Inside: This is a guest post by Lisa Avellan of Simple & Soul. It wasn’t about my stuff, it was only ever about my soul. All simplicity wants is to shine a light on my soul so my soul can shine too.
I wasn’t a hoarder, but my home overflowed with “just in case stuff” and “someday stuff” and “when/if stuff”. I didn’t rack up credit card debt on shopping sprees, but I relied on new clothes and accessories and Pinterest-ifying my home for a temporal sense of confidence. I wasn’t popular, the life of the party, or surrounded by a big group of girlfriends, but believed if I was those things I’d be enough, worthy of acceptance.
It was slow burial, expectations and insecurities piling up inch by inch until the light of my soul was cut off, snuffed out and scared.
Three years ago, at 34 years old, I recognized for the first time that my just in case stuff wasn’t useful in any real case, shopping was a shallow friend, and that being who society wanted me to be would mean abandoning myself. I had enough of the unnecessary filling of every empty space, including my soul. But with two toddlers (and their stuff) and self-worth that depended on how I measured up to unattainable standards, I didn’t know were to find an answer to this problem.
Joshua Becker, the well-known minimalism blogger, held a break out session at a conference I attended in late 2015. He was to speak on the benefits of living with less through Minimalism. I’d never heard of minimalism as a lifestyle, but ultimately chose a break out session by an author I followed. Although I didn’t catch Joshua’s session I brought the minimalism idea home, eager to learn more. It was a serendipitous moment, the answer appearing before I’d defined the problem.
I purged our home countless times over the months (and now years) that followed and with each pass through our belongings I found more belonging within myself. I learned how sometimes it takes multiple passes because you’re still learning how to say no to yourself. The simplicity filter malfunctioning in an impulse Target run or late night browse through Amazon.
Sometimes you’re just not ready to part with the old stuff to confront the deep stuff. It takes time and courage – the latter building as your grip loosens.
These lessons were hard to learn with this new filtering process called simplicity. However freeing it was to let go of the unused and unloved things, simplicity compelled me to admit my motives and justifications for how I lived my life. How I reacted to circumstances. I may not have been an extreme hoarder or shopaholic, but simplifying revealed more than I expected.
As my new simple lifestyle began to take shape I felt a shift in the atmosphere of our home. We were still in the process of purging and life did feel lighter, but something felt disturbed…wrong even. It’s true I began to find myself underneath my stuff, but why did life still cut so deep?
Isn’t life supposed to get better after simplifying? Where was the more of less; the joy and peace and confidence? Where was my freedom?
I still struggled with confidence, unsure how others would accept me and my new less-is-more attitude. The somewhat smaller wardrobe I’d curated felt shabby and boring; not the image I hoped for. Dealing with our kids’ stuff brought us close to WWIII on a few occasions and my husband and I couldn’t agree on how much wall décor constitutes clutter.
How did I get this wrong?
I started to doubt the things I’d read or heard about minimalism, but I’d come so far already, how could I just stop? Would all of the stuff I’d let go, the wants I sacrificed, and the self-revelation be done in vain?
Although I doubted, I still believed there could be more life by living with less – even if I couldn’t see it. Even if I was doing minimalism wrong somehow and these hardships that popped up because of it felt like kicks to the gut, I couldn’t ignore the bright spots shining through. Because there were bright spots, all of that emptied space in my home shone warm like a spring morning.
I didn’t realize until later that simplicity began to expose my deep places, the soul places I hid from the world with new things and people pleasing. The warm and comforting light of simplicity, revealed my terrified and wounded soul, and my instinct was to defend; to resist the work it came to do.
I recently came across this quote from A.W. Tozer that put the beginning season of simplifying all together for me:
“There can be no doubt that this possessive clinging to things is one of the most harmful habits in the life.”
The way I clung to my things – material, emotional, social, etc – was one of my most harmful habits. I obsessively filled my life with what I thought would fill the void in my soul. My worthiness hung in the balance of others’ acceptance and opinion of me. Though I didn’t want those things to be true of me, I also feared letting them go.
As it turned out, I wasn’t doing minimalism wrong. I was simply experiencing the one requirement of simplicity: to consent to the process. We are all in process, but we spend an awful lot of life resisting it.
When I consented to the process, I found the light wanted to lead me back to myself; to everything I already had within me. And in a wild, unexpected way I could finally embrace the imperfections I desperately hid from the world before. I risked being me, flawed and wounded; quiet and simple. I went to therapy, I shared with my friends, and I allowed my brokenness to flow into the world; into healing.
Simplicity had deep, uncomfortable work for me. Discontent until I stopped resisting the stripping away of my layers, simplicity wanted to illuminate my truest identity.
It wasn’t about my stuff, it was only ever about my soul.
Getting rid of the physical excess led me on a winding, uphill path toward freedom to be who I was meant to be; who I always was underneath it all. The farther I went into the light of simplicity the deeper the gratitude, the wider the peace, and higher the joy. Life filled up with meaningful, small moments that needed only my full attention.
Three years later I still filter my life, I’m still learning how to say no to myself – to separate enough from excess. I’m still following the light. Although the exterior of my life didn’t look like it needed simplicity, my internal life surely did.
More than ever, I’m convinced that all simplicity wants is to shine a light on my soul so my soul can shine too.
Lisa Avellan writes at Simple & Soul, helping you simplify life so you can uncover your soul and live joyfully just as you are. You can find her on Facebook and Instagram for more simple soul-living inspiration.