My husband and I recently moved into the home we purchased a few months ago. We can envision living here for decades. Once all of the boxes are unpacked and the furniture put in place, we’ll need some time to relax.
But I am also keeping an eye toward developing practices in our new home to help us continue to live simply.
As I packed up our boxes, I reflected that I felt we had the right amount of stuff (not a precise measure, to be sure). And while we’ll need a few more pieces of furniture and will doubtless add some items as we live our lives, I don’t want our accumulation to get out of control just because we have more space.
A new challenge of being homeowners — especially of an old house built in the 1880s — is home improvement projects.
When do we undertake one and when do we wait? What’s worth the added convenience or beauty, and what’s an unnecessary luxury? Our culture abounds with magazines, television shows and more all geared toward this part of life for those of us fortunate enough to own a home.
In an effort to live with this new set of challenges faithfully, I’ve welcomed advice from members of my church and family, and started to develop some ideas for practices:
Checking the nooks and crannies. My husband and I have committed to evaluating the stuff we stash in storage spaces annually around the anniversary of our move. Appropriately for this purpose, that day was Earth Day. It’s easy to forget that things exist when you’re not looking at them regularly. If we haven’t picked up an item in a year — and maybe haven’t even thought about it — it’s likely time to take it to the thrift store.
Extending generosity within our four walls and beyond. One of my hopes for our home is to show hospitality through sharing guest bedrooms and meals. We got a new, larger dining room table for free through community connections. I also want to continue to share our resources. While we already tithe, I hope to continue to stretch to give more to our congregation, other ministries and peace-and-justice organizations.
Letting go of the idea of a dream home. We received wise advice not to focus too much of our energy on home improvement. One person suggested only doing one project a year. Sure, there’s plenty in our home in need of repair or upgrade. But we don’t have to like all of it to be able to live with it. It’s tempting to squirrel away every extra bit of income to put toward the house, but that would neglect other callings, such as building community, which requires tending to relationships and not just property.
Mixing patience with being green. Being mindful of environmental impact is a strongly held value for me, and I’m grateful that more and more products are available that help all of us better care for the earth. But that doesn’t mean rushing to buy all new energy-efficient appliances. And while I hope to do an energy audit sometime in our first year or two of living here, we may not be able to follow all of its recommendations right away.
It will be a learning process. But so is the rest of a life of discipleship, trying to follow Jesus in decisions where he didn’t provide direct commands. I’m glad we have other Christians with whom we can make our way together.
Celeste Kennel-Shank is a hospital chaplain, editor and community gardener in Chicago.