This past week our family did something different as we wound down the summer...and I thought I'd reflect on it for a few minutes before my life goes crazy at CU...
This summer Ingrid and I both read Jen Hatmaker's book SEVEN where she details her decision to live much more simply as she cut out excess in her life by choosing to eat and wear and purchase far less in terms of variety over various months...her writing about her experience challenged us, made us laugh, and frankly overwhelmed us at times...
One of the things that I honestly struggle with, think about, and then bring up with our family all the time is the massive amount of choices and variety of goods and activities and good old stuff that fills our lives, our budgets, our stores, and ultimately our faith journeys...
It is something that overwhelms me anew every time I travel to the developing world and throws me not guilt, angst, and disillusionment when I re-enter American culture post cross-cultural experience...
I wanted to have our family at least consider how much excess we live with and simply don't need in a culture and everyday life that continually invites, prods, and seems to suck us into living well beyond our needs and what actually causes us to be content and satisfied...
We created some lists of 10...10 things we would choose for a variety of things for just 5 days...our simple way to try and live like others do and be reminded of how much we have when we take away options and extras...at least in a small way for a short time...
So here's what we did...
*Made a list of 10 foods that were the only things we could eat: cheese, frosted mini-wheats, potatoes, water, diet coke, bread, bananas, peanut butter, eggs, chicken
*Each person selected 10 clothing items to wear for the week
*Each family member gave away 10 possessions
* We were only allowed to spend 10 dollars per day outside of necessities as a family
*Allowed to only participate in 10 hours of media time for the week
*We drove only one car for the week
*Recycled everything possible
*Buy clothes at thrift store only
*Picked 10 stores/vendors as viable places to go to
*Observed 10 minutes of quiet prayer and scripture reading per day
*Sought to set aside 10 hours of rest in a sabbath
It was in many ways more difficult than we thought it would be...and the people who knew we were doing thought we were more than a little crazy...mostly because we didn't need to live this way.
Here were a few of the things we observed and experienced:
--not having coffee made getting going more difficult and confirmed a serious caffeine habit
--our moods were crankier simply because we weren't able to eat wheat we wanted to eat
--repetitive lives seem boring and blasé and lifeless
--giving away 10 items is ridiculously easy...we may have been able to do this several times over and still lived the same
--we did more reading and talking without media
--changes in weather are a big deal without lots of clothes (we had a strange summer cold snap during our August week)
--you lose a little sleep and don't schedule extra appointments with only one vehicle
--without tons of options and purchase options we would most likely be thinner and wealthier
--I heard less complaining as the week went on...not sure if that was because we were learning to live with it or because we knew it would soon be over
After our week living 10 was done, we actually broke out of the experiment by going to the newly opened 5 GUYS restaurant here in GR where hundreds of people stormed the place and it offered over 20 toppings for your burger and a soda machine that paralyzed you with hundreds of flavor kinds...so yes, we are still fully American and not ready for any sort of sainthood status...
As we talked together about the week there was a mix of new awareness of how we live with way too much and a bit of recognition that we would have to do something even more drastic to actually shift our lifestyle and habits for good to how they probably should be...
Doing the 10 experiment was meaningful and productive and something that will be a reference for our family going forward as we continue to think and ask and pray and live with the needs of our brothers and sisters, what is truly healthy in all ways for our family unit, and the call of Jesus to live a life of faithfulness and sacrifice in mind...and I hope that a year, a decade, a generation later living 10 will be simpler and require less change because we resist the cultural mandate for stuff and more stuff because we find that living simply brings a deeper joy and contentment and love as followers of the One who lived a simple life of godliness without very much stuff as He saved us from our junk through His life and death...
Check out the book that started this journey for us and create your own 10 list: