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The Simple Life

The television show, Hoarders, has a simple premise — documenting the lives of people who obsessively collect things, even if the collections are pointless, harmful, or unsanitary.  I’ve only watched the show a couple times because it makes my neat-freak tendencies go haywire. It was hard for me to see these people, unable to get rid of anything, making their living spaces look more like a landfill than a habitable place.

I reserved a small space in my heart for judgement of these folks who let stacks of stuff crowd them out of their own homes until I realized it was possible to hoard things in our lives, not just our homes. Our possessions, our relationships, and our leisure activities can lead to a life full unnecessary piles crowding our mind and hearts — not to mention creating a hectic lifestyle, devoid of downtime.

Simplicity seemed to be the antithesis of those piles, but I quickly realized my idea of simplicity was a bit misguided. I pictured the Amish with their horse and buggies, plain clothes, and primitive ways of life. As I didn’t see myself adopting that lifestyle anytime soon, I wondered how simplicity was possible in my own life. Until I realized simplicity, like all spiritual disciplines, was a means to  place myself before God in order to be transformed, I didn’t get very far beyond a few trips to Goodwill.

With the following definition of simplicity in mind, I began to examine all the things I was hoarding in my life:

Simplicity creates margins and spaces and openness in our lives. It honors the resources of our small planet. It offers us the leisure of tasting the present moment. Simplicity asks us to let go of the tangle of wants so we can receive the simple gifts of life that cannot be taken away.  Sleeping, eating, walking, giving and receiving love, the benefits we take for granted, are amazing gifts. Simplicity invites us into these daily pleasures that can open us to God, who is present in them all.

-Adele Ahlberg Calhoun in Spiritual Disciplines Handbook

It wasn’t just clothes or trinkets I was letting pile up in my life, I was hoarding things spiritually, physically, and emotionally that kept me from connecting with God.  The process of simplifying wasn’t, and isn’t, smooth sailing. Simplicity sounds good in theory, but actually acting on the need for simplicity is hard. It’s never been more difficult to be simple.  We live in a complicated and cluttered society.

Our society defines the “good life” by how full and busy our lives are, and the things we have. So, to intentionally rid yourself of those things goes completely against the grain. And yet, Jesus himself lived a lifestyle of simplicity, and taught that freedom wasn’t found in having and doing, but in keeping God and His will first in our lives (see Matthew 6:19-21).

We don’t need all the things and experiences we hoard for ourselves. They often do more damage than good. What we really need is to keep first things first — Jesus and His Kingdom.  Life is much more simple when one thing matters most.

For more on simplicity, check out these books:



  1. Very inspiring. Especially as we’re transitioning into a season where we’re home and inside more…my clutter is staring me in the face!

  2. As a bit of a packrat, I found myself wanting to defend the hoarders a little. 🙂 I also live in Russia, where most adults have experienced at least one major food shortage in their lifetime, and that contributes to a certain mentality. For example, my mother-in-law sometimes buys a bunch of something, just in case. It’s hard to pinpoint the problem with my wanting to avoid waste (saving old cereal boxes for craft projects) or keep something with sentimental value (greeting cards?). I DO feel the time and energy that it takes to keep things organized. The Bible talks about “not storing up treasures on Earth,” so I guess we all have to examine our own hearts as to what that means. I totally agree that our lives today are too hectic and there is a lot of “noise” to filter out, with God’s help.

  3. Loved this. Thank you, Emily! I loved how you brought up how we can compare the ways others’ lives are cluttered and not even realize our own are! How easy that is, indeed. Made me evaluate! 🙂

    1. Colleen Chao says:

      Amen and amen! What a long but good learning curve this has been for me, and perhaps it will be a lifelong one. Thank you for this sweet and powerful encouragement, Emily!

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