Moving toward freedom

A small group gathered yesterday afternoon. As we were checking in with each other, the conversation revealed that six of us were win the process of thinking about moving to smaller homes and downsizing. We had quite a bit of conversation about sorting and shedding some of our possessions. After the meeting I went through the list of who attended and the conversation with which we began our gathering. Six out of ten participants are giving serious thought to finding smaller homes and learning to live in less expansive ways.

The conversation wasn’t all that surprising to me. I’ve had a lot of conversations about choosing the right time and finding the right place to reduce our impact and to make our lives a bit more manageable. What struck me about yesterday’s conversation is that the group wasn’t all elders. There were people of all ages in the group. Of the six who are considering a move to smaller places, two others were like me - considering a retirement lifestyle as opposed to those actively engaged in their careers. The other three were all younger people, in the early or middle phases of their careers.The oldest of that trio is 41. Further, those who were younger are moving more quickly, actively talking with real estate agents and visiting new places to live. It is likely that they will act more quickly than we who are older.

There was a time when it seemed like the trend in our society was towards bigger and bigger homes. When we moved into our home 25 years ago we were aware that there were lots and lots of homes that were bigger. Huge master bedroom suites with private baths were common. two-story entryways and grand staircases were available. Across the road from our home there is a home with six bedrooms and six bathrooms. Grand kitchens with room for multiple people to work, huge expanses of countertop and commercial grade appliances were common. We sought and chose a family home with small bedrooms, shared bathrooms and a modest kitchen and living room. We still see quite a few really large homes under construction in our area.

Interestingly, however, the people I spend much of my time with, are not considering bigger and more expensive homes. They are looking for modest living spaces and housing costs that are manageable of limited incomes. Affordable housing is more difficult to find in our area and in much of the country.

Over the years of our marriage we have made several conscious decisions to pursue goals that do not lead to the most wealth. We have enjoyed the benefits of meaningful work. We have been blessed with time for family, staying at home with our children when they were young, working around the schedules of teenagers and finding ways to participate in their education as young adults. We have chosen to live in places where salaries are lower but other aspects of life are rich. We haven’t counted our wealth in financial terms. And, we are happy with the decisions we have made. We have been blessed with being able to live in our home and not just work to make the payments. We have been able to travel more than some our age. We have formed lasting friendships around the globe.

As we begin to think about moving to a smaller home, one of the priorities that will remain for us is a place for guests. We no longer have children living at home. We no longer have our parents to live with us. But we still want very much to have a home where our friends and family can visit comfortably.

There are, however some things that we can do without. Our current home has an apartment in the basement. We won’t be looking for a home with two kitchens. And we have a daylight basement, a main floor and an upstairs with two bedrooms and a bath. We’d like to have a home that is all on one level, with perhaps a sleeping loft or some guest space on a different level. We currently have an oversized garage plus a large garden shed. We can probably downsize the number of tools and toys that we move. Our closets are filled with clothes we seldom wear. Those can be pared down significantly.

The Gospel of Luke reports Jesus most famous sermon without mentioning the mount. And when it comes to the beatitudes, it has blessings like Matthew’s version, but also has “woes.” What struck me as I read it as part of our All Saints Celebration yesterday was the advice concerning loving others in verses 30 and 31 of the 6th chapter: “Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you.” The golden rule is immediately preceded by advice about giving things away.

I am beginning to understand that downsizing and simply having fewer possessions is not a curse. It is a blessing. Figuring out how to deal with the accumulation of years can be a way of lessening the burdens of life. Fewer possessions mean less maintenance. Fewer possessions means less fear of losing things through theft. Fewer possessions means less baggage to weigh you down. Fewer possessions represent a form of liberation. We become enslaved to your desire for bigger and bigger houses and more and more possessions.

The bible is filled with stories of God taking the side of human freedom. The great exodus from slavery in Egypt is only one of the stories. God speaks to human freedom in the establishment of the commandments and in the words of the prophets. And in Jesus we find more invitations to freedom. Interestingly the road to freedom isn’t always what we think it will be. It turns out that unrestricted behavior isn’t really freedom. Living within the commandments is a better road to freedom that simply acting out. And learning to give away possessions is also a key to the land of freedom.

It is, however, also hard work. Sifting and sorting is one of the great tasks of human development. I think we are ready for the next step.

Copyright (c) 2019 by Ted E. Huffman. I wrote this. If you would like to share it, please direct your friends to my web site. If you'd like permission to copy, please send me an email. Thanks!