Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Taking a step back: why are we doing what we are doing?

So I realized after posting last night about kicking the microwave out of our kitchen--which conveniently saved me from making an impulse cup of chai tea today, because it was "too much effort" to pull out a pot to heat the milk on the stove (lame, I know...hopefully I'll get past that soon)--that we may need to clarify for our readers exactly what we are doing and why we're doing what we are doing.

We've been living in our current home for almost 8 years. When we moved in, it was just Jason and me, our cat, a few hand-me-down pieces of furniture and 27 boxes full of everything that we owned in the world--in impeccably labeled and inventoried boxes, no less--because Jason totally rocks the packing and moving thing!

Fast forward seven-and-a-half years and we have added 4 kids, subtracted a cat, added a house full of furniture, rooms filled with "stuff", and built a storage shed which is full of what doesn't fit in the garage. While I recognize that we are nowhere near the "Danger Zone" of becoming hoarders, and by American standards we already live pretty simply, we had become lax with living our value of stewardship and were uncomfortable with the level of consumption that we had reached.
1200 cubic-feet of fabulous "extra" storage space!
While child-bearing years and the sleep-deprived haze of the past 7 years do explain part of how this has happened, it's not really an excuse for us. We are responsible for our actions and decisions, even those made on auto-pilot. We have acquired more than we have mindfully decided to bring into our lives, and have added people to our home--who we deliberately chose to add and love with all of our being--that also bring in "stuff" without consciously thinking about it. When we looked around and saw what was happening around us, this past autumn we decided that it was time to take a step back, re-evaluate our priorities and shift gears so that the life that we are living is the life that we are choosing. It was time to move from living on the default setting to deliberate living.

It's amazing how that becomes so much more possible when you are neither preparing for nor adjusting to life with a new baby, as had been the norm for us for the past 7 years. We
know that we're all here now--so moving forward we want to be free to be all that God calls us to be, both individually and collectively as the Simpson Six, without the chains of "stuff" that is neither useful to us nor loved by us. We also need to be more deliberate in teaching proper stewardship to our children.

So, that's how we got to where we are today. Everything around us is under scrutiny. Is it serving a purpose in our lives or do we still own it because we think that we should? Are we holding onto something because someone that we love gave it to us, or would a better way to honor this person be to pass the item that we no longer need or use to someone else that does need it and would appreciate it more. Just because I once loved that Tiffany cassette tape that my dad bought for me when I was eight does not mean that I need to hold onto it forever. Perhaps a Goodwill shopper will be thrilled to hit the goldmine of 1980s pop stars and I can help with that. Yes, this is a current example of an item recently decluttered!
Our babies' crib. A tremendous gift to our family, passed to a new home after we'd exhausted our use of it.
Our babies are all out of the crib, once and for all. Do I need to hold onto the crib for sentimental reasons? Perhaps a photo and the knowledge that we are able to help another young family have a safe place for their baby to sleep is a better way to steward a gift that was immeasurably valuable to our family 7 years ago? In our case, we opted to pass the crib along.

We're also making decisions that mean we are purchasing new (or new-to-us) items to replace things that are impractical for our lives, or to help us to live more in line with our values. We're doing our best to re-purpose what we already own, but in some instances, it's better to purchase what will work for us long-term instead of continuing to "make do" with something that isn't serving us well. We're trying to be mindful of these choices by selling the things that are good, but aren't a good fit for our family, in order to have the money to purchase what we really need. This way we are still keeping our consumption in check.
Our good, used Calphalon set of cookware found a grateful new owner after it no longer served our purposes.
For instance, our 9-year-old cookware set was still in very good condition. However, between recognizing that there are few pieces that I regularly utilize, several that I rarely would pull out, and my growing concern with cooking with aluminum, we sold the large set that was unnecessary and used the money to purchase a few well-planned pieces of cast iron cookware  that I will use daily for a lifetime.

For us, we've also made the decision to change our way of thinking about consumable goods. An example is that instead of buying 5 pairs of Target shoes in each size for each of our kids, we've decided for them to have a high-quality pair of athletic shoes and a high-quality pair of casual shoes in each of their sizes. In addition to their rain boots/snow boots/pool shoes (depending upon the season), these are really all that they need anyway. If they need dress shoes, then we'll look for an inexpensive pair for the 1-2 uses that they will see. This winter, Ian's casual shoes worked with dress outfits and all of our girls had dress shoes from previous years (or older sisters) that worked for the few times that they needed them. As an added bonus, when we're corralling a shoe rack for 6, it simplifies our lives greatly! I'm still working to edit my own shoes down, but my goal is 5 pair or less for each season (warm weather/cold weather).

It's really more about examining our lives and making sure that what we own is something that serves us, instead of being shackled by our possessions. We're not obsessively decluttering until we own nothing more than the clothes on our backs--but it's cool with us if you choose to go there! There's nothing wrong with owning things, but when the things begin to own us is when problems begin to arise. We are striving to be mindful that we are merely stewarding the things that God has given us. If we hold too tightly to something, or if we neglect these things or treat them poorly, these are all poor examples of stewardship.

If we are going to teach our children how to be good stewards of our environment, and in turn be implements of change in our world, it must begin at the most basic level within our home. If we're teaching them the dangers of over-consumption with closets packed full of God-only-knows, the lesson is lost. So, we're taking the next step forward to make the words that we speak more aligned with the actions that we live. It's a life-long journey, but this is where we find ourselves at today.

And life is nothing if not a grand adventure!

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