Sunday Afternoon Tea

By on September 12, 2012

 ‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.

When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

(Simple Gifts or “The Shaker Hymn”)

I’ve been thinking this past week about the subject of… Simplicity.

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For years I’ve lived in what I call “Forced Simplicity”, the cousin of “Forced Frugality”… when circumstances create boundaries which limit options.

My thinking lately has been that it is not such a bad thing. A friend recently asked how I could keep my house so clutter free and I told her… besides having no small children in the house, of course… it was because I had to stay at home a lot and I rarely shopped. I get a lot accomplished just a little at a time.

Although my ponderings were already wandering down this path, reading the nonfiction book Almost Amish added to my actions here at home. While I plan to do an actual book review of it soon, the book inspires one to consider getting rid of excess stuff and keeping around us what truly makes our heart sing.

The downsizing started over ten years ago when we moved from our large house to Detroit and I realized how many boxes contained things I didn’t really need… all moved at great expense of packing time and moving costs. This started a process of peeling layer upon layer of stuff from my life.

I have had to be honest with myself as I decide what to make room to keep and what can be released from my limited space. Part of the process was being honest with physical and financial limitations. There were some projects I no longer had either the desire or the ability to accomplish.

Which meant I needed to give to charity or pass on to a friend stuff sitting on shelves for those projects. What happened? Just the process of getting rid of things I knew I’d never use brought peace… even if coming to the conclusion was difficult.

Recently, I went through more bookshelves, dishes, teacups (ouch), and other items to rid myself of another layer of stuff and bless a new charity thrift store. I was rather surprised to find I had so much left! One accumulates a lot over the years.

It was like declaring freedom, no… really.

Now, I will never become a Danish Modern kind of girl. I am a collector at heart and if one object is good, two are better, and three is the start of a new collection. Not to mention my home is a canvas for my creativity.

I love being surrounded by my collections. Whether they be books or dishes or pretty pictures or fabric or candles or… whatever… they come together to make my house a home. But I am trying to walk the line between a collector and a hoarder. I’ve already simplified my closet and my kitchen (believe it or not with the kitchen but it is true).

What is simplicity to one person is another individual’s clutter and visa versa. I see magazine articles of houses with all white rooms with nothing on the walls and few accessories… and think the house is thoroughly uninviting.

My daughter and I were talking about this very subject last week after I had been reading and she was basking on the beach at Cape Cod with a very bad cold (it is not fair coming down with a cold the day before one leaves for vacation).

It does not surprise me when we get on the save wave length, it’s that whole Vulcan mind meld thing (one has to love vintage Star Trek to understand). We had both been pondering ways to simplify our lives in such a way that we can live each day with value instead of volume.

Our talking helped me clarify my thinking as to what is true simplicity in my life. Simplicity is when I do not have more stuff than I can emotionally or financially handle and being satisfied with what I have.

Now, I admire the way the Amish choose a simpler lifestyle. But I want my choice to be to honor God and not due to legalistic rules… not to offend anyone but both Amish and Shaker simplicity was based on religious rules which truly stretch my understanding of Scripture.

I can understand where the Amish are coming from but cannot completely agree. However, I do admit their lifestyle decisions limit their rubbing shoulders of all I dislike about today’s world. Hmmm… do I sound wishy washy?

I want items such as electricity in my life to make it easier. I spent my early childhood years in a small country home with an outhouse. It does not simplify life to have no indoor plumbing. At the same time… when one admires a beautiful landscape at an art fair, there is never a mini van parked among the farmhouses or a 4 x 4 on the beach next to the ocean.

Will there always be that battle within between a simpler existence and stuff? Does less stuff make life simpler or is it what we must do to buy the stuff that complicates life… the never ending desire to accumulate more? Perhaps true simplicity comes in managing our expectations as well as our accumulations?

I am learning this… choosing to be content with what we already have is a way to honor and thank Him. There will always be a seed of discontent within us, just as there is that “God shaped vacuum” within that is not filled with anything but Him. I doubt we feel we have enough until we are standing in the atmosphere of Heaven. 

I want to live my life in such a way that I truly am in the moment instead of waiting for some future purchase or event.  

Sigh… I am certain the subject of simplicity and what it means will be one I ponder for awhile. Especially as I continue to think through what it means in my everyday life. But just thinking about it has brought about life changes for the good.

Originally posted on Coffee Tea Books and Me.

About Brenda Nuland

Brenda is a Midwestern wife, mother, and grandmother who loves to write about living a life of faith, books, tea time, decorating, frugal living ideas, homeschooling, and everything having to do with making life more beautiful - especially in the midst of difficult circumstances. Her blog:

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Sunday Afternoon Tea