I wasn’t thinking about a reality show starring Paris Hilton and Nicole Richie when I titled this “The Simple Life.” What I’m talking about is decluttering our personal belongings, or should I say stuff, and then simplifying our minds to achieve the life we want.
I wanted to blog about the beauty of the simple life that sometimes, we can all easily forget because we have so much. We can get caught up in trying to keep up and in the midst of the simple life, our life becomes complicated for no other reason but by our own choices.
This summer I spent many hours going through closets, storage areas, and finding items that I no longer have a need for. This was far overdue and thus, seemed to take up a lot of my summer. I couldn’t help but be disappointed in myself that I didn’t donate items sooner.
I mean…someone could have used these items.
It can be hard to let go of things, but the older I have gotten; the easier it has become to simply let go. It’s also nice knowing that someone else may be able to use what was just sitting in my storage closet. I have to admit this brought internal peace in accepting I needed to let things go.
It actually got overwhelming when I would find a mysterious looking brown box and realize I hadn’t done anything with it since I moved to this home which was years ago. I had lived all these years without knowing this box existed, so why not just donate everything in it? But, of course, I went through it and started to put a few items to use and then donated the majority of it.
I believe we can get attached to material possessions at times, and the truth is, we can’t take them with us. So, if we just keep up on decluttering our closets and storage spaces, we can simplify what we have, which I believe also simplifies our minds.
This summer, I had the privilege of taking a weekend trip to Mankato, Minnesota with my mom. It was one of the true highlights of my summer for so many reasons. We visited a convent where the School Sisters of Notre Dame live. When we arrived at the convent, Sr. Jovanne and Sr. Jacinta immediately greeted us. They both had this welcoming smile that brightened up the room. They gave us a big hug and it felt as if I had known them my whole life. I felt this immediate calmness because the outside noise just seemed to disappear in the lobby of the motherhouse. It was quiet; there was a history there and a real purpose of service.
I like to look at my trip to Mankato as a retreat, a special time to refresh and spend time in contemplation. I was able to temporarily leave behind the usual distractions we all face at home and focus on inner change and things I can do to better myself. I spent time focusing on simplifying my mind and prioritizing the things that are most important to me.
There were no dishes that needed to be loaded in the dishwasher, floors to be scrubbed, bathrooms to clean, laundry to be done, texts to respond to, phone calls and emails to get back with. So, for me, it made what I would consider at times to be a complex life, so simple.
I spent time listening to what they do and how they live their lives. They have so little because they take a vow of poverty, but they are truly joyful women living out a fulfilling purpose. I believe we all need to fill a purpose, a real self worth about the way we spend our days here in this life.
I asked Sr. Jovanne if all of the sisters get along?
She looked at me with this little chuckle and a smile and said, “we are just like you, we’re human.” She then held my hand and said, “Angela, 160 women in one convent, now you tell me, do you think we all get along?” I have to say, I hold such a high regard for anyone in a religious order, but I was reminded, at that moment, that we are all human.
We already know obstacles will come into our lives because we can’t control anything around us. So, why do we seem to clutter our lives with so many material items, which only seem to complicate our lives more? We really make it harder on ourselves; I realized this first hand when I saw how little they had in their room with a bed, small closet, and a writing desk. Their rooms were neat, organized, decluttered because they have only what they need.
It was difficult for me to leave as I walked the grounds on my own sipping my coffee. It was so serene, and the plentiful gardens were all so well kept. I met so many wonderful women that weekend. I met Sister Anne who did intricate and inspirational woodworking. I met another sister who was into ceramics and restoring items sent to her from other churches all over the world. These are just some of the talented women who took on hobbies once they retired from teaching and tutoring. Many of the sisters still tutor and read to the blind. They want to be a part of something much bigger than themselves. One of the sisters had this poster on her wall which read:
“Live Simply so others can Simply Live” Mahatma Gandhi
After leaving that weekend, I knew a seed had been planted that it’s okay to have things, but if they are sitting around our homes serving no purpose other than to add clutter, it keeps us from simplifying our lives.
I think we can all say we know of people, maybe even ourselves, that use material items to fill the void in our own lives. The fact is, the voids are filled when we give service to others and relationships are formed.
As I was saying goodbye, I couldn’t help but feel disappointed that my time had concluded. Sister Jacinta reminded me to be grateful for my time, take it back with me, and she would be praying for me and asked me to pray for her.
If you could have told me a year ago that I was coming up on some really terrible news personally and my health would be threatened, I would have never guessed that the last year could be so difficult. However, out of the suffering I have been given a purpose much bigger than myself. I was shown comfort and love by this amazing community, and I am now a part of this beautiful ministry of women who have felt the demise of breast cancer.
I love the idea of decluttering to live the life you want; the life that fills you with joy.
In conclusion, I think there was a direct correlation between decluttering my home and decluttering my mind. It made room for the items and relationships that really matter in filling me with joy.
Albert Einstein said it best, “Out of clutter find simplicity. From discord, find harmony. In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
Try the simple life, you just might find a more joyful you.