i have been blessed with multiple opportunities to learn the serenity of a simple life. but have i learned it?
moving to japan with two wee children and only what we could fit into our suitcases for our flight (which wasn't much at all) was one opportunity. and i loved that phase in our life. eleven years later i still miss the clarity and freedom of that stage. no car. no car insurance. no car repairs. very little of anything. and so everything we had was extra special. everything we did was more enjoyable. my mind was free of clutter. i could see more clearly what i needed to do as a mother. and i was a better mother. there was stress and difficulty too, but honestly it came mostly from living among others who didn't have simple lives, and the expectations that that fact placed on me. we went to japan wanting to live a japanese life.while there we went to church with wonderfully amazing people who were living a different life - the american expatriate life, which as a friend expressed it recently, is like being a rock star - chauffers, maids, nannies, spending allowances, first class airline tickets, etc, etc. i am not slamming that life style. not at all. it was just such a stark contrast to ours. i am grateful for that. it forced me to face and ponder hings i wouldn't have have otherwise. i learned a lot about myself during that time. i am very different because of it. and i like to think that i have learned to keep my life simple. but i don't do it.
when we first moved to this house eight weeks ago today, it was empty, and for four glorious days, we had only what we brought in our suitcases and cars with us. i loved it. each child's toy was special. we were sleeping on futons again. what was most important in life was clear to me, and that was my family. now, each box i unpack begins to clutter my life again, and each thing i own takes away from the meaning and value of everything else in my life.
and i feel this way even though we gave away more than half of all we owned when we left japan just over a year ago. almost all of our furniture, our food storage, our household items. (we accumulated a lot in the 12 years we lived in japan). now we are in accumulation mode again, and i want it to stop. but where do it draw the line? it's oh, so very complicated. i want life to be comfortable for my family. our first two years in japan, our only comfortable piece of furniture was a glider rocker that we had to take turns with (no sofa, no beds, only futons on the floor). but i want life to be meaningful for my family, and the more we have, the less meaning can be found.
i have a weakness for clothing and textiles of every kind. (my degree is clothing and textiles, and i guess that explains a lot about me). i collect antique quilts, i make quilts, i collect darling children's clothes, and i make children's clothes. and they accumulate. what should/can i do about this? yesterday i sorted through winter & summer clothes (such cool weather lately), too small and too big clothes. mia & gracie each have so many clothes that it feels like going shopping each time you pick out an outfit for them. they need a hannah montana closet. (i'm not endorsing hannah montana here. any reference i make to hannah montana is in a purely negative context). not because i buy a lot (i hope), but because i treasure and hold onto a lot. they have hand-me-downs that lexi & tashi were wearing between 8 and 15 years ago (the really darling ones that hold precious memories). gracie has hand-me-downs from mia. they have hand-me-downs from cousins. i do love hand-me-downs. and they have some great bargain finds that i couldn't resist buying for the. and there is just so much. but it's hard for me to let go of it. i want to keep it all, just in case we or someone else we know and love needs it someday. or another child joins our family. (noah doesn't have quite as much abundance, being the only boy. but i have boxes of his adorable outgrown clothes that i would love to see another boy wear someday) i love making a cute new outfit out of treasured pieces of clothing from the past mixed with some new found treasure. i love thrift, and so i want to keep things just in case we need them. but i love simplicity and lack of too much stuff. are these two loves compatible? i feel these two concepts (storing for future use, and simplification) tugging me in different, conflicting directions. i am on a quest to reconcile them to each other. but is this possible?
as i typed the word abundance above, it reminded me about how i feel about abundance. it is a popular word these days, especially in new age circles. and i think it is highly over-rated. having abundance can lead to being overwhelmed, over-committed, selfish, and material. i feel i speak from experience. the only things i want in abundance are the intangibles like love, peace, hope, and happiness. is it possible to have an abundance of simplicity? if so, i think that would be a good thing.