Day 9

Several years ago I became acquainted with the idea that “you fill up the space you have.” If you have a small space, you will accumulate stuff to fill it until it is slightly over max capacity and then you’ll either throw away some stuff or stop accumulating. Having that small space you might not be able to conceive of needing more stuff, but as soon as your space gets bigger you’ll start accumulating again.

So I think it’s been good for my family to downsize for a season.  I sorted through the bathroom cabinet yesterday to make room for some displaced cleaning supplies and, in doing so, I found two tubes of toothpaste still in their boxes. This was annoying because I had just bought new toothpaste two days before. If I hadn’t been forced to find space I would probably continue to buy toothpaste until the whole cabinet was full.

The old saying goes “waste not, want not.” Growing up on well water, I developed a habit of letting the water run for a bit to make sure it was clear before filling up my glass.  But now that all the drinking water we have is the 3 gallon dispenser in the fridge, it makes me convicted that water is precious and that not a drop should be wasted. The same goes for food and eating everything on my plate. The same goes for electricity now that we have fewer outlets and keep blowing fuzes. The same goes with time now that the chores are taking longer.

I’ve always seen these things as precious, but when we had running water and time-saving machines and a whole fridge to store food in, I’ll be honest and say that I was getting pretty lazy about how I stewarded my habits. We fill up the space that we have. Whether that space is measured in liters, inches, or seconds, it slips away faster than we realize and then the whole world feels the loss.

I know I will start accumulating again once the plastic wall comes down and I have a kitchen, bathroom, and laundry room to furnish. I don’t want to beat myself up about that because good stewardship is caring for and cultivating the things that you have, and that includes hand towels. But I do want to remember the lessons in preciousness that I’m learning from downsizing. (And maybe I’ll keep the 3 gallon water dispenser in the fridge, just because.)

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Day 8 (or 7 continued)

Yesterday was a day off (our family is taking Friday/Saturday as our weekend this year) and the kids let me spend the afternoon looking through magazines. I have a stack about 16 inches tall of travel magazines (“Sunset” and “AFAR”) and Anthropologie, Target, and IKEA catalogues. It’s totally a guilty pleasure, but I spent the first few minutes pointing out all the cozy blankets and thick, fuzzy rugs to Rosey who oohed and aahed at all the right times.

Cabinet knobs, kitchen counters, wallpaper prints, flooring textures: I’m in deep and I love it all. I spent a couple hours doggy-earing pages while the kids played and my husband went to the gym (a very perfect family picture that’ll probably never happen again) and it was a delightful way to spend an afternoon off.

Now, I know that I could collect and collate renovation ideas online and get a much better end product, with more places to draw from more efficiently and a more compact system for sharing later, but there’s something about the older, analog, tangible and tactile medium that makes my afternoon search a luxury instead of a task. My hunch is that the something has to do with finiteness.

There are times when we are attracted to things with limitations. The charm of reading a book instead of the internet is that I can actually complete a book – there’s a first page and a last page instead of the endless link after link. As human beings we experience seasons (fall, winter, spring, and summer as well as childhood, adolescence, adulthood, and retirement) and our schedules revolve around activities with a beginning date and end date (college classes, sports teams, swim lessons, book clubs, etc.). This is helpful to us. It helps us set and meet expectations. It helps us assess ourselves. It helps us rest from both success and failure, the growth and the decay of our lives. After all, to be human, to be mortal, is to be finite, to have a time to live and a time to die.

So I’m grateful for the time to sit and be and enjoy, because it punctuates a busy work week and reminds me that “yes, this too shall pass,” all things must come to an end. (And then it’s time for cake.)

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Apparently my kids think we need to redo the living room as well. (Augie’s under  the table.)

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