Sunday, July 30, 2017

The Prom Dress

Mindlessly scrolling through Facebook a few weeks ago, I stumbled upon a photo of a 40-something woman wearing my prom dress while doing her laundry. Yep. The internet is a wild and sometimes wonderful place.

Woman doing laundry in her bridesmaid's dress (
It took me a few seconds of confusion to realize she wasn't wearing my dress exactly. Since 1993, that dress has been carefully packed away in a closet, perfectly preserved for who-knows-what future event. She was having fun pulling out an old bridesmaid's dress, laughing at that optimistic declaration all brides make when choosing impractical dresses for their bridesmaids, "you can wear this again!" 

Ready for prom in the 90's
I'm pretty organized, so it took me less than 60 seconds to make sure that my dress is hanging just where I thought it was. Here's what's funny: both of us have 20-year-old dresses we'll never wear again hanging in our closets. Why?

It has been said that the more stuff we own, the more our stuff owns us. Over the last few years, I've had the growing realization that I spend more time than I want to cleaning, organizing, managing STUFF. This problem is not unique to me. Did you know that there are 300,000 items in the average American home? (LA Times) A British study found that the average 10-year-old owns 238 toys, but plays with just 12 daily (The Telegraph). As a mom, I can certainly attest to the fact that our children have many more toys than they play with on a regular basis, and no one enjoys cleaning the toy-littered play room.

I am thankful that our family has more than what we need, but I also wonder how much of my life is unnecessarily spent accumulating, maintaining, caring for possessions- things that keep me from spending these energies on things that are more important in light of eternity. Also, what lessons are we teaching our children about possessions and our family's values? 

Joshua Becker quote

Our own Free Methodist denomination has roots in simplicity. In 1860, the "free" in Free Methodist emphasized certain basic freedoms found in scriptures, one of which was freedom from materialism in order to help the poor. (What is a Free Methodist?) The size of the American home has more than tripled in the last 50 years (NPR), so it is probably safe to assume that many of us live in much larger spaces today than our brothers and sisters who set forth these values over a hundred years ago.

As I started learning about decluttering and minimizing, I realized there are a lot of different methods out there. The organizing industry has boomed as many Americans have realized they own too much, and spend a lot of effort trying to rein it all in. I think we all know deep down that stuff doesn't bring us happiness, but we're surrounded by the pursuit of it, and being counter cultural is a daily challenge. I laughed out loud at this statement, poking fun at one popular method:

Poking fun at the Marie Kondo method

A friend of mine from college, and fellow Free Methodist got me interested in reading articles from author Joshua Becker, whose ideas resonate with me. He started a website chronicling his family's 9 month journey into owning less at, which now has a million visits per month.  He shares a story about finding himself spending a beautiful spring Saturday dutifully cleaning the garage, all the while, turning down his young son's requests to spend the morning playing ball with him in the yard instead. After complaining to his neighbor, she uttered some life changing words: "Maybe you don't need to own all this stuff."   

In his words, 

"The juxtaposition was striking. My possessions piled up in the driveway… my son in the backyard… my day slipping away… I immediately recognized something needed to change. My belongings were not adding value to my life. Instead, they were subtracting from it.

We began donating, recycling, and removing our unnecessary personal possessions. We embarked on an intentional journey to own less stuff.
As a result, we discovered more money, more time, more energy, more freedom, less stress, and more opportunity to pursue our greatest passions: faith, family, friends. And we decided to write about it."
Not surprisingly, I later discovered that Mr. Becker is a pastor. Beyond sharing great tips for owning less, he also shares some wise insights on the Biblical basis of this lifestyle. God has used his family's choice to minimize and the sharing of that story to reach millions. 

The pull of materialism and the challenge of living free from it is nothing new. John the Baptist and Jesus both addressed it as a spiritual issue. The early Free Methodists gave it priority. The whisper of the Holy Sprit in our hearts confirms it today.

I'm taking baby steps toward doing more than organizing- instead, trying to own less and see how the Lord uses those spaces to make me available. Fortunately, I don't have to start with the emotional stuff, like the prom dress. It's absolutely okay to start with the utensil drawer! 

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