'Tis the gift to be simple, 'tis the gift to be free,
And when we find ourselves in the place just right,
'Twill be in the valley of love and delight.
Simple Gifts - Elder Joseph Brackett - 1848
About two years ago I realized that I was not happy with my life, and I realized that one thing complicating my life was stuff. . . the acquisition and keeping of stuff. I had way too many clothes I didn’t wear, and kitchen gadgets I never used, and dozens of dust catchers I’d been given as gifts, and sets of linens for beds I no longer owned and so on. There was always one more thing I thought I needed. I was never satisfied with what I had.
I looked around at people I knew who seemed calm and serene, satisfied with their lives, and I realized that those were almost all people who had made a conscious decision to live simply - mainly Quakers and Buddhists. I grew up with Quakers and I had studied Buddhism. I understood the concept of simplicity. It had just never occurred to me to try to live that way.
So I started simplifying my life. I spent months going through every thing I owned, keeping only those things that either enhanced my life and brought me joy or that I absolutely had to have in order to function. A number of things went back and forth between the keep and give away piles, but finally I was happy with all my decisions. Then I moved into a much smaller home, just 500 square feet, where there is more than enough room for all the things I kept.
And I was satisfied. Every time I walked through my home I sighed in satisfaction, and told everyone who would listen how much I love my little Elf House.
Soon I will be moving into a much larger space, a space that will just beg me to fill it up with stuff. I will be tempted. My challenge will be to continue to live simply while still having a comfortable, hospitable space into which I can invite guests. I will have to make decisions about things I can bring into the space - not because they fill it, but because I love them and they enhance my life. Hopefully the choices I make will also bring joy into the lives of those who come into my new home.