Living with Less

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The crisis in Haiti is a stark reminder of how little so many others are able to live on. Of course, it’s not just in Haiti; it’s all over the world and in our own backyard. How many times do you see people appear to be perfectly happy living with a lot less than you have?

The other day, one of our producers circulated an article called, “What Could You Live Without?” which immediately struck a chord with me and my circle of friends for a variety of different reasons, I’m sure.

I had just had a conversation a couple days earlier about having moved three separate times and still had boxes that had never been unpacked; just moved from one place to the next. I had decided those were clearly items that I could live without and had either trashed or donated the contents. I also have a storage unit with things that I guess I still want – some because they mean something to me, but I just don’t have room for them, and others simply because I purchased them, and they belong to me. But really, if they’re stored away and neither I or my boys are using them, what’s the use of keeping them?

How many of us have stuff we feel entitled to but don’t really need? Why is it so hard to part with them? I think the only way to deal with it honestly is determine what stuff represents in our lives.

Most of us go through a period where the stuff that we own defines us in a way. After all, when we’re in college, working toward landing our dream jobs, we seldom are thinking in terms of the happiness that career will bring us or the service we will be providing others. We’re more likely to be thinking of the salaries we’ll earn and what material things we will be able to purchase. No judgment! It’s only natural to want our lifestyle to reflect our earnings, and in this material world, most of us are judged by our homes, our cars, our clothes, our jewelry and our purses.

But there comes in a time in our lives when we get a sort of wake-up call that makes us realize either we can or have to learn to live with less. And then, we come to see that the people who wanted to be around us because of our titles, cars and homes were not that important after all. It’s amazing how scarce those people become when either we or they begin to lose some of the stuff that had us so puffed up in the first place.

At some point, we begin to shed the things we thought we had to have, and it’s better when the decision to part with these things is ours. But either way, we learn that more isn’t always better.

The reality show “Hoarders” is an extreme view of our sometimes-pathological desire to hold on to things past their usefulness. My son Tyler’s favorite program, “Clean House,” (yes, he has a thing for Niecy Nash) is another more realistic look at how people can let too much stuff get the best of them, causing their houses and their families to look like a hot mess.

I’ve never been one to collect a lot of clutter in my home or in my life. When things and people are no longer useful – or I should say no longer helpful and positive – I’m pretty good about letting them go.

On the other hand, I have a friend who this Christmas realized that she hadn’t even put away some of the gifts she and her family got the previous year. Her tendency to hold on to stuff, people and issues adds a lot of unnecessary stress to her cluttered life. She has to determine for herself what she needs to let go of and what she needs to keep.

Over the last few years, I’ve downsized my life in all kinds of areas, but I’ve tried to upgrade where it counts, hoping to reach the balance most of us strive for. I’m not there yet. But I’m close.

I’ve been blessed with all the trappings that spelled out success professionally and personally. And I’ve also struggled. And through it all, God has been with me.

Philippians 4:12 says, “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need.”

What can you live without? What can your family live without? What can your kids live without? The people in Haiti – many of whom probably thought they were living with as little as they could before that earthquake struck – found out they could live with even less.