Simple living: What would you keep?

This morning there was a feature on the Today Show about a couple in Portland (with a very fun and interesting blog) who gave up all but 100 possessions, downsized to a 400 square foot apartment, and got rid of their car. See below:

http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/32545640

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Of course it got me thinking. We live in such a materialistic society… would we really be happier with less?

My husband has always said that he wants to live simply. And I love the idea, but to be honest, I also love stuff. How shallow am I? Ha! But for a while I have been wanting to clean house. So here's my top ten list of things that I absolutely would not give up if I were forced to get rid of everything else besides the bare essentials (which includes at least one car- we live in the most sprawling city in the country- not to mention the hottest!- so a car is a must- even more so with a baby!):

1. My iMac. I make my living by this thing- not to mention it houses all of our music and photographs!

2. My camera.

3. My sewing machine.

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4. My Amma's china set. She bought it one piece at a time while she was working hard and living in Iceland. Priceless!

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5. These two Bibles (yes, I'm cheating): the first I carried down the aisle on our wedding day. The second belonged to Mum Mum.

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6. The artwork that our friend Trish painted that was displayed at our wedding.

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7. My Hummell music box… it's beaten up and cracked and worth nothing to anyone but me, but I used to fall asleep to its music every night when I was a kid. It's now in LJ's room.

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8. This photo of Mum Mum and me.

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9. Henry. 

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10. This silhouette of Linnea:

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I'll tell you what, this exercise sure does make you realize how much crap is sitting around in your house that is completely ignored and also makes you realize that perhaps you don't need all this stuff after all. But then again, even though we could get rid of so many things and never miss them, it's hard to imagine a virtually empty house… my head might explode. Is that wrong? Maybe we need a smaller house so it will feel more full with only the things we need… hmmm… I don't know. Either way, I prefer to live in a home that has character because of its decor. Do I need the decor? Nope. But because it's something I personally love- to be surrounded by beauty- it's meaningful enough to me to warrant staying in my home. Cody and I also love entertaining- so that requires a fair amount of kitchen ware and enough place settings for everyone. It's all a matter of what your priorities are- and that's different for everyone.

It's the things sitting in my closet that I haven't seen in ages that I question. And lots of other things.

Stuff isn't what makes me happy ultimately… it isn't what makes anyone happy. My family and friends and the experiences we share together are what bring me joy, and I'm sure you would say the same of your own. I think it's about time to start cleaning out our closets, organizing, and passing along the things we don't really need to others who would appreciate and have a need for them.

So what are your thoughts on this? What are some of the things you would never give up?

p.s. I think I would die without a car in Portland. Have you BEEN there? SO MUCH TO DO AND EXPLORE.

The “New Normal.”

I'm seeing a lot of this "New Normal" business on the news shows on network TV lately. People living in tents, in motels, kids without shoes, etc. etc. "With the economy the way it is…" I'm really beginning to get tired of that statement. Yes, the economy sucks, and I am not one to deny its effects on many in our country, I promise. I've said it myself a time or two. But sometimes I think it's nothing more than a GIANT COP-OUT for anything that happens to a person these days. There comes a point when you have to take personal responsibility for the things that are or aren't happening to you. 

I've been a complainy, whiny mess lately. My hormones are off the charts and I don't handle feeling sick like a champ unlike some people. I try, but quite honestly, I fail. I am thankful for friends and family who let me vent, and understand, and have compassion, and am annoyed with the ones who do not. I am annoyed that my paychecks have been cut by more than half; in fact, I'm just annoyed with how that whole situation was handled, period. I am annoyed by things that are affecting us that are out of our hands.

I cannot, however, be annoyed by the things that I can control. And we can always control where the money that we do have goes. 

We live in a nation of absolute excess. My husband's income alone places us in the top 3.5% of earners in the world using that number. It feels so… ridiculous. That is an eye-opener, for sure. We both seek to be giving people, and giving should be a sacrificial and joyful thing. Nobody wants to receive something out of reluctance or obligation. It's scary to give when you aren't sure your own needs will be met. But it is what anyone with the title "Christian" is called to do, and God is faithful to provide when you show you trust Him to do so. 

My friend Amy posted a fantastic blog on this subject. I read it right after I woke up and it was such a timely read in the midst of all the stress and uncertainty we are living in now. Not because I believe in distribution of wealth (I'm not sure she necessarily does either, as she clarifies later in the comments); I believe that people who earn whatever they earn deserve to keep it and do with their income what they see fit. I also think giving and charity should be a huge part of what people do with their earnings, but it should not be forced on them. (OK, I'll spare you. I'm off my soapbox.) I enjoyed her post because it pointed out that we have to be responsible to the choices we made to get us to where we are now, and what can we ACTUALLY complain about? I can't complain about not being to pay for things if I'm out buying a new shirt at Anthropologie because I "deserve it" or even something as small as a $2.00 bag of Starbursts because I was craving them, as I did tonight, because every penny adds up these days. Never before has the reality of being really, and I mean REALLY, frugal hit me so squarely in the face. I realized that up until now, we were trying to be frugal, but we still allowed ourselves luxuries from time to time. Unless money starts magically appearing in our bank account, we simply cannot afford those luxuries anymore. 

And in a strange way, while still fearing it, I'm actually looking forward to it. 

There are things I've been missing out on in life. Laziness and fear have gotten the best of me. I don't feel like doing much RIGHT now, but once I start feeling better I don't want to miss out on life anymore. It's strange because I feel that in some way, by being forced to forego the little things we usually enjoy, like eating out, seeing a movie every now and then, or buying the latest book that gets our attention, we will find other, more meaningful ways to enjoy life. I can see how God would be teaching us and stretching us more than we ever thought possible during this time. I know that there will be times that I HATE going without; honestly, I always have. I would be lying if I said I didn't get pangs of envy when I serve some of these girls my age who come in with their friends and their giant diamond rings and cute outfits and fancy purses and Lexus key rings and order their salads and lattes without a care in the world. I've always had expensive taste- just ask my dad, or my husband 🙂 But going WITH those things makes a person lose perspective on the things that are really important. 

And I want more out of my life. And more for our new little life. I'll just be trusting God's provision along the way, more than ever before.