3 April 2019

Living Simply; Going Minimalist?

  Having just gone through a major decluttering of our house, I've spent some time watching various videos to get myself organized and motivated. Whether it's the tiny house movement, capsule wardrobes or downsizing, everyone seems to be talking about minimalism. But does decluttering mean we're becoming minimalists?

Our downsizing journey

 I think this best defines minimalism: Living simply, focusing on relationships and experiences rather than 'stuff'. Most of us would say our relationships are more important than our belongings, but does that mean we have to discard all creature comforts to live simply?

 When we started decluttering our home, it wasn't with the goal of becoming minimalist.  We simply wanted to get to a place where we can live debt free and with fewer expenses, and less stress. That means downsizing to a smaller home with no mortgage and lower taxes. Having lived the past 6 1/2 years in what I would call my dream home, I've come to realize there are a lot of things I thought I wanted but don't necessarily need. The idea of having a garden door from our master bedroom onto the deck sounded wonderful. In reality, we seldom use it. A walk-in closet seemed a necessity, but do I really need that much clothing? I love having an ensuite, but do I really need it? I grew up in a house with just one bathroom for 10 people. In fact, we even had an outhouse when I was a child! Our society has programmed us to think we need all of these extras. Just watch any decorating show, and see how people react when they enter a master bedroom that doesn't have a walk-in closet or an ensuite that doesn't have his and hers sinks. I'm not saying I want to go back to having an outhouse, but I know we can survive without three bathrooms!

Our Downsizing Journey

 But the minimalist movement often goes to the other extreme, paring down belongings to the bare minimum. Many people who tout the minimalist life have a lifestyle of travel and socializing outside their home. This is not us! We are homebodies and enjoy the comforts of a home. When deciding what to part with, some would say we should ask, "Do I need this?" Well, I probably don't need all the books I have, but I enjoy having them, even if I've already read them all once or twice! I'm also sentimental; I like having items that have been handed down from my parents and grandparents. I guess Marie Kondo's question, "Does this spark joy?" would apply here. I don't use the vases and old dishes I've hung onto, but I love the memories they bring to mind. I also don't NEED three dogs, but I would certainly miss them if they were gone!  

Our downsizing journey

  Everyone is going to have a different take on what living simply means. For some it's homesteading; raising animals, growing their own food, possibly living off grid. For others, it's buying a motorhome and travelling across the country.  It's just a matter of finding what works best for our own life circumstance. It really is all about determining our priorities, deciding what our goals are and making a plan to get there.

 You can follow our downsizing journey here or on our FB page Living Our Lives Well, where we'll be posting updates as we search for a house and make it our new home.

1 March 2019

Just Put One Foot In Front Of the Other

  Having come to the end of the monumental task of decluttering our home, I thought it fitting to share this story...

My dad grew up near Miami, Manitoba, at the foot of a huge hill, called Mount Nebo. One day a neighbour commented that he was so tired, he felt like he had just moved Mount Nebo with a wheelbarrow. That statement somehow grew into a favourite saying of my mom’s, and one that my husband quotes quite frequently, 
“You can move a mountain with a wheelbarrow, just put one foot in front of the other.” 

  Now when Mom said this she meant it literally! Over the years, as she landscaped the yard and tended the garden, she did it without the aid of a tractor or other machinery. Although she probably went through many shovels, rakes and wheelbarrows, her simple tools served her well for almost sixty years.

Brian has learned to apply Mom’s expression to any job that requires some effort or tenacity. Our oldest daughter still remembers hearing this advice when she was a child, and we were landscaping our own yard. 

One day, my brother said to Brian, “You’ve really taken that saying to heart…...when I heard it I figured forget the wheelbarrow, rent a backhoe!” 
I suppose there are times when my brother’s solution is the best way to tackle a chore, but for most situations in life, Mom and Brian have found the right approach. There is no short cut, no easy way out, and no magic formula. 

What is required is a commitment to the task at hand; whether it’s gardening, building a house (or a church), raising children, or simply living the Christian life. 

Hard work need not be drudgery; Mom loved working in her yard, improving the soil and planting. Her reward was sitting on a garden bench at the end of the day, surrounded by the fruits of her labours. 

Somehow, I don't think she would have gotten as much pleasure from the end result if someone else had done all the work.

So, as I go about my day, I remind myself, “Just put one foot in front of the other,” and as long as I keep my eyes on the Lord, I can trust him to direct each step that I take.

Proverbs 31:31 Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.

