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Daring to Downsize

Then he said to them, “Watch out! Be on your guard against all kinds of greed; life does not consist in an abundance of possessions.”Luke 12:15

Probably the biggest challenge in moving from a house to a boat was the process of downsizing. We have had a hundred conversations with friends over the years about how unimportant our stuff is. It’s easy to talk about when you are just talking. When you make the decision to actually get rid of enough to streamline your life, it gets emotional in a hurry.

The process started for me (Bill) with my closet. I had one side of our walk-in closet lined with clothes I never wore. Some of them didn’t fit. Some I didn’t really like and knew I would never wear. I asked myself, “Why are you holding on to these?” The answer was, “I had a closet.” I had the space so I filled it up and felt a need to keep it filled. A friend of mine jokingly told me that all people have a psychological need to fill up any empty space in their lives. Once I accepted that I didn’t need most of my clothes, giving them away transformed into a wiling pursuit.

My big struggle was with the tools I had accumulated to run our business and take care of our property. Every tool had a purpose.  I convinced myself life was more efficient and productive with each of these I acquired. Intellectually, I knew our business was becoming more technological making many of the tools obsolete. I also knew taking care of a boat would be significantly different than the care of a home. Logically it made sense but my heart didn’t want to listen to logic. I found myself quoting Nick Saban, the head football coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide, often, “It is not about emotions, it’s about choices,” with each implement I passed on.

Downsizing was probably harder for me (Pam) than it was for Bill. I had always considered myself to be free from materialism but discovered I was more attached to my things than I had previously admitted. Clothes carry memories. Possessions tied to past success were comfortable to have around. They inspired confidence and helped me feel more secure (just in case I might need those useful items again). I want to personally thank my friend Jill Swanson for writing Simply Beautiful and Out the Door in 15 Minutes. Without her wisdom and encouragement, I am not sure I could have sorted out my closet.

The biggest struggle of all was the books. I love books so I filled my life with them. My office, Bill’s office, the hallway and the living room were decorated with beautiful, wisdom-filled books. I know I had at least 5,000 and yet it seemed I needed more. I know we are living in a digital age with information more available than ever before, but the thought of not seeing my books on a daily basis saddened my heart. I prayed over every book I packed hoping someone would personally benefit. I knew in my head we needed to live leaner. I wanted this and believed God was leading us. My heart, however, was having a hard time catching up. I had to keep telling myself, “God has called us to ‘run the race set before us.’ (Hebrews 12:1) We can’t run if we are weighed down. We love being on the road helping people develop great skills. We can’t be on the road if we have too much to maintain. Besides, you love the ocean and you can’t live on the water if your stuff sinks the boat.”

It wasn’t easy but downsizing has been an effective step of personal growth for us. The apostle Paul said, “godliness with contentment is great gain.” (1 Timothy 6:6) We have known this in theory for a long time. It was now time to know it in practice. I (Bill) am surprised by how short the list is of things I miss. I (Pam) am amazed at how much I can accomplish with less than what I used to have. We both like that we have far less to take care of making it easier to be on the road pursuing our God-given purpose.

We still miss some of our stuff but are glad we haven’t missed out on God’s plan for us.

Working together to add wisdom to your love,

Bill and Pam Farrel

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