Filled with Less

You have a choice in life. You can either live on-purpose, according to a plan you’ve set. Or you can live by accident, reacting to the demands of others. The first approach is proactive; the second reactive.

-Michael Hyatt

About a week before Christmas I was sorting a huge pile of laundry on top of my bed, feeling very scattered, malaise-y, and overwhelmed by seasonal demands. To pass the time (and escape my anxiety) I turned on Netflix and there, under the “Suggested for You” category, I found the 2015 documentary “Minimalism.” “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things” asks the question “How might your life be better with less?” – less things, less busyness, less social media, less keeping up with the Joneses… I had vaguely remembered hearing about the movie when it was first released and so I clicked on it and resumed folding the mountain of clean socks and underwear in front of me.

Only a few minutes in, I was nearly in tears. It turns out I was starving for an invitation to walk away from the treadmill of impulsive consumption. Here were all these people (corporate executives, families, artists, students, etc.) who in the face of stress and despondency had stepped outside the box and made some radical decisions for the sake of a better quality of life. Instead of unquestioningly following the status quo by chasing after an insatiable hunger for “more”  (more possessions, more wealth, more power, more “likes”, more fleeting dopamine rushes…), they had instead chosen to live intentionally, with less, which required a lot of letting go.

For some this meant leaving high-paying, high-stress, all-consuming careers, for others it meant forsaking their McMansion for a tiny home. Their determination to reprioritize, placing people, peace, and experiences above material possessions and on-line addiction, shook me awake out of my “glass-half-empty and there’s nothing I can do about it” stupor. It was like someone opened the curtains in my head, letting in not only the sunlight but an alternative view, a new perspective. For the past several months, I’d been letting my circumstances and the social climate dictate my emotional/spiritual/physical state, forgetting I had the power of choice and free will at my disposal. Right there, right then, as I was, with what I had, I could begin to move from aimlessness toward intentional simplicity. And thus began a journey to declutter my home, my habits, and my heart.

It’s been nearly a month since I was mercifully sent that wake -up call, which was followed-up by many validating experiences, conversations, learning opportunities, and revelations born of baby steps toward a goal of “less” for myself and for my family. I think what has surprised me most is the underlying connection between every facet of my existence. I’ve been amazed at how my material clutter is related to my mental clutter, and how my physical health is inseparable from my emotional and spiritual well-being. It’s been eye-opening and uplifting to witness how becoming more intentional with my time and habits has positively affected my relationships, and how minimizing my thoughts and exposure to staggering amounts of opinions and information has deepened my prayer life.

It’s been awhile since I’ve written here (some seasons require silence and the shedding of old skin) but now here I am bubbling over with hopeful observations about becoming filled with less that I’d love to share with you! I’d be honored and so happy to have you join me on this pilgrimage!

Here’s to less being so much more! Love and peace to you!

 

16 comments:

  1. In a few short paragraphs you articulated everything I’ve been feeling about decluttering all areas of my life. (The house is a refreshing start.) Thank you! I’m looking forward to more posts.

    1. It is a refreshing start, Lynette! Especially my closet! : ) I have a ways to go but every little space I declutter and tidy fills me with such sweet satisfaction. I wish for you joy as you embark on your own decluttering journey!

  2. Molly,
    Christmas is an especially wonderful time for this realization! I have been on a similar journey for the last three years or so and would love to share two resources that have been helpful for me.
    1. Joshua Becker–You can google his story. Although not specifically Orthodox, his approach to “rational minimalism” creates lots of room for spiritual focus. In fact, I like to think of it as “essentialism.”
    2. “But those who would like to live a genuine spiritual life must first of all be satisfied with a few things. When their life is simplified, without too many concerns or nuisances, not only will they be liberated from the worldly spirit, they will also have plenty of time available for spiritual things.” –St. Paisios in Spiritual Councils IV: Family Life pg. 160

    1. Thank you for that beautiful quote from St. Paisios, Kim! I really do think of this process of simplification as an emotional/mental/physical/spiritual liberation, and a path to peace independent of my circumstances. Joshua Becker has been a wonderful resource and guide for me!

  3. Molly, I eliminated Facebook and Twitter last year to simplify my life, so I don’t see your beautiful photos anymore. Thank you so much for this thoughtful insight; I’ve been trying to declutter lately so I can think and pray clearer. I feel everything you wrote. God bless!

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