I just finished packing my life into a 5x10 storage unit so that I can move to Kenya for 6 months. While not the first time that I've packed up my life, it felt different this time. I usually pride myself at how little I own... living most of the last 5 years in nooks and crannies... one year in a teeny apartment, 18 months touring on a bus (with the Daraja Children's Choir of Africa) with little more than a duffle bag-- staying in over 300 homes as we traveled; a few years living in a friend's basement; oh, and then there's my favorite: living in my sister's unfinished laundry room for a year.
I don't mind living on little or IN little. However, it IS quite surreal to see your life fit into such a small space. All the memories, pictures, unique belongings taking up so very little room.
At the age of 33, it is humbling to realize how little I own and how insignificant my possessions are. I have no collateral. No equity. I barely have any money in savings--- or my checking account for that matter. I have friends younger than me who have multiple properties, large families and nice retirement plans already in place and growing.
It can be scary thinking about how little I have set aside for my future and how little I have to show for my past investments (none of which have been financial).
But there are other feelings, too. There is great gratitude that I am not owned by the things I possess. There is JOY in the fact that I require very little to live other than friends and God and there is FREEDOM and EXCITEMENT in knowing that I "pack light" enough to go anywhere at anytime to do anything that God leads me to do.
I'm not a "free spirit" or "scared of commitment". I'm not adverse to putting down roots or being wealthy and generous. Rather, God has challenged me to learn the value and freedom of LIVING LIGHT... and here is how :
1) LIVE OPENHANDED:
Don't ever own something that you can't imagine giving away. Not that you MUST give it away. Not that you NEED to give it away... but do an annual heart check to make sure that nothing you own is owning you.
If you DO find something like that in your life, you have two choices: Give it up or Give it over. Give it over means telling God that if He asks you to give it away, you will (a lot of times just this act of heart surrender will free you from the power that item has on you)... if you do this and it doesn't work-- meaning you still can't imagine giving it away, then Give it Up (as in, give it away to someone). This may sound crazy to you, but I promise that it works.
2) PURGE REGULARLY, HONESTLY and OPENLY:
Regularly: I move about every 9-12 months, so this is not hard for me. Every time I move, I make sure that if I haven't used something in the last 12-18 months, I get rid of it or give it away. However... if you don't move often you're going to need to set up a routine to evaluate your belongings for their usefulness and sentimental value. And you need to evaluate EVERYTHING: clothing, decor, sentimental items, etc. * I even do this with notes (I keep most letters and cards given to me.) Sometimes a letter will make the cut year after year only to be discarded 8 or 9 years after I received it.
Honestly: If you find yourself needing to justify why you want to keep something, you may want to also take a second and ask yourself why it matters so much. This doesn't mean condemning yourself for wanting to keep something! It doesn't mean guiltily giving away all items of luxury or comfort... it just means being honest about your "why's" ... Sometimes, even if you keep "the item", this can lead to a healthy conversation starter for you and God (or your counselor).
Openly: Don't be the only opinion you listen to as you sift. Invite God in on the conversation. Give Him the freedom to pipe in and let you know if something is holding you back.
3) LIMIT YOUR SPACE:
Remember the rich man in the Bible who had more harvest than his grain-houses could hold? Instead of giving away (or even selling) his excess, he tore down his storehouses and built even bigger ones. Consequently, God saw the man's foolish greed and he died soon after.
I'm not saying that you're going to be struck dead if you have more clothing than can fit in your closet and dresser... but as a rule of thumb, it is good to limit yourself to the space you have.
Whenever I buy new clothes, I typically get rid of a few things at the same time. If my closet ever starts getting too full to move the clothing in, then I examine to see if there are pieces I haven't worn in a year or more. When my bookshelves are getting too full, I give a few books away. I have friends who give away a few of their children's toys whenever they get new ones.
These are just a few of my thoughts... what are yours?