Proverbs 13:19a The desire accomplished is sweet to the soul:

27 February 2019

Decluttering; Laying Aside Every Weight

 My parents lived on the same property for 61 years; first a small house, then one they had built. I can't imagine how much stuff I could have accumulated if we`d stayed in one place that long! My kids should be thankful that we've moved 18 times in 38 years! And even more thankful that I'm not leaving all of our stuff for them to clean up.

 Knowing that we would be downsizing in the near future, I started decluttering. It wasn't until pictures started coming up in FB memories that I realized just how long I'd been at it! Here I am a year later, finally at the end of what has been a very long but satisfying journey. I thought I'd share a little of the process here.

Laying Aside Every Weight

 Last winter, I started with a few simple areas, going through kitchen cabinets and getting rid of old dishes, coffee mugs and just plain junk that had accumulated. For anyone just starting out, this is probably a fairly easy place to begin, although even in the kitchen you'll find items that hold sentimental value...I still have a few mugs that I can't part with, even though they are old and chipped.
 These two in particular, the first one was a gift from my sister, Victoria, many years ago. The second, a gift to Brian from one of our kids. 

Laying Aside Every Weight

 If you're wanting to declutter, but just can't get going, start small. Here's a list of some of the easier items and spaces I went through:

  • Linen closet
  • Bathroom drawers
  • Pantry,
  • Kitchen cabinets, drawers, junk drawer
  • Desk drawers
  • Games and toys
  • Hats, toques, mitts...really, how many toques can a person wear?

 If you're sentimental like me, you can see why even the kitchen can be a difficult room to declutter. Why I moved on to my parent's collection of vintage vases and antique dishes, I have no idea! 

Laying Aside Every Weight
JUST the vintage vases

  So the collectibles are mostly packed away in boxes until I have time to decide what I`ll keep or give to family members, and then advertise the rest for sale! 

 Fast forward to fall of 2018 and I knew it was time to do major decluttering if we were going to have our house ready to list. I happened upon Marie Kondo's Tidying Up on Netflix. I binge-watched most of the episodes and got the motivation I needed to get to work.  I have to say, there were some things on Tidying Up that I just found strange...I don't have the time or inclination to thank my belongings as I toss them into a garbage bag! I really just needed to see other people declutter their homes to get motivated. I've also watched a few episodes of Buried Alive just to keep me going! haha 

 I also didn't follow the same order that Marie suggests, other than to start by putting all of my clothing on the bed. Even though I got rid of a lot of clothing last year when I lost weight, I guess I still held onto a lot of things I never wear. I was surprised at how big the pile was!

Laying Aside Every Weight



My give away bag. Brian had one even bigger! 
Avalie is wondering what`s going on!

 I spend an inordinate amount of time now just looking at my closet and marvelling at how neat and tidy it is...a work of art, really.

 The most helpful I tip I learned from the show was Marie's way of folding clothing, especially t-shirts. It's so much easier to see what I have when they're not all stacked on top of each other. 

Laying Aside Every Weight

I guess not much 'sparked joy' for Brian...he went from two full dresser drawers to about 6 shirts!

 From clothing, I moved on to the harder stuff.....paper. Who knew how many nooks and crannies of a house can be filled with paper?! A box labelled 'Office'...had been in our storage room since we moved here 6 1/2 years ago. It contained check stubs from I don't even want to know how many years ago, every foster care course I ever took over the past 30 years, info on various houses we've lived in, old utility bills...and on and on. Good thing we own a paper shredder!

 Going through the storage room, I came across another box, labelled 'Cottage' from when we lived in Mom and Dad's cottage while we built our house...not this house...a different one in 2003! Somehow it just got moved along and never sorted. Obviously, anything packed away that long could be tossed!

 Several boxes were filled with old photos and the negatives. I sorted through those and tossed all the negatives and a lot of blurry photos!

 Then I came to books and homeschool supplies. When I start throwing away my kids' school work that I've kept for over 30 years you know I'm serious about decluttering! 

  It was hard to get started on this whole process, but once I got going, I was ruthless! And I actually ended up enjoying it...although the day I threw my kids' school work out, I must admit, I was exhausted that evening. I'm not sure if it was from the lingering effects of the flu or if I was just emotionally drained from the trauma of it all! Of course, there were sentimental items that were a little tougher to part with...I came across sandwich bags with little teeth, others filled with hair, some with no name! I tucked them all back into their box. The next day I started to think maybe I should just dig them back out and throw them in the garbage, but they`re still packed away....baby steps. 

