In 2015, I got rid of about 80% of my life’s belongings to move into a 160 square foot tiny house on wheels. Yes, you read that right - 160 square feet, the size of some people’s walk-in closets.
And since I made that drastic life change, I honestly have never been happier.
So, how does that happen exactly? How do you get rid of almost all of your stuff and end up feeling more fulfilled and richer than you ever did before?
Well, before I answer that, let me back up a little bit.
By late 2013, I had reached a point in my life where I was physically, emotionally and spiritually depleted. I had been through a series of traumatic events back-to-back during the five years prior, including an abusive relationship, the death of my father, a highly toxic and stressful job, the death of my mother and eventually, the decline of my own health as well.
Because I had been living at the height of stress for pretty much four or five years straight, my body had gotten stuck in the “fight or flight” mode, also known as adrenal fatigue. Mine had gotten so bad that I was actually in the advanced stages and was probably only a few months away from being totally bed-bound.
My body felt like it was falling apart from head to toe and I had ZERO energy, barely making it through the day. And although I was doing okay spiritually (I wasn’t angry at God or anything like that)... I wasn’t exactly having a rich communion with Him either. And emotionally, I was obviously spent from all the grief, all the sadness and all the trauma.
I knew something had to change, but I wasn’t sure what.
Thankfully, God did.
At that moment, when I thought I had already been “stripped” of most of the important things in my life - my relationship, my father, my mother, my health and basically, my joy - that is when God started His own pruning season in me.
To say He started simplifying my life is a bit of an understatement. It was more like a free-for-all! Or what I affectionately like to call now, Him “stripping down and cleaning up” my life.
It was like He had taken the blinders off and let me in on this big secret - that most of us (me included) were living life the wrong way. Stressed out, worried and wrapped up in all the wrong things. He began by breaking my attachment to material possessions and calling me to a more minimalist lifestyle.
Then, in conjunction with the lifestyle changes I needed to make to heal my adrenal fatigue, He convicted me to take better care of my body, both on the inside and out. By beginning a cleaner diet and switching to non-toxic products on my body and around my home.
The last and most substantial piece was the emotional healing and the spiritual transformation that He walked me through, helping me to break free from a lot of chains and escape from a lot of old mental bondage.
Which, brings us back around to the major downsizing process that I went through.
See, a funny thing happened while I was making my way through all of the physical clutter... a lot of old emotional clutter began to come to the surface. Some of it was things I was aware of (like the relationship and my parents’ deaths), but other parts of it were things I hadn’t even realized I had been holding onto - things from my adolescence and even childhood.
And, as I went through all the boxes and bins, I was being forced to address them.
In fact, it wasn’t just about the obvious traumas I had been through. I was also coming to grips with realities about who I used to be and no longer was, or who I had thought I’d be but never became.
But the amazing thing was, every time I let go of something - an item I had been holding onto out of misplaced grief, something that represented the “old me” or that was a symbol of someone I had thought I was supposed to be - I felt lighter. Freer.
The physical de-cluttering was helping me to do the emotional work. And the emotional work was in turn, helping my physical body to heal.
The less cluttered my physical space became, the less cluttered my mind and spirit felt. Yes, I also did a lot of prayer, meditation, reading my Bible, sleeping and crying! But, it was all sparked by the desire that God put in me to simplify.
He gave me a simple visual one day that I love and still refer to often in my mind. It was like He was showing me His kingdom here on Earth, the way He created it in the middle and that all of the other stuff around it... all the clutter, all the gadgets, all the toxins, all the advertising, all the stress, all the worry, all the competing, all the chemicals, all the materialism... that was all excess. Unnecessary.
And the closer I could get back to that simple creation - by keeping my possessions to a minimum, by eating foods that are natural and whole, by using natural products that don’t have a thousand ingredients that I can’t pronounce and by remembering that the yoke is easy when you give your emotional burdens over to Him every day - that is how He wants us to live.
With peace and joy that transcends all understanding.
And I can honestly say that once I got rid of my stuff, once I did what the world would say is the opposite of happiness (having less and doing less), that is when I started to finally feel joyful again. In fact, I actually discovered a level of joy that I didn’t even know before - when I did have all of that “stuff.”
That’s because no “thing” that we ever have here on Earth can truly satisfy our soul. And the more we chase that elusive goal of finally having “enough” to be happy, the less happy we will end up feeling.
But, when we take our eyes off of our physical belongings and put them back on God, everything starts to come into focus.
Because that is where joy is truly found. That is where life is truly found.
And that, is when you are finally free to become who God created you to be.
Meet our Guest and my special friend, Jenn Baxter....
Jenn Baxter is an accomplished speaker, freelance writer and the author of the new book, Live a F.a.s.t. Life: How Stripping Down and Cleaning Up Gave Me My Life Back, which is available now on her website, Amazon and Barnes and Noble.
She has been published in numerous print and online publications and appears at tiny house festivals, healthy living festivals and private engagements across the country, speaking on the subjects of downsizing & minimalism, clean eating, healthy living and spiritual health. She appeared on HGTV’s “Tiny House Big Living,” is a regular guest on the NBC morning show “Charlotte Today” on WCNC-TV and has also appeared as a guest on several tiny house-themed podcasts including The Purpose Show, the Tiny House Podcast and Tiny House Canada.
In 2015, Jenn launched her website, Live a F.A.S.T. Life, based on her own experiences with clean living and downsizing into a 160-square- foot tiny house. She now teaches others how to make similar changes in their own lives through her online webinars and her e-course collection, De-Clutter, De-Tox, De-Stress.
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