Okay, I admit it: I have been obsessed with things, especially in this past year or more. For the last several years,Overflowing jewelry and things we have looked forward to major downsizing. So we did it – moved from a rural paradise that requires constant hard work beyond our current sustained efforts, to a house half the size with a yard appropriate to our senior years. As brand new owners, we’re in love with our new home! It’s ideal for us, in a wonderful community.

But downsizing is a royal pain, because of all those things we’ve accumulated over the years.

I have taught the joys of simpler living for many years, as an essential part of being faithful stewards of all God has given us. I’ve shared key ideas from Lynn Miller’s Power of Enough and highlights from Adam Hamilton’s book Enough. But my thorough-going implementation hasn’t even come close. Mounds of possessions sit in the garage, awaiting their ultimate fate.

Over a year ago I started with my beloved books. I joyfully gave away hundreds of them to appreciative ministry colleagues, churches, and nonprofit groups. That feels great! But then the going got tough. Eight months ago I started culling out nearly fifty years of files of notes from my passionate vocation, throwing out three four-drawer file cabinets’ worth of memories. I wonder now, why did I wait so long?

Yet after all that, I’ve laid awake nights thinking about how I could stuff more things into every room of this new home. I still have books galore, lovingly arranged by subject and author, starting in closets and filling shelves. More than that, the number of framed family photos from over the years is far more than our walls can handle. No doubt most are destined for the attic.

What is it about our possessions that makes it so easy for things to take precedence in our lives? Lynn Miller’s idea of buying things only for their “inherent usefulness” is a huge help. And Marie Kondo’s question from her book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up has been my intentional guide: Does this thing give me joy? Everything that doesn’t meet that high standard is going out.

Thank God for the Salvation Army.

Betsy Schwarzentraub

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