 Still, it felt good to clear out so much stuff I didn't need to hold onto. My house has never been so clean and organized, and somehow more peaceful.

Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us, 
Hebrews 12:1

 I'm not saying that 'stuff' is necessarily sinful, but it sure can weigh you down, and I'm ready to take the next step of our journey feeling a lot lighter.

Thank you for joining me on this journey. I hope I`ve helped motivate and encourage you in your own process. Happy deluttering! 

1 January 2019

My Verse For 2019, Isaiah 40:31

 Like most years, I hadn't given any thought to what my verse for 2019 might be. Most years it comes to me during a message near the end of the year, so I assumed it would be the same this year. Then I got sick. I have not been sick with anything more than a minor sore throat in over a year and a half, and I would have been quite happy to continue that streak! But mid-December, the flu hit...not just a cold or sore throat...no, I have no doubt this was influenza. I had not experienced anything like this for about 15 years. I remember because Justin was about seven and he was so sick he slept on our bedroom floor. Every night I promised him he'd be better the next day...and every morning he'd wake up and say, "You said I'd be better today!" I thought of that many mornings the past couple of weeks when I woke up sure I'd be better just to find that I wasn't....and I was as miserable as Justin had been!

They that wait upon the Lord

 But as I lay in bed one day, unable to find the energy to move, but also unable to get a good night's sleep, a word came to me...Rest. At the same time, a song began running through my mind. It's one that our first pastor, Ed Johnson, used to sing. Of course, it's called Rest! These are some of the lyrics:

Rest, the Lord is near
Refuse to fear, enjoy His love
Trust, His mighty power
Fills every hour, of all your days
There is no need
For needless worry
With such a Savior
You have no cause to ever
Doubt, His perfect Word
Still reassures, in any trial
Rest, the Lord is there
Lift up your prayer
For He is strong
Trust, He’ll bring release
And perfect peace, will calm your mind

 I wish I'd had the energy to write down all the thoughts that came to me at the time...but then again it may have just been the fever that made me think I had some really deep thoughts! I think the jist of it was that every year, even though I don't make new year's resolutions, I go into the new year wanting to be better...to do more.  And every year, I fail to meet my own expectations of whatever this illusive 'more' is. 

I'm reminded of what Paul said in Romans 7:15,24,25 For that which I do I allow not: for what I would, that do I not; but what I hate, that I do. O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin.

 All my striving to be more consistent, more determined, more whatever is all ME and my strength, or lack of, when all I really need to do is rest....rest in Jesus, trust in his word, his strength, his power, his love.

Several days later, when I was starting to feel a little better, I started to think about what verse might best embody this word REST, and it came to me in the chorus of a song I wrote many years ago, Come and Rest.

They that wait upon the Lord

©Deborah Bolack 2006

Come and rest a little while
by the water so serene.
The peace will bring a smile,
as you sit at Jesus feet.
They that wait upon the Lord,
shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint,
they that wait upon the Lord.

Leave your burdens and your worries
in the Saviour’s caring hands,
and walk beside still waters through
this dry and thirsty land.
They that wait upon the Lord,
shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint,
they that wait upon the Lord.

Bring your worship to the Lord.
Lift your voice and sing his praise.
You’ll find your burdens leaving,
when you glorify his name.
They that wait upon the Lord,
shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint,
they that wait upon the Lord.

Give your heart to serving Jesus,
and he’ll guide you through this life.
You’ll know peace and contentment,
with the Saviour by your side.
They that wait upon the Lord,
shall renew their strength.
They shall mount up with wings as eagles.
They shall run and not be weary,
and they shall walk and not faint,
they that wait upon the Lord.

They that wait upon the Lord.

Isaiah 40:31 But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings as eagles; they shall run, and not be weary;  and they shall walk and not faint
Psalm 23:2 He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
Psalm 63:1-3 O God, thou art my God; early will I seek thee: my soul thirsteth for thee, my flesh longeth for thee in a dry and thirsty land, where no water is; To see thy power and thy glory, so as I have seen thee in the sanctuary. Because thy lovingkindness is better than life, my lips shall praise thee.

31 December 2018

Reflecting On 2018

 Back in December of 2009 I started writing a review of the year. It was an idea I found on someone else's blog, and it seemed like a good way to sum up the year. As much as I may think I'll remember when certain events occurred, it's been nice to have this record to look back on over the years...and so I continue with this year's installment.