finding simplicity : in the bedroom

As you may know, my family has been on a quest of sorts to simplify our lives.  It started in 2008 when we moved from Chicago to Richmond… and filled the moving truck!  It was sickening how much stuff we had.  Furniture and boxes stuffed to the brim.  Then the journey intensified a year ago, when in an attempt to help The Ridge refinance its mortgage I volunteered to take a big pay cut and move my family into a mobile home (trailer) on the church campus.  We went from a 2200 square foot, 4 bedroom home, into a 1200 square foot, 2 bedroom trailer.  We need to simplify our possessions…. and fast!

I am proud to say that we have divested ourselves of well over half of our possessions that we moved to Richmond with.  And we are enjoying it!  We are finding more peace in owning less.  Wanting less.  Buying less.  And I thought it might be good to examine how we are doing this room by room.  Let’s start in the bedroom.

The bedroom should be the inner sanctum of your home.  Your ultimate retreat and sanctuary.  But it often becomes cluttered with stuff… furniture, paper, piles, clothes, etc.  Then add the noise and light pollution of a TV and it can easily become hectic.  Here are a few things I have done to increase the peace in my bedroom:

  • Simplify the warddrobe.  This deserves its own post, but I have given away about 80% of my clothing and shoes.  How much can you really wear at one time any way?  The less you have, the less you have to store.  Find the 10-20% of clothes you actually wear and donate the rest!
  • Simplify the clutter.  Use the 4 Ps.  Take it one drawer, one closet, or one basket at a time.
  • Simplify the furniture.  What do you really use?  I recently moved all of the furniture out of my bedroom, save the mattress, two chairs (for dressing), and two small nesting tables used as bedside tables.  This was a simple decision, since the dressers were almost completely empty (simplified wardrobe), and had decluttered the remaining drawers.  The room now feels much more peaceful without being crowded with too much furniture. I store my clothes in a footlocker, but you can use minimal wardrobes, bins, and attractive alternatives to big, bulky dressers.  IKEA always has good options.  And because it can be scary to just get rid of a bedroom set, I moved it into another room for a month experiment.  If I don’t like it, I can always move it back in!
  • Simplify the laundry – this deserves its own post entirely.  But I do one load of laundry a week.  That’s it.
  • Remove the TV.  There are all kinds of reasons to not have a TV in the bedroom.  Studies repeatedly show that couples with no TV in the bedroom have more sex (what more reason do you need?), get more rest, and sleep more soundly.   Plus… why do I want to bombard my brain with advertisements when I am sleepy and most open to suggestion?  Get it out of there!

declutter with the 4 “p’s”

In tactical training there exists Hick’s Law… the more training options you have, the longer it takes to respond.  The same principle is behind my quest for simplicity.  The more stuff… possessions, bills, tasks, workflows, etc that I have competing for my attention, the more distracted I am.  The less focused and at peace I can be.

But the process of simplifying can be daunting.  How do I declutter?  Where to I start?  Let me introduce you to your new best friend… the 4P’s.  And we’ll start small – say with decluttering a single drawer.  Go find your messiest drawer and…

1. Pile – take everything out of the drawer and make a big pile.  On the bed.  On the floor.  It doesn’t matter. But get it all out.  Don’t sort.  Just pile!

2. Pick – you really don’t use all this stuff do you?  I don’t mean the stuff you think about using… or the stuff you like the idea of using.  Do you actually use it?  Often?  (How many socks/jewelry/tshirts do you actually wear?) Pick out only those things that you use, you like, and are important to you and create a second, smaller pile.

3. Prune – just like a tree needs to be pruned to grow, so does your pile.  Anything that you didn’t PICK for the smaller pile, get rid of.  Sell it on ebay or craigslist.  Give it to a friend.  Donate it to the Salvation Army.  Flat out throw it away.  Don’t be emotional or sentimental.  Don’t be afraid.  If you haven’t used it in a while, you probably won’t use it!   Why keep piles of stuff because you “might need it”?

4. Place – place the essential things back in the drawer in an organized manner.  Neatly.  With plenty of space around each item.  This makes it look neater and simpler.  (Of course, clean the drawer if you need to.)

That’s it!  You now have a much cleaner drawer that you can use to find and store the items you actually value.  And you have either made a little money selling the extra stuff, or have been generous and donated to someone who CAN use it.

And you can do a whole room with this process… just one drawer, one horizontal surface (dressers, tables, etc) at a time.  Just take it a bit by a bit.  Enjoy the process.  And watch as you slowly declutter your whole living space!

releasing the power of books

I love books!  But after spending years amassing (and that is the right root word there – mass!) my library I have a lot of them!  And I have to admit I have a love affair with each and every one.

But in my recent quest for simplification I have realized I am hoarding that which I love.  I have read them all – some over a dozen times.  I hold on to them for memories (sentiment), incase I might “need them” again (fear), because I have a lot of money invested into them (greed), and – frankly – because I like the idea of a big library (pride).  Not a great list of motives…

If I release them into the wild again, someone else will glean the learning, insight, perspective, and enjoyment that I have gotten from them.  My library will live instead of sitting dormant!

I have taken boxes of books to the library and used book stores.  I have sold some on ebay and craigslist.  But I have recently found a much more elegant solution.  I mooch.

Book Mooch is a online community of bibliophiles who share books.  Got a book to share?  List it on the mooch.  If another reader sees it and wants it, they send a request to have it mailed to them (thank God for USPS media mail!).  Sending books earns credits that can be “spent” on new-to-you books.  A totally voluntary and collaborative online book sharing community!

I can even make a wishlist of books I would like to mooch… and if someone lists one of them to share, Book Mooch contacts me to let me know.

Simple.  Elegant.  Communal.  And totally free!

I can enjoy my books and then send them on – knowing they will be enjoyed again and again.  Why own when you can mooch?
And in case you were wondering, YES! I do have an RSS feed of my wishlist and available books.

It’s been a while… and a journey

It has been quite a while since I’ve posted… but what a journey it’s been!  I’m glad to be back.  A few highlights that I JUST KNOW will see some future posts:

  • A new design!  Blew the dust off Chrisbellonline and refreshed it a bit.  Going for simple and minimal.  What do you think?
  • Since I have last posted, I have continued down the road to simplicity and minimalism… in some pretty significant ways – including giving away almost half of my belongings and downsizing significantly!  I am very excited about this path of minimalism…
  • The Ridge has moved off of our campus, and started meeting in a coffee shop and a local school.  We are moving toward a model of debt-free ministry – I don’t know that I would ever want to sign a mortgage again!  Bankers, moving, and organizational flux!  Many more posts on this later…
  • Our family adopted a homeless 18 year old, took him in, helped him get on his feet and find a job, and are walking him through various legal issues.  More later…