I recently shared my story called “Confessions of a Recovering Stuffaholic” where my passion to live with less started. In sharing my journey, I also wanted to hear your stories as well. Rebekah sent me an email and after reading her story, I was moved by what she had to say and asked if she would allow me to share it with you. I hope you will have just as much appreciation for what she has to say as I did. Feel free to comment at the end of the post as well, if you too, were moved by her journey. I would like to encourage her as well.
I also know there are more stories out there, so don’t hesitate to share!
I wanted to share my story with you.
My mom grew up poorest of the poor in a third world country. Her brother died at four years old of worms from drinking the contaminated water we hear about. She had a dirt floor, little food, and no plumbing. Her mom and sisters were desperate and worked as prostitutes. She survived by leaving home at 13 and pursuing education intently.
As I think back to growing up, most of the time my mom was reading and studying. Although she had a master’s degree, she never got out of survival mode. She never dusted and rarely cleaned. She rarely cooked. I ate cereal a lot. The house was dirty. Laundry was rarely done. We shopped at second hand stores and garage sales. The house was completely cluttered. She saved every plastic bag and tie that bread came in, etc. The kitchen and refrigerator were disgusting. Our home was shameful. We were embarrassed whenever a guest came. We were considered poor by American standards. Some months we didn’t have hot water. I got my first bed when I was 16.
Growing up that way had an impact on me. Living minimally appealed to me, because the mess in the house was very oppressive. In some way, that mess and clutter links to the neglect of my mother and the oppression I suffered at my father’s hand. I remember trying to organize my room when I was a teenager. I remember I was amazed at how much time it took me to declutter and clean. I still have nightmares about being in that house, trying to clean, and wanting to leave and not being able to escape.
When I got married, some wealthy friends invited themselves over to see “what I had done” with our little rental house in a bad part of town. Most of what we had was handed down from various sources. The friends came in and left without saying too much. Certainly, there was nothing of note to look at. I had spent hours upon hours meticulously cleaning, but I couldn’t change the humble possessions I had. Again I experienced shame.
This visit made an impact. Décor had never occurred to me much previously. I started to study decorating, design, and organizing. I enjoyed it, but I spent way too much time over the next several years pursuing it. Especially when my daughter came along, I wanted to give her a nice looking room. Her having a nice bed was (too) important to me, because it connected to my not having one for so long and being neglected as a child. I just got caught up in trying to create a nice looking, comfortable home.
Some time later, I experienced crisis in my life that drove me to spending time with Jesus every day. When I meet with him, I tell him all that is in my heart, and somehow he works in me. This year I felt I needed to throw away all my décor clippings and magazines. There is nothing wrong with working to make a home welcoming and pretty, but it had become too important and too time consuming for me. I guess it was a blessing that money was tight. That kept me from being awfully wasteful.
I have always decluttered as a part of housekeeping. I don’t know anyone who lives as simply as we do, but still there is something in me that wants to go further. Sometimes, however, I wonder if decluttering and simple living itself can become an obsession or distraction.
Currently, my husband’s parents have so many things that they are entombed in their house. My parents are not much different. Both houses are biohazards. My mother-in-law who is extremely and strangely attached to her possessions told me one time, “You start out by owning your things, and one day you turn around, and they own you.” That sentence has never left my mind. It propels me to give away things in an effort to not be ruled by possessions.
To be honest, starkness does not appeal to me, but living simply draws me magnetically. I feel a bit stuck right now. Most decluttering and simple living advice seems to be aimed at people starting out. I have been through everything in the house several times. There is nothing left that is “easy” to give away. I don’t feel that what we have is “unreasonable.” Still, I’d like to have less. It is really hard for me to find things to give away now. Maybe I need a minimalist to visit and point out things I should donate to open my mind and eyes. I have thought about hiring a professional organizer, but I think it would be hard to find one who has a minimalist point of view. I feel that what I have is organized well.
My husband is not on the same page with me, and he holds on to many (unused) things, but I just continue to focus on what I can do. It is a blessing that my children, on their own, go through their things now and then and make giveaway piles as their interests change.
I’m continuing to talk to Jesus about this. I need to entrust this to him.
Thank you for your blog. It is a blessing and encouragement.
Again, if you were touched by Rebekah’s story, feel free to comment below or email me so that in turn, we can encourage her, like she encouraged us.