other area of growth has been related to poverty. As I was decluttering my bookshelves I found a book about the spiritual discipline of simplicity. This concept seemed to encompass the whole journey I’ve been experiencing. It discussed ownership and finances. Then it delved into the subject of poverty. I found out that anyone making $40,000 a year is in the top 1% of the world. Also, 92% of the world’s population don’t own a car. In other words, most of us in America are rich by the world’s standards. We are blessed and we need to decide how to use our resources. We need to explore the idea of whether our extravagant lifestyle is pleasing to God when so many are starving through no fault of their own. I know that this is not a simple issue. It is full of political intrigue. Personally I have always felt that some social programs where enabling laziness and ensnaring people so that they could not move on to financial independence. However, I have to admit that the Bible espouses helping the poor. For example, farmers were to leave the edges of their fields unharvested so that the poor could glean what they needed. Some theologians have embraces what is called “The theology of enough.” When manna rained down on the Israelites there was enough for everyone’s needs, but hoarding was not allowed. Each days needs were provided, just as Jesus told us in the Lord’s Prayer. Gandhi reiterated this when he said, “The world has enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed.” Right now, I don’t know what this means for me. I’m still asking the questions and exploring the issues. I do know that sharing my excess and spending my money responsibly is moving in the right direction.
All in all, this has been a journey of less: less stuff, less trash, and less spending. It has also been a journey of more: more time, more beauty, and more joy. It has been enlightening, challenging, confusing, and exciting. I look forward to where this road will lead me next.