July 30, 2010
I'm very lucky to have a sizable closet. There is enough space to walk in it and store everything from old notebooks from graduate school to my down blanket for winter to shoes, bags, and clothes in an organized way. However, as I have been walking by my closet recently, and in my room in general, I've been repeatedly struck by the feeling that I have too many things.
Certainly this is all relative. Within a mile radius of my apartment, there are half-million dollar houses as well as government housing. I'm sure to one side of town I have very little, and to another I have a lot. But for me, in my own discernment, I feel I have too much. I have been asking myself recently, "What can you live without?" The answers to that question as I look around my apartment are more numerous than I'd like to admit. With back-to-school ads and flyers taunting me in my mailbox, I want to have my head on straight.
Three years ago I went on a mission trip to a rural village in Guatemala where there was no clean water, no plumbing, and only enough electricity for about two hours a day in the village. I stood firm in the fact that I wanted to live simply in America, and for awhile after I did. But then I took a teaching job at a prestigious school where, though people do not admit it, what you wear and how you look is assessed on a daily basis. I live in a city where women are not only put together, but donning remarkably expensive garb and spending upwards of $100-150 on haircuts (forget color or highlights). Now, I live within my budget, and for good reason, cannot and do not spend outside of my means. But the slippery slope of convincing myself that something I want is really something that I need is a treacherous road I regularly walk down here.
So, I've been wondering. What is it that I can live without? Just because I like a song on the radio doesn't mean I need to purchase it. Just because a book is recommended to me doesn't mean I can't walk one block to the library and check it out. Just because those shoes are so darn cute doesn't mean I need to buy them (although I did...yikes). But I've also been thinking, what is it that I do need? I do need to look professional (and really, I would argue stylish) in my job. I do like to look put together and ladylike equally when I'm going out with friends or going to Mass. But what are "essentials" and what are not? How does cooking, food shopping, and eating out factor into living more simply? How do you discern the difference?
Jesus, teach us that we depend on you.