"And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment."
Graphic Design by Zach Smith
I felt at times that I couldn't breathe — my clutter was controlling me, hovering over like a drone, controlling my every move. Piles of papers here and there, my clothes hanging in two separate closets. Books filled the ten bookcases in our two story home, many of them unread.
And my schedule! I felt pulled in all four directions, ready to split open. Rushing here and there — I had convinced myself I had to be everywhere for everyone, but unfortunately, least of all for myself. I couldn't decide where to focus next — on the stacks of articles I had cut out, or the emails from my personal and business account I must open. No breathing room to read a magazine or a few pages in a novel.
And although I was fairly disciplined with social media, even that was a distraction. As an author, I needed to be on social media, but six — posting each day on all of them?
What had I done to myself?!
All my life, I have loved to travel. It's a source of inspiration to me. Especially as a writer. But this past year, due to our financial situation, I have not had the opportunity. And it's been extremely difficult to be content. How will I get my inspiration? My joy?
That's why, in 2020, my word for the year is CONTENTMENT. I desire to be fully content with whatever God has in store for me. My guiding verses are:
"Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for He hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." Hebrews 13:5
"Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me." Philippians 4:11-13 (ESV)
Well, in being content, I found little ways to inspire me that were within my reach—
— Going on short ”author’s dates” to local museums or events.
— Visiting little-known buildings, sites, or towns with historical significance.
— Watching historical fiction.
And then, I was asked to become a blogger on Midwest Almanac site, reporting about places in my state to explore. What an opportunity! Yes, this would add to my schedule, but it also fed my love of travel and developed writing skills.
That's what I had to decide. What were my main goals in life, keeping in mind the gifts God had given me? Pondering that thought, these three stood out:
— Fostering relationship with God and His Word.
— Encouraging my own family and those in my church body.
— Developing my writing skills and sharing them with the world.
Everything I did from now on had to reflect and further those goals. . .
Simplicity was my word for 2018. I was dedicated to cutting the clutter and making room for creativity to blossom and grow — and freeing up time to write for the glory of God. Every word.
I asked myself: Will what I’m about to think or do help me achieve my goal? I must chip away at anything that is unnecessary, to reveal what is most important — that ‘one thing.’
- Too much time online. Do I need to watch all those episodes in the next few days? Keep up with my friends three times a day on social media? Or chase every link in an email? Probably not. So, I made the choice to go on social media once a day.
- Anything that clouds my vision, or distracts me. Things that steal my peace. I want to breathe freely! Things like a too-busy schedule. Do I really need to attend all those meetings? Each event I’m invited to? I looked at my goals. Will doing all the things on my schedule help me to reach them? Or do they work in conflict? I needed to leave room to breathe!
- What about unnecessary shopping trips? Do I pass a resale shop or clothing store and stop, just in case they might have a scarf to match my latest outfit? (Yep. I'm guilty) Or, do I wander through three grocery stores to search out the best deals? Is saving a few dollars worth the hassle?
If possible, I vowed to go out of the house only once a day. Or run just one errand after work. Or, attempt to combine errands in one location to save time and energy.
- Do I purchase things I don’t really need? Can I use two blenders at once? Wear three black skirts in one week? Do I need another pillow on my couch? Or a set of dishes for every season or holiday?
I was struck with the contrast between this Indian family below from Peter Menzel's book, Material World and the sum total of their worldly possessions. Now that's simplicity. If a fire consumed all they owned, it would be unfortunate. But to lose their most precious possession, their children, would be devastating. I'm sure they treasure their irreplaceable gifts most highly.
Although this photo below, captured in Menzel's book is from 1994, I'd say things haven't changed. If anything, we own more. But I must hand it to the Millennials who seem to have this Minimalist mentality down pat.
Why do humans have a need to collect? To buy? Maybe even to hoard?
Truth is, the more stuff we own, the more time and energy it takes to take care of them. I was determined to declutter a drawer at a time — and vow to get rid of one item for each I purchased.
Is it my goal to outdo Martha Stewart? Will my friends notice if I simplify my centerpiece or offer only two side dishes? Or (for heaven’s sake) care if I order out healthy fare once in a while?
I don’t think so. They would much rather have a happy hostess! I have two easy-to-prepare meals (one for spring/summer and the other for fall/winter) I can serve without stressing out.
I wonder if I expect everything in my life to turn out perfectly? If I really and truly examined my heart, I'd have to say yes. I do. Well, it's not going to happen. Sorry. Not in this life anyway. That's the purpose of storing treasures in Heaven - to enjoy them forever!
I need to be willing to lower my standards when perfection is not required. My loved ones will still support me, especially if I explain my need to simplify (and I do, often). I may get that tiny house yet — but not until I get my hubby to agree!
Do I have too much on my mind? Do I feel so stressed I can’t think?
That tells me it's time to take a break! Here are a few simple ideas I've tried:
Taking a brisk walk- and breathing in the fresh air.
Reading a calming book or magazine.
Praying, meditating or reading (listening to) Bible passages.
Listening to an encouraging podcast.
Stopping for a cup of calming tea, a tall glass of lemon water, or piece of fresh fruit.
Inviting a friend out for tea.
Taking a detoxing mineral or essential oil bath.
Lying down with cucumbers over my closed eyelids and listening to dreamy music.
Doing something that calms my spirits — painting, baking or, believe it or not, decluttering.
Downloading the "Pigment" app and coloring away or being mesmerized by the "Silk" app.
Keeping a Gratitude List.
I am no where close to being a full minimalist, but I am on my way and down the road a ways. As each situation, possession, or decision comes my way, I now make it with a minimalist frame-of-mind.
What about you? Are you tired of the race? Want some peace? Consider cutting down the clutter in every aspect of your life. Give it to God. Your vision will be clearer, and your future, brighter!"
Jarm Del Boccio has a background in elementary and high school education, and served for seven years as a school librarian. Grateful for the opportunity, she taught three missionary kids in an isolated area of Papua New Guinea. She is part of SCBWI and American Christian Fiction Writers, and has published articles in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine."
Jarm is content with the journey God has placed her on, and lives with her husband, adult daughter and son (when he lands at home) in a tree-lined suburb of Chicago. You can connect on her author’s website/blog at Jarm Del Boccio.
"My Passion is to Make Scripture and History Come Alive for my Readers: Illuminating the Past. Making Sense of the Present. Offering Hope for the Future.” Jarm Del Boccio
“The Heart Changer,” her debut MG historical/biblical fiction, released with Ambassador International April 26, 2019.
Order "The Heart Changer" HERE!