Living Simply | March 1, 2016

Simple Joys

Photo by Junior Libby

I recently helped a friend pack before a move and was impressed by how loosely she held many of her possessions. When we went through her closet, she pulled out a pile of clothes to donate. “They’re not my style anymore,” she said. We filled two boxes with books for the resale shop because, “If I haven’t read it by now, I’m never going to.” In her kitchen, she left a whole set of knives for the incoming tenants who she knew would need them. “All I need is one great chef’s knife,” she said, “and now is the perfect time to upgrade.”

My friend’s mantra was simple: She would take only the things she loved, so her new home would be filled with things that brought her joy.

Having less “stuff” is freeing. Fewer possessions usually means less to worry about, cleaner space, less clutter, and plenty of openness to comfortably think, learn, and create. On the other hand, having few possessions is practical only if they are of a certain quality.

I’ve heard it said that plain-clothes Brethren spend a fair amount of money on clothing because they buy quality wool suits. These folks are an excellent example of how “plain” does not equal “cheap.” In the same way, spending more on a purchase once is more efficient than spending less and quickly replacing it. It’s similar logic that would argue for supporting local businesses, farmers markets, and small publishing houses (like Brethren Press), backing up your values with your dollars.

When my friend moved, the movers finished in three short hours and she was completely unpacked 48 hours after that. Her new space contains only simple possessions that remind her of loved ones, high-quality tools to do her best work, books that she regularly relies on, and clothing that fits her and her style perfectly. Her space has fewer things, but they were thoughtfully purchased and are bringers of simple joys.

Clean sweep

As we near the end of winter, take time to consider the things that fill your space. If you were moving tomorrow, what would you take with you? What have you forgotten about in your basement, attic, or garage that could be sold or given away? Here’s a short list of ideas to get you started:

  • Start at the back of your closet and pull out anything you haven’t worn in a year or feel obligated to keep. If your clothes don’t make you feel good, donate them.
  • Review your medicine cabinet, bathroom cupboards, and nightstand drawers. Toss expired prescriptions, old lotion, empty bottles, and free samples.
  • Are there socks that you never wear because of holes, or because they’re missing their mates? Throw them out and buy some good socks that won’t easily wear through.
  • Read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, by Marie Kondo, which was a source of much of my friend’s inspiration.

Amanda J. Garcia is a freelance writer living in Elgin, Ill. Visit her online at