Simplicity is a Light, Inviting You Back to Your Soul

Simplicity is a light

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.

 

(READ: I Joyfully Decluttered These 5 Things to Boost Happiness)

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

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.

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20 comments on “Simplicity is a Light, Inviting You Back to Your Soul

  1. This post spoke to me deeply and helped reveal work I have yet to do. Though I’ve done some of the exterior work, the interior work is in need of time and attention. Thank you, Lisa, for helping me recognize that need and naming that work.

  2. Hi Patty, I’m so glad this resonated with you. We’ve all got work to do and sometimes shedding the exterior is the first step. Blessings to you as you do the harder interior work.

  3. Yes, the “stuff” creates a cushion around the terrifying feeling that what we are, once you strip all of the stuff away, isn’t enough.

  4. Lisa, thank you for your simplifying story; I’ve been on a similar path for some years now. However, your comment, “I felt a shift in the atmosphere of our home,” stopped me in my tracks today and I had to go look up the quote from Tozer. There is a room in our home that gets decluttered, then it gets cluttered, over & over. There is something – something deep – that I evidently have not been able to face just yet. Thank you for your words that are guiding my soul to dig deeper. I now believe this room is not a fail for me; there is still something about the items in this room that my soul is trying to sift through. As you said, “t wasn’t about my stuff, it was only ever about my soul.” May God bless you as He continues His work in you.

  5. So happy to read your post with a cup of coffee. I have physically accepted minimalism but what do I need to unclutter in my soul, spiritually? Still praying and working through the process.

    God bless.

  6. Oh my goodness yes. You have written the article that’s been in my head all year and you nailed it. I spent a good 3 years going through our house while raising a baby and a toddler. Our parents also started to clean out their houses, and both my grandparents died, so we kept taking on stuff. Our rather large basement was full. Our closets were full. Our desk was full. My brain was more than full. Then we made a long distance move. I spent a month beforehand decluttering and thought I did well. When we moved, our new basement was still full. I spent a year getting settled and clearing out the easy stuff. This year I have gotten down to the really hard work of decluttering our spce, my mind and my heart. And oh my. What was there was surprising, but it was so worth it.

    • Emily, thank you for sharing your story! It is quite surprising, isn’t it? So many are afraid to make the change because they can’t see what might lay beyond, but when we are willing to do with hard work and sit with the hard and unknown for a little while, we are often surprised by what’s underneath it all. Keep it up!

  7. What the spirit longs for – purpose, meaningful relationship, love – manifests itself in a general disdain for life. That emptiness we attempt to fill with stuff. All that gives is a temporary rush, becoming a burden leading to more stress. People unknowingly seek that cozy feeling of social acceptance; what others own, how they live, etc is seen as a normalcy standard whereas all that is just illusion. Seeing beyond all the lies is the bedrock of simplicity. Minimalism is a journey, ongoing, and always seeking our own balance.

    • Beautiful words Valerie! 🙂 I think you just put into words what i have been feeling for some time and it has left me with a feeling of disconnection with the everyday world i live in. I am at the beginning of trying to find the balance. For months i have been decluttering and examining my life on all levels and trying to take time to work through this physically and emotionally before taking on new responsibilities with my new partner as a legal guardian, carer and life partner. This does get very overwhelming at times but i like the idea of “digging deeper”, to keep calling on that inner strength and times when it all gets too challenging. I think i just need to have more patience with the process as the answers dont all appear at once!

      • Jane, you are so right! The answers don’t appear at once and I think that is why so many people quit in the early stages. It sounds like you are right on track though, don’t give up, because the journey only gets more beautiful the deeper you dig.

  8. Great article, thank you. I agree, and had the same experience. Decluttering for me was initially liberating, but it soon became quite a grind. I found it very difficult to get rid of a lot of our stuff and became overwhelmed with a sense of shame at how much I had needlessly accumulated. The money wasted, the searching for an identity which was meaningless and not at all who I am as a person. Our decluttering journey culminated in us ordering 2 large dumpsters and putting almost all our possessions in it and walking away, as we found our dubious rental accommodation was infested with mould and we needed to completely abandon ship. Wow. That was a big day. Both distressing and also a big relief as we finally had to just start again from scratch. I feel as though my journey isn’t quite complete yet though, there is still work to do on my soul. But having a (very) simple set up at home now has been an enormously beneficial move.

    • Wow, Heather! It’s like ripping off the band-aid, right? We all have our own way of decluttering, sometimes it’s slow and steady, other times life chooses for us and we have to dump everything. But, what I think is beautiful in your story is that you didn’t allow that circumstance to be negative. I’m sure there was pain in the process, but you were willing to do the work and allow it to transform your life. Blessing to you!

  9. This has been one of the most meaningful articles I have read on simple living. I am at the beginning of my journey in terms of “stuff.” We don’t own much, so I have known all along that my interest in this life approach has never been about material possessions. This article resonates with me because I know that I need to change my career to find peace in my life. Having fewer things will ease anxiety and depression to a point, but listening to God’s voice calling me to a new and more fulfilling life is much more intimidating and a real challenge. Thank you for this word of inspiration and encouragement.

  10. A beautiful article that really defines the decluttering process. The expectation that one clearout will fix all our problems is an inherent fallacy, and the truth is we uncover a journey well over due to be taken.
    Thank you for sharing 🙏

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