*Friends, I have a real treat for you today. Treat is an understatement. You will read this and say, “That’s good, right there” no less than ten times. My sweet friend, the talented Whitney English, is sharing her white space testimony with all of you today. You can follow Whitney’s blog and find her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
When Erin asked me to write a spot about creating whitespace in life, I had a great idea for a post rolling around in my head. Unfortunately, I forgot to write it down, and I’ve spent the past two weeks sort of hoping it would creep back to the surface of my ideas. It hasn’t. So, I thought I’d tell you a story.
A little over a year ago, my husband, David, and I found ourselves in a bit of a financial mess. I don’t believe in over-dramatizing things, but I do want to be honest and explain that it was a very serious situation. Almost overnight, our family went from being able to afford basic things, to not being able to afford basics. We had been struggling financially for almost a year before that, and we had lived that year in a state of assumption–that things would get better.
When things took a drastic turn for the worse, our lives were shaken to the core.
We started pinching pennies. A little bit of money would come in, and we’d stretch it as far as we could.
We quit using paper towels. We pushed diapers to last as far as they could.
We cooked through every canned good in the pantry–and it turns out, you can make a cake or a casserole out of ANYTHING!
We didn’t just conserve what we bought–we quit shopping. Just flat out didn’t go to Target, or the mall, or click on anything that would lead to an e-commerce website. The only store we shopped at was Aldi.
If we couldn’t get it at Aldi, we didn’t buy it.
The month after all this happened, I had my third child, and one of my best friends brought us a giant basket of fun kids food for the boys. The treats were simple, but now luxuries–a package of chewy fruit snacks was not a necessity, and would get skipped over at the store.
We bought ONLY what we needed, when we needed it, and not a day before.
And an AMAZING thing happened. It turns out, we don’t need really need that much to LIVE.
By eating what we had in stores, we spent no more than $75 at the grocery store every couple of weeks.
By not walking into Target, we quit being tempted by the end-caps of sale stuff and cute new holiday decorations.
By not being able to purchase new clothes, we started taking better care of what we had.
By not wanting to spend money on consumable products, we adopted practices that were better for the environment.
By not being able to go to restaurants, and eat out, we made adventures out of small outings, packing peanut butter sandwiches, and learned to love the wind in our face. (I’m not an outdoorsy girl, so that’s quite an accomplishment for me!)
If that wasn’t amazing enough, another unexpected blessing occurred. As I started to realize that living with less was OK, that we would survive without a cute new pumpkin from Target, an idea crept into my mind: on top of the challenge of living with less, what if we decreased even more?
In addition to using what we had in stores, what if we started getting rid of stuff?
The year-long purge began. The challenge became: how do we use it up, or give it away?
Cans of paint in the garage were used for fun DIY projects. We white-washed our entire house with one can of old paint! Sure, it was work, but it was a fun project and great time together.
We had garage sales and sold stuff on Craigslist and eBay, and started realizing that we had more stuff than we could get rid of in any one sitting. Talk about an embarrassing realization–so much stuff that you can’t purge it all.
I don’t know if I should be proud of what I’m about to tell you, but I’ve now gone more than a year without purchasing new shampoo for myself. That’s how many little bottles of hotel shampoo and old hair product I had lying around–enough to keep me stocked for over a year.
The end of the story is almost obvious: we survived, and we are better for it.
More disciplined, for sure. More grateful times a million.
The gratitude I found at the bottom of this experience was amazing. When faced with the choice of either liking what you already have, or having to go without, it’s amazing how quickly you decide to like what you have.
The justifications kick in, I promise. The concern about what other people think fades away–simply because you can’t afford to care what people think. It takes just as much energy to talk yourself out of buying the shirt, instead of talking yourself into it. And I learned that the long-term result of buying the shirt isn’t as gratifying as the long-term result of not buying it.
Our society suffers from the burden of abundance, friends. And we don’t know it.
The world will always tell us we need more–but we don’t. We need less.
As I leaned towards minimalism this past year, wholeheartedly embracing the experience of not accumulating more, and adopting the practice of using up what we had, I found unexpected white space, and the gift of a new freedom.
The simplicity of living without stuff attached was a gift that brought gratitude, pushed my creativity, challenged my personal growth, encouraged me in more faith, and gave me the blessing of abundant LIFE, instead of abundant STUFF.
LIFE happens in the whitespace.
Challenge for friends: are the choices you are making pushing you towards abundant LIFE or abundant STUFF?
This is Day 17 of 31 Days of Creating White Space