Recommend that you start with Lent: More Than Fasting
Starting February 14th, 2018 I will be forgoing any purchase of material possessions (unless my underwear spontaneously combust), eating out, eating anything with added sugar, drinking alcohol and watching anything on a charged streaming service outside of a few educational documentaries and date night movies for the entire 40 day season of Lent.
My story is a simple one that is not so different from what others have experienced. I did not grow up poor, but there were times where my parents had to work 2-3 jobs each to pay the bills and put shoes on our feet.
After I turned 21 I took an oath that Rebecca and I would never be in that kind of a situation. But once my ability to be ordained in my faith tradition came to a close (more on this to come), I felt defeated, lost my faith (for a season), and did everything I could to grow in the non-profit I was working for to make more money.
Living in constant comparison with my peers, we neglected to pay down our monstrous student loan debt, leaving Rebecca and I in a hole. With each new purchase the feeling of satisfaction was ephemeral. I still wanted a newer car, more expensive clothes, to eat a nicer restaurants, keep up with all of the latest shows, purchase expensive whiskey, trips to breweries, fine cigars, Blurays, put Broadway shows on credit cards, kept up with the gadgets, and decorations for our new home.
Being put in increased debt with money we had promised to pay back, my life grew more complicated. I had fallen into the cycle of purchasing things I did not need, with money I did not really have, to impress people I did not like or know.
One day I just stopped and assessed my hoard of possessions that were intended to make me happy. There was not a feeling of satisfaction, but more overwhelm. This was not a crisis beginning to a journey, but just one day realizing how much all of the stuff I worked to accumulate left me empty.
Now over a year later, nearly 90% of of my personal items have either been donated or sold. Along the journey, Rebecca and I reduced our household items by 70%, leaving us with the 30% of items we found a great deal of value in and had a use for. The emptiness I have felt was filled in rediscovering the love I had for Rebecca, helping those in need, investing in relationships with friends, life in nature, and engaging in spiritual practices.
Our lives have become simpler and less stressful, with more time to engage our passions and enjoy one another. On top of that, all of our personal loans and credit cards have been paid off with the help of the items we were able to sell.
I have been relearning contentment and accepting that I already had enough. By focusing on enough, I find myself with more freedom from the desire to accumulate and focus on paying down my debt so that I can contribute more to my community.
This is why I will not being doing or purchasing anything extra over the next 40 days. My 20/30 rule is also on hold until the first of April, meaning that I cannot even start to consider purchasing anything over $20 for an additional 30 days. This will help keep my focus clear and to focus on what I will be adding to my practices.
A great journey of letting go is wrought with adding different practices. So if you wish to see how I am trying to take Lent a step further go to 40 Days of Addition.