Hey there, babes! It's really been on my heart to talk about why I woke up one day and decided to clear out my house. Okay, maybe I didn't throw everything in my house away, but I've definitely gotten rid of a few car-fulls worth of stuff, and I want to share the journey with you because I firmly believe that as entrepreneurs, our home life and our business life are intimately entwined. And so naturally, cultivating healthy habits at home is going to spill over into the health and profitability of your business.
I'm sitting here in my little (now slightly cleaner) office, and can't help but think that I really should be marking my students' homework instead of working on something that's actually--dare I say it-- fun. But rather than feeling like I'm procrastinating on one job (honestly, I've got my marking schedule down), I'm choosing to see even the act of sharing with you today as part of what this whole blog post is about: making space for what really matters.
A few months ago, I went to a wonderfully inspiring business workshop with one of my fav marketing coaches, Kayte Ferris. I can't encourage ya'll enough to get outside and engage with real people who are always striving to learn more, and Kayte created such a great space for us to do that. The sun shone, cups of tea brewed, and I got to see a lot of "lightbulb" moments happen. I walked away feeling encouraged and refreshed and inspired for growth. But what I wasn't expecting was to come home and not just feel encouraged by Kayte's advice but also prompted by something I learned from one of the other lovely ladies who attended.
As I arrived, I immediately noticed Jessica Rose Williams (mainly because I was obsessed with her gorgeous summer dress) because as she talked about her business, I realised that a lot of it was prompting me to take some bold action in my own life. Jessica is a minimalist and blogger, and you can find her amazing work here. She talked about the ideas behind her lifestyle and her business, a lot of which is based around her story: she was a shopaholic turned minimalist who now makes it her aim to share her philosophies about only being surrounded by objects that add genuine value--be it emotional, practical, or functional-- to your life.
I know I was maybe a bit late to the minimalism train, but hearing a sweet, beautifully-dressed woman talk about this kind of lifestyle in a little country home in Derbyshire caused something in my brain to click. The idea that the things in my life should be serving me well was something I had never considered. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that there was a little voice in the back of my head that said I didn't deserve to be surrounded by things that made me feel good. There was a sense of shame there: I felt like my privilege at having been born into a wealthy society meant that I shouldn't be seeking out any more value than what I already had (more on the irony of this in a minute).
So I came home and immediately assessed my closet, my bookshelves, my desk-- everything. I started to feel suddenly overwhelmed by how much stuff I owned. Like, endless amounts of stuff that, when I looked at it, brought me more anxiety than they did joy. I became very self-aware of how mentally suffocated I was because of being surrounded by so many objects that didn't make my life easier, happier, or more valuable. I realised that many objects that I would get use out of were buried underneath piles of other crap in a desperate attempt to make everything fit. I realised that very few items in my closet made me feel beautiful, comfortable, or at home with myself or my body. I was preoccupied with forcing things to fit a space rather than justifying the use of that space. And I just suddenly woke up to the burning question: Why am I living like this?
I live in a tiny, lovely cottage in a small corner of the Western world-- a world that is weighted down by excess and overabundance. And yet I would wager that most Westerners are still largely unhappy and dissatisfied-- myself included. I allowed myself to fall into that vicious thought cycle that all of us are told not to fall into and yet we do it anyway: I let myself think that I would be satisfied if only I could consume a little bit more. It wasn't a conscious thought, but deep down, it's been there, whispering to me. For the past four years, I've told myself that I'll be happier as soon as we own our own home, and have more space, and have access to a bigger garden, and can find more storage, and, and, and... My house felt too cluttered, so naturally I needed a bigger one to make room for our stuff. I had no more room for my books, so naturally I needed a bigger book shelf. I couldn't find anything in my closet, so naturally I needed a bigger closet so that I could have more clothing options and more space to spread everything out and ohhhh my goodness the noise in my head was deafening.
And then I meet Jessica, who introduced me to the simple question "Does it add value to your life?" Around about that same time, my church began a series on financial wholeness, a lot of which was challenging me to think about how I approach gratitude. I was reminded very keenly of the amount of people living in other parts of the world who only own one pair of shoes and share one toilet amongst fifty dwellings, and yet for me, gratitude was never the first thing I felt when I woke up in my comfortable, beautiful little cottage. Neither was I feeling a prompt to be particularly generous with what I have. Instead, I felt overwhelm. I felt fear. I felt greed. Yup, I'll say it. I felt greed. I was afraid of giving anything to others and yet felt that my satisfaction and gratitude would somehow eventually arrive if I just consumed that little bit more-- if I had that space that was just a little bit bigger. And as I swallowed these harsh realities, I knew, too, that I was choosing to live a half-life when God has designed me to live a full one: not one of fear or overwhelm, but of redeeming abundance in joy, love, gratitude, and peace.
But here's the crazy thing: until Jess shared her story and my church asked me what gratitude looks like in my life, I was completely oblivious to the irony warring inside me: I felt like I didn't deserve a home/life that was valuable to me, and yet I also believed that my joy was waiting for me on the other side of a big, beautiful house. I was simultaneously living a life of consumerist greed and emotional self-denial. And I was angry. Angry with myself for how long I'd ignored what my heart was feeling. Angry at how little self-awareness I had. Angry with society for telling me what I needed and why I needed it. Angry that I could grow up with so much and yet offer so little to others. Guys, a righteous fire lit inside of me, and I was angry.
And now, here's the beautiful thing: I made a choice. I took control. The minute the bomb went off in my head, I was like "Okay, well now you know the truth. Go do something about it." So I brought out the bin bags, I turned on a Harry Potter audio book, and I filled those bags up with thing after thing after thing. And with each item that went in the "sell," "bin," or "donate" pile, I felt a little weight coming off my chest and freeing me from the bondage that a life in a consumer country had placed on me. With each item I kept, I felt gratitude at knowing that I possessed objects that worked hard for me to make my life easier and bring a smile to my face. And over all, I felt such a sense of control. With each item I chucked and each item I kept, I could feel myself reaffirming something I now know to be true: My happiness will not be found in owning things, but the things I do own are there to serve me well. I deserve to live a life of value, and my home can give that to me if I let it. God designed me for generosity and gratitude, not fear and greed. And most importantly, I do not have to wait to experience joy. Joy is waiting for me right now if I choose it because I can choose to cultivate a home that inspires me to give more, thank more, and make more thoughtful decisions about how and where I spend my finances.
I'm still in the middle of this house overhaul, and I can't wait to show you more progress on how things are going, but I hope that today, darling, you feel inspired to take charge. To shed off old weight. To drink up the joy that your possessions can bring you and let go of any that weigh you down. To give of yourself and to live unafraid. There was always a "more" that was waiting for us, it just isn't in the place that our culture tells us it's in. Because the reality is that our belongings make up a much bigger part of our lives than we care to admit, and it's only in being more aware of ourselves and how we emotionally interact with those belongings that we can come to a place of true peace in that little dwelling we call "home."