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?