In 2015, my family and I made the decision to begin downsizing every area of our lives. We cut back on and eliminated areas that were causing undue stress, gave up the need to continue running full-speed ahead, and assessed everything we owned.
By 2016, we were ready to put our 4-bedroom, 3 bath home with two acres on the market as we began to look ahead to the hope of a much simpler, less encumbered life. We sold our home, got rid of what felt like a ton of excess—about 90% of our physical possessions, moved to a place we have loved for many years, and opted to rent instead of buying another home.
After “owning” two homes and feeling enslaved to mortgage debt for much of our 30 years of marriage, my husband and I are finding a rare and deep sense of peace walking through life unbound to earthly things and liberated from the need to squeeze into the mold of materialism and the expectation of others. Never has that sense of peace appeared more evident to me than a few weeks ago.
My husband, our son, and I were faced with the necessity of being gone for an extended period to care for my ailing, elderly mother-in-law who lives out of state. A few days after we left home, the outer bands of Hurricane Florence came through the vicinity of our hometown, bringing rainy and windy weather conditions that were far less severe than the brunt of the storm, but still concerning to us as we watched the Weather Channel and kept up with what was going on.
As I watched, I realized that there was very little I was worried about at home. I began to think about how fretful I used to be when we were gone from home and how I would envision all sorts of things happening to all of our “stuff”. I cringed as I thought of how much time, energy, and money we have poured into purchasing, maintaining, and worrying about the mass of excess we had accumulated over the years.
The night before we were to leave to come back home, a neighbor called and left a voicemail asking us to call her. We were finally able to connect during our trip home the next day, and she told me that the French doors that lead to our son’s upstairs bedroom balcony had been standing wide open for two weeks! I could hardly believe what she was telling me! My first knee-jerk reaction was to panic and start to imagine the wide spectrum of things that could have happened to and inside our home. Obviously, the hurricane winds had blown open the doors, and if they were strong enough to do that, what else had they blown into or pulled out of our son’s room? Had the hurricane rains blown in and soaked the floor? Had birds or insects or bats flown inside our home?
These, along with many other thoughts ran rampant through my mind in those moments of travel, being a few hundred miles from home, unable to see inside our house or know what may or may not have happened, but in the midst of all, I had an epiphany. I was worried, yes, and there was a lot of concern going on in our car as we discussed the possibilities, but it was nowhere near the intensity of overwhelm we would have experienced just a few, short years ago. We own very little compared to what we used to own, and our perspective has been so completely transformed that our hearts are not set on the few things still in our possession. It hit me with force that there really wasn’t too much to be concerned about. I cannot put into words how comforting the knowledge of that truth was to me during those anxious hours driving home!
The three of us bowed our heads and prayed and trusted that everything was okay, and we sent up gratitude that we did not find out there was a problem one second sooner than we did. While we were caring for my mother-in-law, she went through some very tough health challenges, and there were times we were unsure as to whether she would live or die. It was already a very stressful and uncertain time, and we were beyond grateful that there had been a delay in our neighbor being able to contact us until just a few hours before we got home.
When we arrived, our hearts overflowed with gratitude to find that, other than a handful of insect intruders, all was exactly the way we left it. We could not have been more thankful.
Here are a few key points I took away from this experience.
1. The less you have, the less you have to worry about.
2. If you don’t have your heart set on something, it is much easier to deal with the thought of losing it.
3. The most important things in life are not things. Stuff can become way too important to us. The people we love matter most, and as long as they are okay, all is well.
4. Corrie Ten Boom said, “Hold everything in your hands lightly. Otherwise, it hurts when God pries your fingers open.”
5. There is great comfort in the fact that we are automatically being cared for even when we don’t know we need to be.
When we started our minimizing journey, it seemed insurmountable. The peace of mind we have found in owning less and no longer having as much to feel an obligation to worry about has been a precious and completely unexpected reward.
It has made every, single step of the journey worth the climb.