Here is a great blog article written by Jeff Spadafora Director of Coaching and Product Development at the organization HalfTime @ www.halftime.org
One of the best ways to build capacity in our lives is to simplify our lives.
After several low cost probes and a part-time consulting role with the Halftime organization, I was ready to make the transition from business to full-time ministry. We decided to take a 6-week family summer vacation in France to recharge and reorient our family to this exciting change.
The problem was money. I was staring at a 50% pay cut with my new ministry salary so the typical airfare/hotel/rental car vacation would blow our budget. Necessity being the mother of invention, we decided to try a home exchange and quickly found a French family interested in swapping. We swapped our houses and cars as well. We flew using frequent flier miles. All told, the trip cost us $0 (you read that right). Sure, we had to buy groceries and pay for a few touristy things, but we would have done that back home in Colorado anyway.
You may be saying, “What about your stuff back home? What if something gets damaged or stolen?” We made some provisions to mitigate that risk and felt the $20,000+ savings was worth it.
What really struck me about this experience was that living in a 1200 square foot apartment in downtown Paris and a 1300 square foot farm house with no TV or wi-fi in the south of France was delightful. The small size of the homes moved our family of five physically closer to one another. The result was we talked and laughed and played and dreamed more. Back in Colorado, our much larger house spreads us out so we tend to be isolated unless it’s dinner time. When it comes to square footage, I can unequivocally say less is more.
We’ve since travelled virtually free with other home exchanges and the biggest blessings have come from things other than saving money. Staying in a home in a real neighborhood gives us the opportunity to be immersed in the local culture and get to know families in the areas we have visited. Thanks to Facebook, my kids have lifelong friends in countries all around the world that they would not have if we went to hotels and all-inclusive resorts overrun with Americans.
My point is not to be a spokesperson for home exchanges, but to show you one example of how downsizing aspects in our life has always led to great, unexpected blessings. For us, and many Halftimers I know, scaling down has been more like trading up.
What else have we downsized? We got rid of our horses. Michelle and I enjoyed them but our kids didn’t and it created a time-divide in our family. And it’s been a blessing to have two families who have fallen on hard times be able to store things in our barn. Ask anyone who’s gotten rid of stuff they owned (or were owned by) and they’ll tell you about the freedom they feel.
I am not suggesting nice things are bad. It depends on how you relate to your nice things. Do they promote and enable the important spiritual and relational things you want out of life? Or do they create clutter and busyness, and prevent you from engaging in what you really care about?
The places to look for simplicity don’t stop with homes, vacations, hobbies, and “stuff”. What about your kids’ activities? I know of several families running their children ragged playing 3 sports at time (I’m not exaggerating) for fear that if they don’t show commitment to the team, they won’t get playing time or that college scholarship. My son made the top baseball team in our town when he was 9. They played 55 games that summer! It nearly destroyed our family being split up every weekend. The next year he played on a team that played 16 games – normal.
How about your car(s)? Is it leased and plummeting in value everyday? Or did you put a down payment on it and now find yourself saddled with steep monthly payments? Many people come to us at Halftime dreaming of a life of significance but their financial obligations are so high, if they take their foot off the money-making pedal the world will come crashing down.
I knew a prominent judge who received a phone call from the President of the United States one day, asking him to consider a Supreme Court Justice nomination. He had to decline because his super-successful law practice had caused him to inch up his lifestyle and debt over the years -- almost imperceptibly --- and he couldn’t afford to take the most prestigious job in his profession. I asked a friend of mine why he was putting up with the board of directors’ pressure, 14 hour days and the crazy travel. He told me “that’s the price of wealth and wealth equals freedom.” He (and me at one time) had been sold a bill of goods. All of us could be free in the next 5 minutes if we weren’t so attached to status and stuff. My hope for my friend is that he can sell his company before he has a heart attack, gets dumped by his wife or estranges his kids. He estimates he needs just 5 more years. Time will tell.
My encouragement is to not strive for simplicity in your finances and calendar because it’s in vogue or seems spiritual. You’ll end up angry if you do it for reasons like that.
The trick is to truly find joy in slowing down and simplifying your life so that your mind and heart are freed up along with your finances and calendar.
What can simplicity result in?
- Joy in being released from financial obligations so you can focus on what really matters to you.
- Joy in deep, extended reflection and communion with God — as opposed to a 20-minute “quiet time” jammed into your day. You can’t get your assignment from God if you don’t carve out the time to listen to Him.
- Joy in friendships. For many, their whole lives are about work and family (this was and still is a problem for me). Getting reconnected with guy friends has been a huge source of joy for me and many Halftimers I know. I find it takes more effort and intention than it did when I was younger, but its well worth it.
- Joy in generosity. Over the years, using our second house in the ski country had become a chore. By far, the best part of owning it was blessing others by letting them use it with their families.
- Joy in being in God’s creation. Taking my dogs for a walk in the woods with my wife after a Rocky Mountain thunderstorm is a treat. Get outside.
If things like this don’t sound appealing, you won’t succeed in simplifying your life. It’s impossible to be motivated to attain something that’s not appealing to you. On the other hand, if you get a taste of the peace that comes from things above, you’ll break down walls to get more of it.
Simplicity is more than tactics leading to an organized garage, a less frenzied calendar, or lower debt. It’s about a deep desire to create mental, emotional and spiritual room to breathe easy. It’s an emotional detachment from things and results and a reattachment to God and people. One helpful way to think about simplicity is to no longer see it as an all or nothing proposition: Try implementing a few things and see if simplicity has an effect on you as it has had on me. Six years into my second half, I’m no longer riddled with anxiety when some of my hours, and even days, aren’t super-efficient, productive or pragmatic. In fact, I relish them now.