Image "My Friend" by Helen Thomas Robson (Used by Permission)
Minimalism from a Biblical Point of View —

Biblical Minimalism is "a complete, whole-person release of anything unlike Jesus, a letting go of everything that hinders us from following Him wholeheartedly and single-mindedly, and a relinquishing of all that brings us under bondage to this earthly, very temporary life." Cheryl E. Smith

Monday, May 31, 2021

Mid-Life Minimizing

Photo by Eldar Nazarov

“Make the most of every opportunity in these evil days."  Ephesians 5:16 (NLT)

Mom often told me, “Cheryl, none of us came here to stay always.”  It used to bother me when she said that because I could not even imagine living life without her and Dad.  Losing them was one of my biggest fears for as far back as I can remember.  Now I stand on the other side of that fear becoming reality, and my husband, Kevin, and I find ourselves around the same age my parents were when we first met.  How did we get here?  It seems like the years have flown, and it is near unbelievable to me that we could have reached "mid-life" so quickly.

Now in our 50’s and married for nearly 33 years, Kevin and I approach minimizing from a middle-aged perspective.  The viewpoint and priorities we share today are vastly different from when we began our life together, and while I wish we had known then what we know now, I will be eternally grateful we learned early enough to pass on these truths to our son, Zach.

It is far better to not accumulate in the first place.  

About a year and a half after Kevin and I were married, my sister and her husband came to visit us from out of town, and upon seeing our apartment and possessions, my brother-in-law commented that it took most couples years to accumulate the amount of stuff we already had after only being married for a short time.  At the time, his words felt like a compliment.  Now, I realize we were setting a precedent that would cause remorse and frustration for us later.  I once heard someone say that we spend the first years of married life accumulating and the next stage trying to get rid of what we have accumulated.  I find a lot of truth in that statement and tip my hat to young singles and newly married couples who have already adopted a minimalist lifestyle.  "And He (Jesus) said unto them, 'Take heed and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.'" Luke 12:15

Mortality is common to us all.

Nothing made me realize that more than standing by the bedsides of both of my dying parents.  They were resilient and had always bounced back from their many health struggles, but death finally came, despite their strong determination to live.  As I mourned in the aftermath of losing them, I realized I, too, will one day leave this world, and just as I entered it with nothing, so I will leave.  Amassing excessive possessions proves to have been a futile endeavor in the end.  "For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out." I Timothy 6:7

There is no time like the present.

As a middle-aged couple, we are starting to see some of the progressing health issues our parents struggled with, and along with that comes the realization that time to do the things we have dreamed of is limited, open windows of opportunity won’t stay that way forever, and sometimes there is no second chance.  When presented with the option of doing something we love and enjoy, we are much more likely to seize upon those opportunities now and not put off until tomorrow what we can cherish together today.  The wisdom in choosing experiences over things has never been clearer to us.  "Walk in wisdom toward them that are without, redeeming the time." Colossians 4:5

The burden of debt is not worth what it costs.

There is a line in Bob Seger’s song, “Against the Wind,” that says, “I was living to run and running to live, never worried about paying or even how much I owed.”  During the years we were racking up credit cards and other types of debt, we honestly did not know the total amount of our indebtedness.  All we knew is we were living life in extreme bondage to those we owed money to, and the toll it was taking on us to keep things current and our excellent credit rating intact intensified as we got older.  It is a lot easier to live that way when you are young and strong and running against the wind than it is when you find yourself in the middle stage of life, with less time, health, and energy.  We are more patient now and have learned that nothing is worth being indebted to acquire.  "The borrower is servant to the lender." Proverbs 22:7

Some things are too heavy to carry.

When we were young, we didn’t pay attention to how heavy a piece of furniture was when we bought it.  Now, the weight of something is the most important factor we consider when making a purchase.  I used to carry around a ton of emotional baggage, worry about what people said and thought, and was so concerned with pleasing others I ran myself ragged.  Through the hard realities of aging and an extremely painful ulcer, I have come to understand that carrying that kind of weight is every bit as detrimental as lifting a cumbersome piece of furniture.  I simply cannot do it anymore, so I had to let it go. "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

What we hold onto affects someone other than ourselves.

When we began accumulating possessions, there were only two of us.  Now, there are three, and as Kevin and I make minimizing decisions, our son, Zach, is front and center in our minds.  We are becoming steadily more concerned about how the things we are keeping will affect him after we are gone.  Do we want to leave him with precious memories or laden with stuff?  Our stuff.  Stuff that he may have no interest in or even understand why we kept.  Our concern for him often influences our minimizing decisions and lends a confirming measure of common sense.  "Yea, I hated all my labor which I had taken under the sun: because I should leave it unto the man that shall be after me." Ecclesiastes 2:18

Stuff that used to serve us in one way, can now serve us in another.

As we get older, our physical abilities sometimes restrict us from activities we used to enjoy.  When this happens, it is counterproductive to hold onto things we can no longer use when selling them may contribute to something that is important to us now, in this season.  Recently, unexpected expenses arose regarding our next book around the same time Kevin began considering selling the fishing equipment he has been collecting for years. It was a hard decision for him—many memories were attached, and my heart broke for him when he told me he was going to sell everything and apply the money toward our book expenses.  But it just made sense to him—he no longer does any fishing or has easy access to a good fishing spot, and the book is very close to all three of our hearts.  It all sold immediately, and our problem was solved.  "But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus." Philippians 4:19

Though middle age is a challenging phase in life’s journey, it provides the opportunity to make necessary adjustments, live out the lessons we have learned, and pass the insight on to those who walk behind us.

