Culture At Large

Giving up excess for Lent (and hopefully longer)

Maureen Herring

I’ve gradually been giving up excess. Over the last few months my husband and I have gotten rid of half our stuff. Lent seems like a good time to go the rest of the way with the process.

We recently downsized from our 2,100-square-foot house in a suburban community outside Austin to a 1,060-square-foot apartment closer to church and about 10 minutes from each of our workplaces. We paid way too much money for housing, gas and tolls. We spent hours in the car and put a lot of energy into maintaining a home in a community that is miles away from where we work or worship. This move should help us get out of debt and to become more nimble in our ability to respond to Kingdom priorities. It has already simplified our lives enormously.

It’s unlikely we ever would have ended up on Hoarders, but we still had a staggering amount of excess stuff. To pare down we had to get ruthless. We only kept items that serve a purpose in the life we are living now. Sentimental value is about memories. We kept all the memories, we just edited out some of the items associated with them. We’ve talked to our sons about being light travelers too. They have permission to say no to anything we offer to pass on to them now and to get rid of anything we leave behind, guilt free.

I think I may need to stop shopping entirely for a season and focus on God and other people and things with eternal consequence.

Having less stuff saves money and creates more time and more options. If I bring an item into my home I have to make space for it, clean it, maintain it and insure it. If I manage to accumulate enough stuff I need an even bigger place or a storage unit to hold all of it.

I’m fascinated with Dave Bruno’s 100 things challenge. I’m not going to feel like a failure if my life ends up requiring more than 100 items, but his idea of reducing the amount of stuff we own, refusing to bring in more and rethinking priorities is solid. But downsizing is only part of the challenge. I find myself thinking about replacing what remains with better stuff.

I think I may need to stop shopping entirely for a season and focus on God and other people and things with eternal consequence. I want to offer all my stuff, my time and my energy to their rightful Owner and find out how they can best be used for His purposes.

Recently our pastor, Will Davis Jr., gave us a preview of his upcoming book, Enough: Finding More by Living With Less. He posed a question that keeps nagging at me: How much is enough?

While I’m not part of the 1% of America’s wealthiest people, I do fall into the top 15% and my stuff probably does too. I already have enough and what I have is good enough. I want to spend the next few weeks refocusing my treasure and my heart. I want to make relationships, gratitude and service more important than stuff and trade the heavy burden of consumerism for the light burden offered by Christ.

What Do You Think?

  • How are you observing Lent?
  • How would you define a lifestyle of excess?
  • Could you reduce your possessions to 100 items?


Topics: Culture At Large, Theology & The Church, Christmas & Easter, Home & Family, Money