• Richard Parrish

Stay Focused: Practicing Simplicity


It’s Monday morning. I’ve looked at my schedule for the week. It’s what I do every Monday.


Today, I recognize there’s not much “breathing room” this week. All the appointments and responsibilities of my week seem necessary.


Why does this week’s schedule feel overwhelming, I thought? Are all these events “really” necessary? Why am I encouraged to believe that a full calendar indicates a “full life?”


Last week I worked on cleaning out my office. Most people who enter my office never see the clutter. It’s well hidden.


It took me a day and a half to go through desk drawers and a large credenza full of papers I had erroneously convinced myself that — one day — I’ll use. My bookcases housed outdated books.


Why am I such a “tidy pack rat”? I wondered.


All the clutter I had secretly hidden and neatly camouflaged so no one would notice was quite revealing.


“I’m surprised I didn’t find my 8-track tape player,” I muttered to myself!


Although it’s embarrassing to recognize my inclination to hang on to things, that day-and-a-half of decluttering provided enormous freedom by letting “things” go.


I welcomed the needed reminder that a cluttered and over-scheduled life can block freedom, encourage stress, and make prioritizing difficult.


Adele Ahlberg Calhoun defines the spiritual practice of Simplicity as: “the great art of letting go.” Practicing Simplicity requires that we loosen our inordinate — and unhealthy — attachment of possessions. Un-complicating and untangling our lives helps us regain focus on what “really” matters.


It’s challenging to stay focused on God when my life is cluttered and overloaded. The spiritual practice of Simplicity is a gift to be received — and practiced — so we can live fully.


However, SIMPLICITY ISN’T SIMPLE.


It’s more complicated than getting rid of stuff or becoming more effective with time management. There’s more to experiencing Simplicity than having fewer possessions and a lighter schedule.


Richard Foster wrote in his book The Freedom of Simplicity:

“Contemporary culture is plagued by a passion to possess. The unreasoned boast abounds that the good life is found in accumulation, that ‘more is better.’ Indeed, we often accept this notion without question, with the result that the lust for affluence in contemporary society has become psychotic.”

Minimalists (those who intentionally promote things most treasured and who remove all that distract from those valued things) view the accumulation of stuff as burdensome.


While believing that “less is more” and recognizing the value of decluttering our lives, is it true that letting go of possessions will guarantee discovering life?


Yes, getting rid of unnecessary possessions and “doing less” can help simplify life. But there’s a deeper purpose to Simplicity than eliminating clutter and lightening our schedules.


Jesus reminds his followers that moths and rust have a way of destroying our treasure and that valuable possessions can be stolen (Mt. 6:19).


Not only can moths and rust destroy what we value, so can the advancement of technology. Remember my 8-track tape player?


The practice of Simplicity recalibrates our heart.

“For where your treasure is, there your heart will also be.” - Matthew 6:21 (ESV)

Living a simple life exposes the clutter of my heart that often obscures my real treasure: Jesus. Practicing Simplicity helps me see my purpose and encourages me to reorient my desires and priorities toward Christ.


This spiritual practice allows me to see whether God or stuff — the Lord or schedules — govern, control, and dominate my life.


Practicing Simplicity encourages freedom and generosity. It’s more than letting go of things that clutter and burden me; Simplicity creates space to live more freely and bless others.


My office cleaning was long overdue, and the freedom of letting go of “stuff” has been freeing.


I think my next project will be to Simplify my heart. How about you?


Here’s a resource to guide you in Practicing Simplicity.


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