Saturday, June 2, 2007

A Time To Cast Away

So what do you keep? How much do you get rid of completely, and how much do you put away for later? I've been pondering this question frantically obsessively a lot lately, as we have been walking through this extensive decluttering effort in our home. Folks have also been asking for advice regarding their own journeys into decluttering. I have pondered many angles with which to approach this question, only to arrive at one answer definitively.

Deciding your possession end-point is a private matter between you and God. My answers for how much to keep will likely be different from yours. Likewise, my reasons for casting away may be different from yours. My intention here is to share some of my reasoning in hopes that it may help you in your own journey.

After finally understanding on a heart level that there is a one-to-one relationship between the possession of things and the consumption of time, I determined to get serious. My complaining about a lack of time did not fit with the family rule about not complaining about anything you are not doing something about. Therefore, I had to put up or shut up. Too frustrated to shut up, I was forced to eradicate stuff until I did not feel the need to complain anymore.

The first thing I did was to make a list of everything I needed. (A quick, easy method of life reorganization could have been to consider anything that did not make the original list to be automatically out.) After making this list of "needs" (that was remarkably long), I began crossing out items as I was convicted of the non-necessity of each. This list of necessary items will be different for different folks.

In case going through every item we owned with this list in hand was not quite enough motivation, we have taught ourselves to ask a question that has been even more beneficial. 'Is the convenience or pleasure this item brings WORTH what it takes to maintain, clean, house and shuffle this item around until I use it?'

A negative example would be the three-tiered plate stand that I use about twice a year for special girl-birthdays. Truth is, the thing is a hassle to schlep around and to have taking up so much space in my pantry all year just for those four hours a year that it is used. Yes, it is pretty, yes, it is the perfect thing for serving the petits-fours and chocolate-dipped strawberries. But it isn't worth all of the rest. I am finding that most things are not.

A positive example is the jogging stroller. With the extra large tires. That does not fold up. It is big and bulky, yet I have decided to keep it because it gets used almost daily. Walking the quarter mile driveway with a fifty pound three-year-old makes it worth it's space in gold to me. It has enough value to me to justify it's continued presence.

Another question that has proved helpful is, "how many of these can I use at one time?" or more importantly, "how many of these do I use at one time?". I have six laundry baskets that are often being used for some good reason all at the same time. However, when I realized that my five whisks and five cutting boards in various sizes had never been used all at once, most of them were slated for dismissal. I saved only the heavy-duty spoon, and two boards, one for meat and one for vegetables and bread. While making last night's dinner, I had to wash the vegetable cutting board six separate times in the process, but I only had to store it once.

A helpful activity may be to sit down sometime when you are feeling refreshed, and as objectively and unemotionally as possible, think and pray through what the callings are in your life during this season. The 'things' of our lives are simply tools to further God's work in our lives, and to help us do whatever it is He desires for us. Those things, when not prayerfully added or removed can be a disastrous hindrance to our ability to walk in obedience. Since they can also be tools He uses to help us minister to others, we need discernment from the Holy Spirit, and a heart of obedient trust to know which items are which.

Based on lifestyle differences (city/country, large family/small family, work & school at home/work & school away), and seasons of life ( ages of children, tight finances, moving often) we will each be led in different areas to keep or discard the chattel of our lives. The first key is to seek Father's face and desire to know His heart for you and your family, trusting that He will lead you. The second key is to obey what He leads you to do. It is one thing to be convicted about the level of extraneous baggage our family is carrying with us through life, and working to change it. It is quite another to know we have too much and to ignore the promptings to change it.

Here's to traveling light for His glory!


  1. Excellent! I've been going through everything (partly in prep. for our move and partly because my life has been overtaken with babysitting stuff) and it's a blessing and encouragement to see others in a similar place. This week dear hubby is out of town so I plan to really get serious and see what I can accomplish while he's gone.

  2. Good for you! I have a friend who is great at minimizing. There are 5 in her family in a very small house, and everything is super organized, neat, and there is no clutter. I think she has always lived that way and just constantly stays on top of it.
    I was curious about your decision to have 3 clothing outfits per child, if I understood this right. How does this work?

  3. As I read this week's Parsha, I thought about how the Israelites in the desert must have had to live with so few possessions in order to keep moving with Adonai as He led them in the pillar of cloud through the desert.

    Could I, with my household, pack up on a moments notice and walk around for 40 years? I could see how if they were traveling daily it would be easy, just don't unpack change your undies and get a move on in the morning. But what about those times when they camped for a week, or a month, or a year.. they would have become comfortable, would have unpacked, and then, OOH, there's the cloud on the move again, the trumpet has blown, we've got to gather everything together again.. sigh.

    I don't think I could pack my house in a week, let alone a morning before setting off. Decluttering is a GOOD idea.

  4. It always amazes me when God seems to prompt so many people, in so many the same way. This has been a tug on my heart for some time - we have gotten rid of so much yet I feel we haven't touched the tip of the iceberg....and you got me thinking about that beautiful 3 tier plant stand.....nope, don't really need it! My kids also have little do I. 5 play outfits and 2 for nice - works great!
    Love you guys!

  5. oldpathsfamilyfarmJune 5, 2007 at 1:58 AM

    Amber ~ I, too am thrilled that this helps us stay caught-up! In fact, making it easier for you to comment was one of the reasons I moved the blog. Love ya, Girlie!

    Cheri ~ There seem to be a lot of recurring themes with Father lately. The times are changing quickly, and I believe He is preparing His people for a work He desires to do. Travel light is the message we've been getting...

  6. Julie - I know I'm late to the party (post) but this is just great! You gave wonderful examples. I, too, would keep the stroller and send the plate out of the door. :)

    As Cheri mentioned - this is definitely a recurring theme from the Father. We began this process some time ago - and I can't say I've missed a thing! When we move again in less than two months, I already have my eye on several MORE things that aren't going with us!

  7. I had to look up what a petit four is. It may not have been easy to get rid of such a pretty plate and making the petit fours things for your girls birthdays is such a loving mommie thing to do! Yet you can say it served it's purpose, which was to serve up a plate of love to be deposited in your children's love bank. And that memory and love will not be depleted or forgotten. Thank you for sharing the process you are going thru with us who. We are trying to get their ourselves, with God's grace.

    My favorite pastor on television(okay so I minamalized it and blamed the television watching all on my husband...but yes I did have to make him put his yucky Clint Eastwood movie on pause while I read him your blog about hearing all we do on the television and how do we benefit from it?)

    ...anyway, so this pastor talked about the pillar of cloud last Monday and how the Israelites needed to watch and be prepared to move when He moved. Hmmm...where have I been hearing that? Seeking old paths maybe? :)

    Just a few days before hearing this message from the pastor, my husband learned that his job is being transferred out of state. I need the eyes bulging out in shock emoticon inserted here! This is NOT easy moving to a place with no friends or family as well as paring down to the basics. I've pared down over the years but the tide keeps coming in!

    Thank you so much for posting all that you have. With God's help, we'll get there. I just thought I'd post a link to the 700 clubs website if that's alright. There is an article on moving and prepararing to move.

    Now, if I can just get to making tinctures and switch to healthy cleaners, and fementing vegetables that we grow in our organic garden. We don't even have a garden! (Too shady of a back yard)
    You make it all look so easy though! How do you read up on that with seven kids? I am up at 2:24 am posting on your blog because this is my reading time. So sad...:(

    I think my favorite line here was..."Walking the quarter mile driveway with a fifty pound three-year-old makes it worth it’s space in gold to me". This had my husband and I LOL! :)


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