“The question of what you want to own is actually the question of how you want to live your life.”Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up
Today is one of my favorite days of the summer: Getting Ready for Fall Day. I usually mourn the end of the summer, so each year I dedicate a few days to getting ready in a way that fuels excitement. I organize all of the school supplies, purchase everybody’s textbooks, and — my favorite — transition the clothes from summer to fall.
Every year, I love the clothes transition. Together, the kids and I go through the dressers and pull outgrown shirts stuffed in the back of drawers, shorts irreparably stained by chocolate ice cream spills. We drag the big tubs from the closet and try on last year’s cold weather clothes, hand items down to younger siblings and choose our favorites for the season ahead.
Four years ago, Rob and I went through a big mindset transition in our marriage: we started living more simply. We committed to reducing waste and owning less. We acknowledged that a cluttered house was a stressful one, that owning things that didn’t capture our hearts just ended up bogging us down. We admitted to ourselves that often we held onto items out of a sense of duty or prudence or tradition but not a sense of joy. Rob and I found that living simply and owning less helped transform our attachments to this life in ways that encouraged us spiritually.
I remind my kids of this each summer when Getting Ready for Fall Day rolls around. That things don’t make us happy; people do. That what they choose to keep or give away tells them something about what they value. That living with less is a spiritual discipline, not just a cultural fad. My policy is to never give away something that brings us joy, but I also don’t believe in holy relics. If we love something that lacks purpose, we help it find a new one if we intend to keep it. When we go through the clothes, I apply no pressure; I always want my kids’ decisions to keep or give away to be entirely their own. It’s an important part of their growth as individuals.
By now, my kids are pros. I’m really just the adult facilitator. Together we go through their clothes and make piles: keeps, hand-me-downs, giveaways, and sentimental items for the t-shirt quilt bin. All on their own, they turn the day into a fun time of memory sharing. I learn the stories behind the items they want to keep and hear the sometimes funny reasons they are ready to part with things. I love watching them reason through what they own, consider what is important and what’s not. Rob would be so proud to hear their growing discernment and thoughtfulness. Someday, I’ll have them read one of his favorite books, Richard Foster’s Celebration of Discipline; they’ll recognize the “Simplicity” chapter right away.
Our house is ready for fall now, and I’m excited for the new season ahead. Shirts and pants are neatly folded in drawers, sweatshirts hang in the closet, and I’ve got a pile of discarded, sentimental clothes to turn into a t-shirt quilt over the winter months. It feels good to be organized and ready to go. What feels even better though is this seasonal reminder that our stuff doesn’t own us. We own it. It feels good to look around our home and in my dresser drawers and say, “Everything here has purpose. Everything here is something I really love.” It feels good to know that what I own reflects the way I want to live.
Rob loved the resources of Richard Foster’s Renovare. They inspired much of his understanding about living simply. Check out these excellent resources if you’re interested in learning more about how we developed our commitment to living with less.
Understanding Simplicity (Richard Foster)
Simplicity: Inward Then Outward (Nathan and Richard Foster)
Simplicity: A Practical Guide (Adele Calhoun)
Abundant Simplicity (Jan Johnson)