Today is February 28. Twenty-eight days ago we decided to embark on a challenge to live with less in order to remain true to our core values of faith, marriage, family, contentment and hospitality. We have managed to reduce or eliminate a lot of unnecessary stuff/clutter/noise from our lives, yet if anything, this past month has only revealed to us how much we can still give up – how we still have a long way to go in living a simplified life. God has used our month of less to search our hearts, to reveal to us what truly has a hold on our hearts. All the while, He has provided us with beautiful quiet moments, moments of respite, moments of self-reflection, moments of full, uncomplicated peace.
If this is your first time dropping by, you may wonder why this sudden desire to live with less. Jeff and I purposed at the beginning of this year to live our lives more intentionally, focusing on five core values (faith, marriage, family, contentment and hospitality) by which to wish to raise our girls. While focusing on the value of contentment, our eyes were opened to how much we have that distracts us from pursuing intentional moments with our kids and with each other. We then challenged ourselves to live with less for the month of February in order to reset our lens through which we view the supposed “necessities” of life. (Read more about the beginning of our journey here.)
Now that the month of February is over, our lives have begun to look quite a bit different from 28 days ago. Some of our changes were big, some not so big, but overall, each little decision we have made to live with less has created an immeasurable impact.
Our initial stepping-stone into simplifying our lives was living with less food. We successfully stuck to a $500 cash budget for groceries (half of what we used to spend each month. More on that here.). We stuck to a set menu plan, resulting in less impulse buying, which, in turn, equals more money saved. Our second fridge (which I’m pretty sure is pre-historic, and definitely was costing us a pretty penny on our hydro bill each month) also got the boot. Less money allotted, less fridge space, less menu planning = less food overall.
Probably our biggest change this month was de-cluttering our home. Prior to a month ago, if anyone mentioned that I needed to de-clutter, I’d probably have been highly offended. (I’m a bit of a self-proclaimed neat-freak, organizer extraordinaire, Type A personality, control freak. Call it what you will.) But I came to realize, even if my clutter is organized, it is still clutter. Clutter that I am not using. Clutter that could maybe benefit someone else more. Clutter that is taking up valuable real estate in my home, but more importantly, valuable real estate in my mind. So, Jeff and I went through The Purge. We sold over $2000 worth of “stuff” that was simply collecting dust in our basement. Our local thrift store received five van loads worth of donations from our garage, basement and crawl space. Our whole family underwent the capsule wardrobe challenge and minimized our closets down to 40 items each. We had a lot of stuff. And now we don’t. Getting rid of all that “stuff” has to be one of the most freeing things I’ve done in a long time.
TV was the last to go. Living without TV is the most recent change we’ve made and so far, one of the ones with the biggest gains. (If you want to read more about our journey without TV thus far, check it out here!)
To say that this past month has been eye-opening would be an understatement. While the growing pains of living with less were at times difficult, the advantages far outweighed the discomfort of living a hectic, crowded life. That being said, please know that by no means are we now experts in living with less. In fact, our living with less may look entirely different from your idea of living with less, as it should. Each of us have different versions of what is important to us. By no means are the challenges and benefits we have experienced this month hard and fast, the only way to go. But if you remain curious about how living with less has blessed our lives this month, please read on:
- More time together. Those of you who know us, know that Jeff has a hectic career, requiring long hours of him and frequent travel. Over this past month, our ability to save $500 by halving our grocery budget, while also selling over $2000 worth of items we weren’t using, has enabled Jeff to work less. He is home each night by 5:15 (previously, he wouldn’t be rolling in until closer to 6pm), and he’s no longer leaving for work at 4:00am. He is better rested and able to spend more time with us as a family. As well, eliminating the pull to watch TV has provided more opportunities for quality family time. We are truly able to savour the moments – the messy, ordinary, everyday moments together. Beyond time together as a family, we’ve also been able to spend more time in prayer and Bible reading, both individually and as a couple. “More time” can translate so many different ways – time with family, time with our spouses, time with God, time with friends….the common denominator here is “time.” Bottom line – less stuff for us has equalled more time.
- Less stress. It’s no secret that the more things you own, the more your things own you. By getting rid of so much, we’ve freed up time that we ordinarily would have spent organizing, cleaning or fixing items that weren’t even worth our time or headspace. Since I tend to be a very task-oriented person, the less things I have to clean or take care of, means I have more time (there it is again! Time!) to be creative or play with my kids. I feel rejuvenated when I have time to create and time to play. Therefore, less stress.
- Higher overall contentment. Giving ourselves the physical freedom to live without a lot of our possessions has also given us the spiritual freedom to live a more contented life. Mostly, living with less has opened my eyes to how much the Lord has truly blessed us. Allowing ourselves to give up the desire to consume and accumulate has freed us into living life gratefully and with so much more joy. I never realized before how exhausting it is to continually feel like we have to work, work, work to meet the next goal, the next big purchase, the next big prize. And then we took this month to eliminate that vicious cycle. And life was quiet. Life was peaceful. And life was suddenly overwhelmingly full of everything that we already needed.
So now, February is done. And so is our challenge. Except I don’t think it’s possible for us to go back to how we were living before. We have never lived so intentionally. We have never lived with so much space for creativity and passion. We have never consumed so little and yet felt so rich. So we will continue this journey. Our prayer is that God will continue to open our eyes to living a life of less so we can bring Him glory more.