Wednesday, May 25, 2016

Book Review: Organized Simplicity

Organized Simplicity: The Clutter Free Approach to Intentional Living
By Tsh Oxenreider

I received this book as a gift from a friend who had received this book as a gift from her sister-in-law. And as it goes with good books, word of mouth is the best marketing system. Yes, I already have a friend in mind to pass the book along to.

How-to, self help, minimalism, and cleaning books are not lacking in our society. Yet houses are getting bigger, families are getting busier, and dare I say families are getting poorer. When we were first married we lived in a house that was about 1000 sqft, but fantastically affordable and just right for newlyweds. Fast forward 7 years, add two children and one new, better paying job later and we were ready to move to a better neighborhood. The two 1700 sqft homes we lived in over the course of the next three years always seemed a little too big (my husband would disagree, I'm sure).

We longed to own a home and finally found one in our price range and took aggressive measures (ok, maybe just measures) to make sure we could fit in our new 1/3 smaller home. And so I find myself today cozy in my 1150 sqft home. And while my kids get bigger (both boys predicted to break 6 feet tall) I have been tempted to add on (I love our location so I don't want to move). But about a year ago I realized that to increase this home would deprive potential future buyers of their cozy first home. #LoveGrowsBestInLittleHouses

What I loved about this book is that it not only addresses your clutter, it addresses time and money. Tsh has great concepts that can be applied to any area of your life. This is what I walked away with:

1. Live Intentional.
Not doing this is probably the biggest thief of our lives. We are so busy just getting by that we forget why we are alive (some have never stopped to even consider why). God has s purpose for each of us; how sad to think we may have ignored it in our busyness. Prioritize your life as an individual/family and then live in a way that congruent with your life's purpose.

2. Create Availability.
This was a life changer for me. Our lives are so full that we are prisoners of them. Payoff your debt and bulk up your savings so you can use your money to help someone when needed, take that dream vacation, or retire in style. Don't keep your family so busy you can't savor the activities you do. Clean and declutter your home so you can host a girls night, let your kids have that sleep over, or even house a visiting friend.

3. Deny obligation.
Do you really "have to"? I know there are some things that you really do "have to" do but when you live intentionally you will start to see you don't really have to do everything. It's ok - even appropriate - to say no. Does a kid have to play four different organized sports? Do you have to watch six reality shows instead of living your own life? Do you have to have a new car? Do you have to keep that gift that you will never use? Ask yourself these kinds of questions and you may be surprised at the answers.

I hope you enjoy this book as much as I did. I will likely re-read this in years to come, which I don't say often, but it was really that meaningful to me.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Dumpster Diving & The Love of God

When I quit my job about ten weeks ago I knew that my family's finances would change significantly.  And, as He always does, God has used this new season of life to teach me a thing or two about His love.

It all started with an empty water bottle.

My son's school is an eight minute walk from our house and we've enjoyed this little bit of time every morning and afternoon to talk about life.  It's actually a very precious time walking him to school each day, hearing his nine year old thoughts.  One day as I walked home by myself I noticed an empty water bottle on the curb and reasoned I was just about a block from home, why not pick it up and be five cents richer when I take my recyclables.  So I did.

Fast forward about a month.  My sons and I were at a local miniature golf center enjoying a gift certificate from my mother in law.  Actually, they were enjoying it, I was watching them.  Somewhere around the eighth hole I noticed a half filled water bottle sitting next to the ten foot fairway.  Side note for total transparency: I had to google "parts of a golf course" to know what the fairway was called.  Once again I figured it would do me no harm to carry this bottle until we went home.  So I picked it up and placed it in my purse.

A few holes and several dozen strokes later (because every miniature golf course is par-whatever-I-swing when you are a child) I looked down to see a perfectly clean, mostly empty water bottle just inside a rather empty trash can.  It was a straight shot down, and I new I could grab the water bottle without touching the sides of the trash can.  I stood looking at it and laughed realizing how much I felt like George Costanza: "It was sort of on top... above the rim."

And I heard God speak to me so clearly as I reached the length of my arm into that trash can.  How was I willing to reach down so low for something that has only a five cent value when I was willing to do so little for those of endless value to Him?

"Are not two sparrows sold for a cent?  And yet not one of them will fall to the ground apart from your Father.  But the very hairs of your head are all numbered.  So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows."  Matthew 10:29-31, NASB

By this past Sunday I was a full blown recycling novice, reading articles online and checking our city's municipal code to determine where I could legally collect and where I could not.  At the neighborhood park there were lots of abandoned bottles and cans.  As I walked further and further into the park, literally to corners I had never visited before, I realized I had reached a point few would in their recycling efforts.  Lots of people care about recycling (even I've avidly recycled at home for years) but few would walk a couple miles out of their way for it.

Again I heard God.  The road gets more narrow the further you go; fewer people will walk it.

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and way is broad that leads to destruction, and there are many who enter through it.  For the gate is small and the way is narrow that leads to life, and there are few who find it."  Matthew 7:13-14, NASB

I don't know where God is leading me these days, and I choose to be okay with that.  I pray that where ever it is - because it is so rarely where I think it will be - that I will be obedient to His calling and go eagerly to those places so that more will hear of this great love of God's that reaches down to the bottom of the filthiest trash can to rescue those with no other hope.