Friday, September 10, 2010

A Few Words, No Picture

I have enjoyed observing, and sometimes participating in this lovely little tradition of posting just a picture, no words, on a Friday. Well, this week I have so many words swirling around in my mind and no pictures. A mind full of exciting images: visits to an imaginative place for my eldest to spend a few mornings each week; time spent in my faith community, which is now also my place of employment, listening to people who I delight in calling my brothers and sisters in Christ; the homecoming of a dear relative who was far away. And a camera that is empty.

And so I return, no image, just a few words, to the contemplative practice I began last week of naming the things that have become the building blocks of our journey towards a simple life. I really enjoyed hearing from you all, so please keep chiming in!

11. Surround yourself with others that support and inspire you. I have found this to be of utmost importance. Because interdependence is at the core of what it means to be human. And when we surround ourselves with people who love and affirm the best within us, then we expand and blossom. Find others who search for value in people and not things. Find a friend to go to the thrift store with. Find someone who has small daily practices that inspire and challenge your own practices.

12. Wait to buy it. I have this little problem with searching craigslist. There's always a short list-- things that I am hoping to buy in the next few months (right now it's something like: a wooden play kitchen for the girls, a rug for our playroom, a balance bike). And here's the problem: when I find that particular thing for a good price on craigslist I become convinced that I was meant to purchase it. The stars have aligned, that rare and weird item is available, therefore I should buy it. I suppose some people feel this way with a sale at a store. But here's the revelation: if I wait for a couple of days, maybe a week, I have often forgotten about the item. If I haven't, then perhaps it's something that truly is necessary. But usually it's just consumerism sneaking into my life under the guise of resourcefulness.

13. Indulge in ways that provide a deep satisfaction. Our family has found that we really enjoy eating out from time to time-- nothing fancy, usually just a dinner at the local pizza joint, but we really look forward to it, enjoy the time with one another, and make the most of it. Eating out has become a sacred time. Make a list of the things you "splurge" on and cross out the things that aren't really important. Next time you are in a position to splurge, choose from one of the items that remain.

14. Keep your money in a jar. We did this during a particularly lean time while I was in graduate school and Ben had just started his first job; it was perfect. Every Sunday I took out $20 in cash in one dollar bills at the grocery store and put it in a jar in our kitchen. If Ben or I wanted to spend money (to get some coffee, go out to lunch, whatever) we dipped into the jar. And when the jar was empty, that was it. It's a discipline that we have fallen away from, but are eager to re-instate because it truly keeps your spending in check.

15. Humbly accept help. I had a huge realization last Advent that receiving is actually much more difficult than giving (thank you, William, Willimon!). Receiving a gift requires humility, a lack of control, an admission that we can't do it all. Giving leaves us in control, makes us feel good, makes others indebted to us. And receiving, not giving, is at the heart of the spiritual life. Perhaps appropriately, receiving is also at the heart of the simple life. Accept hand-me-downs, an offer by a good friend to watch your children, or a volunteer that will help you move your furniture. It makes you vulnerable, uncomfortable, and indebted, but also builds trust, avoids consumerism, and sets the stage for you to help in the future.

This list is growing, slowly but surely! Perhaps next week I could make a post entirely out of your suggestions. How have you been living simply?


Mom2fur said...

I sort of keep money in a jar, but not for weekly petty cash. I throw all the change I find in the washing machine in a jar, plus we do the same in the bedroom. Then I take it over to the Coinstar machine. I don't take a cash voucher because I refuse to pay 8 cents on the dollar. I get gift cards instead. I have one now for Borders book store for over $20. I did notice they offer an iTunes gift card, and my son and I both have iPods. Next time I plan to cash in for one of those and give it to Jamie for a birthday gift. It's hard to figure out what to give a 23-year-old and I'm sure he'll like it. It's like giving a gift that cost pennies and nickles, LOL!
We also try to wait for things. Frankly, if you're meant to have it, you'll have it. Waiting might mean finding it on the clearance rack!

Mom2fur said...

Hmmm...I think the coin is spelled "nickels," LOL!

Once Upon A Parent said...

While I always enjoy seeing your pictures I really really enjoy your words. They always seem to speak to me and today was no exception. You really made me think about receiving in a new way and oh how I wish I could be your thrifting buddy. I am craving some good thrifting, but am fighting the urge. I hope you all have a great weekend.

Sherri @ Design2Shine said...

Such wise words. Loved them! Especially about receiving. Which is HARD for me. Simply living - slow down and enjoy the little SIMPLE things: the sunrise, sunset. Watching the deer in the backyard. Taking a walk. Lunch in a park (to get me out of the office and not in a fast food joint). Another is I am really enjoying making random photos. Makes me slow down and really appreciate what I am looking at through the lens.

eKay said...

Someone told me the other day that the world wants and does love you. Another part of understanding how to live simply, like you so elegantly stated in #1 and #2 the # about giving (i forgot already!) is to let the world love you. I was talking down the path to my office the other day and there were some bushes that were a bit over grown. As the branches reached into the space of the sidewalk and gently touched the fabric of my pants I tried to concretely feel that this was the world reaching out her loving arms to get me through yet another day in an office. Keep the words coming, my friend!

Anna said...

Oh, this is so good! And #12? I am so with you on this one.

Lauren Oliver said...

I love your eloquent thoughts for # 15.

sara said...

These posts have stuck with me in such a profound way that I keep revisiting them and pondering over your words.

Thank you so much for digging into this topic and sharing your thoughts. It has given me so much to question and think about how and why we spend our days the way we do.

As always, you keep me coming back for more!