Saturday, March 6, 2021

How Minimalism Simplifies the Cleaning Process for Me

"The aged women likewise, that they be in behaviour as becometh holiness, not false accusers, not given to much wine, teachers of good things; that they may teach the young women to be sober, to love their husbands, to love their children, to be discreet, chaste, keepers at home, good, obedient to their own husbands, that the word of God be not blasphemed."  Titus 2:3-5

First of all, I want to apologize for going AWOL from this blog for such a long time.  Life has been busy, and lots of stress has deterred inspiration and the motivation to write.  But, here I am, back again with a post that I hope will be a blessing to you.  You can also find it at No Sidebar by clicking HERE.  Thank you for your patience and faithfulness to follow this blog.  The posts may be sporadic, but each one of them comes from the heart.

Secondly, I want to be fully transparent concerning my weight loss endeavors, since I shared about it here before.  I wish I could say they have been a success, but after all this time, that is just not the case.  I was faithful to my commitment to intermittent fasting from July through December of 2020, only to find that I had lost just a few pounds at the end of that process.  I am not giving up.  I am still trying hard every, single day, and I look forward to the day I can post a victory announcement that I have finally reached my weight loss goal.  Until then, I press on.

Now, for that latest post.



Sometimes, it is hard to see the benefits of a life change until you have actually lived that life for a while.  Then, you can look back and assess the differences with pristine, hindsight clarity.  

In our nearly 33 years of marriage, it has always been my heart’s desire to make sure our home is a welcoming, comforting place – a haven for my hard-working husband to come home to and a safe and clean environment for our son to grow up in.  It is my life’s work, mission, and calling to be the best keeper at home I can possibly be, and I find a lot of fulfillment and joy in the daily minutiae and work required to make that happen.  To be honest, mundane “chores” are some of my favorite things to do and standing over a soapy sink full of dishes is one of my ideal places to meditate and pray.  Over the years, I’ve done a lot of productive thinking standing in front of our kitchen sink, and I seldom use our dishwasher because doing that would rob me of something I find extremely fulfilling.

Today, as I straightened our room and made our bed, it occurred to me how much simpler it is to live out my life’s dream of keeping a clean, organized, ready-for-company house than it was five years ago.  Then, we were living in a mortgaged 4-bedroom, 3 bath house; every closet, drawer, shelf, and cupboard was pretty much filled to overflowing; and excess was oozing out of every nook and cranny of our home.  Now, we live in a rented 2-bedroom, 2 bath townhouse, have eliminated about 90% of our physical possessions, and there isn’t much in our home that we don’t love and use on a regular basis.  Comparing cleaning efforts now with then presents a stark and welcoming contrast.  

Here are some of the ways minimalism has made cleaning simpler for me.

1. Having less stuff, in and of itself, obviously reduces the amount of effort and energy required to keep things clean.  Less furniture means less dusting, less clothing and linens equals less laundry, etc.

2. Owning less means we require a smaller living space.  Less square footage equates to less sweeping, mopping, vacuuming, and overall cleaning. 

3. Less time spent cleaning means more time with my family, more time to help our son study for college exams, more time to devote to outreach endeavors, and more time doing the things we love and enjoy.  For example, having two bathrooms instead of three reduces my weekly deep cleaning time by about an hour.  That is an hour I can invest in the online Bible studies I so enjoy, in working on a blog post, or in editing and finishing my upcoming book.

4. Along the way, I have learned to stop buying multiple one-purpose cleaning products and to replace them with basic homemade, all-purpose cleansers.  Continual bombardment of consumerism-driven advertisers and marketing campaigns have convinced us we can only use each product for one specific purpose, i.e.., we have to buy a separate cleanser for toilets, sinks, showers, stovetops, countertops, and floors.  The truth is a homemade glass cleaner solution of water, peroxide, alcohol, dishwashing liquid, and vinegar works great for windows, mirrors, and interim touch-ups, and a homemade multi-purpose cleaning solution of equal parts dishwashing liquid and vinegar covers deep cleaning and most of the rest.  A dab of body wash or shampoo is perfect for wiping down shower stalls, takes less than a minute of time, and reduces soap scum build-up. A combination of elbow grease and an inexpensive pumice stone is the best solution for stubborn toilet bowl stains, tough stovetop jobs, baked-on oven build-up, and many other cleaning challenges.  Such a time saver and so incredibly simple!  Learning and implementing these acquired lessons has immeasurably simplified cleaning our home and consistently saves us a lot of money.  

5. There is no cleaning intimidation or deterrent in an uncluttered space.  Think of it this way - since countertops and tabletops are already kept clear and empty, you don’t have to tackle a pile of disorder and chaos before you can wipe them down and dust.  Since floors are clutter-free, you don’t have to deal with piles of paper, toys, and other random untidiness before you can sweep, mop, or vacuum.  I will never forget how much I used to dread stepping into our oversized garage and having to navigate through and around the maze of boxes, crates, and piles of stuff to get to the outside door.  Seeing the mess was not only a glaring, guilt-inducing reminder of what needed to be done, it also presented an unwanted reality check as to how overwhelmingly monumental the task was going to be.  Excess accumulation creates added layers of necessary steps to achieve cleanliness and discourages ever beginning the process in the first place.

6. In our particular situation, we found it was entirely doable to reduce family vehicles to just one.  Having one family car that we all share and learning to keep that one car free of clutter reduces the amount of time and energy needed to keep it comfortable and clean.

Whether living in our beloved, long-term, pre-minimalism home or in a post-minimalism rented home with no emotional ties attached, it is and has always been my goal and desire to keep things clean.  Minimalism just makes that job a whole lot easier.