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Our family is doomed to move in frigid temperatures. This last weekend, as the temperatures plunged across the country, we moved our family of six across town from one house to another. Despite the 20 degree temps, this move was the easiest move I have ever endured for one simple reason: minimalism.

No one likes moving. It’s tedious and troublesome and vulnerable and expensive. Your belongings are splayed out in boxes like the entrails of your life for everyone to see. You feel sorry for all the good-hearted, able-bodied people you know who feel obligated to come help you. You want to apologize for owning so much, and more than anything, you just want it to be over, even as the boxes keep coming and coming and coming.

In many ways, this time was no different, except we owned about half the amount of possessions than our last move 10 months ago. And we felt it.

The first evidence was how quickly we sorted ourselves out. We moved the last of our stuff into the house Friday night and spent Saturday unpacking. By Sunday, we were settled, and after church, we invited two couples over to share our soup which had been provided by church members. It was our first act of hospitality in our new house. Two days later, we had pictures on the wall and another family over to dinner.

Minimalism and hospitality are good friends. Most people want to show hospitality but feel constrained by the condition of their home. Either it’s not good enough, or it’s too much work. The truth is, the heart of hospitality has nothing to do with the quality of your home, but with your willingness to open it and share, as you are. However, your ability to host can be directly affected by your amount of possessions.

It’s as simple as this: the more stuff you own, the harder it is to keep your home clean. The more cluttered your home, the less you want to clean it up. The less frequently you clean, the less you are able to spontaneously invite anyone over. Pretty soon, you give up on hospitality: it’s too hard.

I speak from experience. I love to show hospitality. I am a quality-time person who loves to talk on a deeper level around the dinner table. But, when I had to spend so much time cleaning AND preparing for the meal, I was often so worn out that I did not enjoy it.

Two things have happened to change that: One, I have changed my expectations of hospitality. Two, I have purged our home to reduce clutter so that there is less time spent preparing for company.

  1. Changed expectations: Obviously, I don’t want to have dirty laundry out in the living room or filthy bathrooms, but I have lowered my hospitality requirements. I finally understand that if I wait until our home is perfect, or wear myself out trying to get it there, I will never invite people into it. When we had our first company in the new house, boxes were standing in the living room, but no one minded. We were all glad to enjoy soup and funny stories. I have invited families over with clean laundry piled on an armchair and dishes in the sink. This is real life and it’s high time we started letting others see our normal, so they can feel more comfortable inviting us into their norm, too.
  2. Less clutter=easier cleaning and more hosting. Just a few of my favorite tips:
    1. I look at my mail and the kids’ school papers right over the trash can, and toss the majority of each into it. I keep select items from school in a bottom kitchen drawer (for easy processing), and then transfer them into a keepsake notebook, but only a select few. Most get tossed. I also toss most church papers that come home. Even though they often contain devotionals for parents to do with kids, we streamline our family devotions using the Jesus Storybook Bible and other picture books kept in a basket by the table. Staying on top of our paper clutter goes a long way to keeping our home tidy.
    2. Baskets allow us to tidy up quickly and efficiently when we need to clear the floors and surfaces.
    3. Book-lovers like me tend to want to collect books as evidence of their literary prowess, but this is unnecessary. I do not keep any book unless I KNOW I will read it again or if I have not read it yet. I truly believe that most of us continue to collect books without actually reading the ones we have, but if we owned fewer books, we would actually read more. If you love books, share the love! Give them away freely and generously. Read the ones you have and then buy more. Keep your library circulating.
    4. Reduce the amount of toys for your kids. I am not suggesting you deprive your children; I am suggesting you buy them less things and spend more quality time with them. Kids will play with whatever is available, whether there is plenty or little. Even if they originally protest, their little imaginations will expand to fill the empty spaces once filled with colorful plastic knick-knacks.

For me, the bottom line is this; what atmosphere do I want in my home? I want it to be beautiful and useful, friendly and welcoming. I want people to be able to relax here, but also to open up, heal, let down, and be nourished. I want good food, quality conversation, rest and recreation. To achieve that goal, I need to have less clutter, less possessions, less toys. I am extremely thankful for our new home, and I want to show my thanks by offering it back to God to use for His glory, to make His name and His Son known and loved.

In the end, I subtract stuff to add more people into our lives. And that’s worth it every time.