Friday, May 8, 2015

Living with Less - the beginning of a journey towards contentment


I think St. Francis is one of the most amazing people that has ever walked this earth and his life of holy poverty inspires me. However, I'm not catholic, and I really like being a secular - you know, married with a job and such - so pondering his views and leading a life of contentment are where I tend to camp. Sometimes, I like to call myself a Third Order Franciscan. Third Order Franciscans were men and women who couldn't meet the requirements of being a monk or nun: they were already married, for instance, or had a job they didn't want to leave, but they were really interested in living a holy life full of charity, like St. Francis.

When I first got out of college, I took the first job that I was offered. Actually, it was the only job I applied for. And it was only part time. There are probably reasons that my mom didn't think my choice to stay in Nashville was wise.

I worked in a paint store, flinging buckets, mixing colors and giving people advice on how to match their living room walls to their couch pillows (the only area that my degree came in handy in that job, despite my title as "Color Consultant"). Since I had a college degree, they generously offered me an hourly wage just over $10, told me not to tell the other employees I was starting at that, and scheduled me for over 20 and under 32 hours a week, depending on the week. Soon after taking that job, I moved into my own apartment with my amazing roommate Krista - and suddenly had substantial rent, grocery bills, electricity and internet to pay.

After taxes, I made between $900 and $1100 a month.

And I felt rich.

And then, my hours got cut. The most our boss was allowed to assign his part time employees was 27 hours - and we were required to take an unpaid lunch break if we worked more than 6 in a day.

I remember panicking. I had just started sponsoring a compassion child. I still had rent and groceries. I needed an emergency fund. I needed to save money for important stuff.

And that's when I got the not-so-subtle spiritual memo that I might need to reconsider my views on possessions. This was not the difference between food and rent. This was the difference between buying Tresemme and buying store brand hair gel; the difference between shopping at Kroger and shopping at Aldi; the difference between Starbucks once a week and Starbucks once a month. This was the difference between giving out of my abundance and real charity.

I don't know exactly when I realized that I was called to just trust God with my needs and wants and be more generous with what I had, but I know it's become an increasingly strong conviction over the last 3 years. I am convicted that my possessions are not mine, but God's. They are only mine on loan and I will have to give an account for how I used them. I am convicted that by hoarding up "my" stuff, I am doing myself and others a disservice. And I am convinced that if I set the last piece of some delicious food aside for myself, or I hide my favorite snack in the back of the cupboard so I won't have to share, it will go bad before I get to it, or worse, I suddenly won't have the appetite for it. (I think this may be a law of the universe. Or maybe God just likes pointing out how selfish I am in ways that amuse Him.) Sometimes, I call these convictions the mindset of holy poverty - or of being a third order Franciscan - or of aparigraha (non-possession, yoga yama style) - or of minimalism. You can call it whatever you want to, but for me it boils down to these three things:

Trust

Contentment

Living with less

I am learning to do all three of those things, and most recently, I have been exploring living with less by reevaluating my closet. In the next couple of posts, I'll be sharing what I've learned about reducing my wardrobe and how I'm in the process of narrowing my personal style into capsule wardrobe mode.

Adventure is out there - and it's better when you're not dragging lots of baggage.



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