I like themes.
My kids' birthday parties always have a theme. My family draws names for Christmas then we designate a theme. To be honest, I might even be a bit obsessed with the "theme" theme of my life. I really like to have a theme.
Themes help me stay focused. They give me a filter through which I can look at the world - or at least a given scenario. I like my theme to be something short, easy to remember and preferably pithy. I want it to be something that can pop back into mind when things get foggy.
As I was devising a theme for the upcoming year I was drawn to the ironically simple word "Simplify." Good grief, if simplifying was that simple, I wouldn't have been thinking about, stressing over, and guilting myself into "simplifying" for the past year. I. just. can't. do. it.
I keep trying to simplify. To purge the stuff we've acquired in our 800sq. ft. apartment. To clear out the clutter. To have a mail system. To stay on top of papers and toys and clothes and books and dust and... It is SO desirable to me to simplify.
And simplifying has, for me, proven to be painfully complicated. Where do I even start?
So as I pondered my theme for 2014, I said "of course it is 'Simplify'." But I couldn't convince myself. Something just wasn't right about it. So I took a minute to process why I kept stalling out on naming my theme. Here's what I discovered are my hurdles to the "Simplify" theme:
1. Fads fade. I don't want to jump in head first to something, read all of the constantly shifting material, and then burn out within the first couple of months of purging because I didn't have a real, substantive purpose behind it other than that it sounded good at the time.
2. Every expert has an opinion on how I should go about it. If I just Google "How to Simplify" I would come up with blogs and articles and books and podcasts about a thousand different ways to start, a billion different DIY projects that somehow make my life simpler, and a world wide web's worth of mental clutter for me to sift through and see what sounds the best for my unsimple self. Talk about overwhelming!
3. I could (and would) compare my simplification to your simplification, because everyone's simplification successes are posted. I love Pinterest and Facebook. I really, really do. But I just can't add one more area of potential envy and jealousy to my already overwhelmed and stressed out heart. I need a theme that helps me get motivated, not stuffs me inside a hole afraid to crawl out because I haven't simplified enough yet.
4. I've always rebelled against trends. I blame this on my homeschooled upbringing, but seriously, look in my closet and you will see that I am always unwilling to embrace a fad until it has begun to wane. Then I usually get it on Clearance. This isn't a weighty downside, but it's true, and must therefore be considered.
5. I wanted something that God, not others, would walk me through. Because it is a trend right now there are many people offering valuable insights, but I don't want to rely on anyone other than the Holy Spirit for this process in my life. I want to depend on Him fully to walk me down the road of letting go of my cluttered life to embrace the freedom He has to offer me.
So no, my theme is not "Simplify". But worry not - I have a theme that has lit a fire under me and I am so excited to see how God moves in my life and shakes my world over the next year.
My theme: "What Is Needed?"
What clothes are needed? What tasks are needed? What words are needed? What does my husband need? What does my first child need? Second? Third? What do I need?
This is my filter. I've begun sorting through closets asking, "which of these toys are needed?" I've looked at my to-do list and said, "what needs to be done most?" I've bitten my tongue because I took a second to filter if my words were really necessary. I've sent my husband a text I thought he needed to receive, and guess what - he thanked me for taking the time to encourage him with those words.
I'm only three weeks into this year - into this theme - and you know what? My life is starting to feel a bit simpler. And I'm getting excited to see what else I can pare away so that what is left in my life is what really needs to be here.