from outside my closet door: what progress looks like

Today I did my second closet purge since being home from Uganda. When we got home I went through seemingly every room in the house, getting rid of things we didn’t need or didn’t use regularly. Then I moved on to the garage and did the same. It felt good, but over the last few months, I realized that there was yet another level of simplification that needed to happen. This round of purging meant parting with things I actually “like,” and things that I may have recently worn, just because they are excess and because others can make better use of them than I can. This process of simplification is teaching me two things:

1) More choices (in this case, more clothing options) do not mean more freedom. Some choice is good. Too much choice creates stress and clutter (internally and externally), and, with 4 small children under one roof, I don’t need more of that!

2) Less choice does not inhibit my creativity. I used to think more choices meant more options for creativity, but, I’ve found that too much choice stifles my creativity whereas less choice enables me to better see color, texture, layers, etc., and how they can work together.

I continue to be surprised by how affected I am by our time in Uganda- the simplicity of life I experienced there, and the redefining of what I actually “need” that took place in me as a result. I’m learning that, when I eliminate areas of excess, I don’t actually lose anything, but that new freedom is found. I’m also learning that simplicity is a discipline and a gift. It is progressive- always in process and never complete. It’s a journey I’m so glad to be on.

things i can’t stand: excess and clutter

I have always been a little “type-A,” but since being home I’ve noticed that two things stress me out in a way that they hadn’t before: excess and clutter.

I thought we lived simply- that there wasn’t that large of a margin of excess in what we use and what we have. I also thought that I kept things clutter free for the most part (except for maybe a few drawers of controlled chaos), but since our return from Uganda I’ve been feeling differently.

A few, case-and-point illustrations: First, I began to notice that loading the dishwasher was stressful for me. I’ve always loved loading the dishwasher because it is a chance for me to order and organize chaos (something I love to do on many levels). It also feels like a game to me (where I get to figure out how to fit in the most items in the most efficient way), so needless to say the feeling of stress caught me off guard. After a little assessment, I realized it was the process I go through to load it that bothered me- particularly, the sound of the running water in the sink that ran pointlessly while I loaded. I’d rinse a dish, let the water run, load, go back for the next dish, repeat. It never occurred to me before how much water I wasted just in that process alone, but since water has become something that is precious to me and that was scarce in Uganda, the sound of it being wasted bothered me on an internal level before I could even notice it and do something about it. I’ve now changed my routine so that the water doesn’t run pointlessly and I only use what I need to rinse off the dirty dish (also important because we find ourselves presently in a drought).

Also on my list of new unexpected stressors was getting dressed. When we were in Uganda I had 6 shirts, 6 bottoms (shorts, skirts and jeans combined), 6 pairs of underwear to choose from on any given day (if they were clean, that is)… and here, well, let’s just say I have more. My closet is very small to be sure, but it’s packed with things I wear only on occasion and even a few things I “might” want to wear some time in the future. Having some choice and having enough is freeing, but having excess is stressful.  My small closet felt cluttered just because there were too many options. I missed the ease of getting dressed in Uganda. So, I have started to purge the things I do not need. I haven’t had time to go through the whole closet, or all the drawers in the house, but I am working my way through. Sometimes when I’m getting dressed and I see things I shouldn’t hold on to, I take them out right then and there- eliminating clutter as I see it and not waiting until I have a chunk of time to do it. That’s my strategy right now.

I’m really trying to pay attention to the new convictions I have as we re-acclimate into our life of comfort and ease. I don’t want to thoughtlessly resume old patterns that don’t work with the way I want to operate in the world. I’m realizing that the things I loved about the way we lived in Uganda can be reality here, too.