Nick tells me when he was little, he had a pair of gerbils. Every night they would go to work, shuffling around their cage rearranging their wood chips. He would wake up each morning and find a new masterpiece. Sometimes he would find a huge hill piled up on one side, other times there would be waves of chips spread out across the cage floor.
He has recently started calling me a gerbil. He has also invented the verb “gerbiling.”
I like to rearrange furniture. I come by it honestly, every time I came home from college (I was only a couple of hours away so that was once a month or so) our living room would be rearranged. My dad loves experimenting with new set ups and in particular loves to try out different angles.
In college my roommate and I were notorious for completely deconstructing and rearranging our dorm room right before finals.
I bought a writing desk about a year ago. I found it at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore for $50 and I love it. I love it mostly because it is small, and I can move it by myself. So far it has resided in every situation possible in our office. It has also found a home in a corner of our guest room. As I write this, it is sitting under a small window next to our bed.
I have noticed a pattern within myself: I move furniture when I am preparing to be creative or have a big project ahead of me.
Some equate writing sermons and books to giving birth. There is imagery used of pastor as midwife playing a small role in helping prepare the way for the living Word to come into the world from the pulpit.
I’m told when pregnant women near their due dates they nest.
I rearrange when I am faced with ushering in a new creation, too.
The other day I was sitting on the upstairs porch reading and I began to wish I had a table up there where I could write. Oh, if only we had the money to buy an outdoor table that would fit just right. We recently added shades to block the sun so we can use this outdoor space even in summer. We are working on sticking to a budget though and we spent all of it that month on those shades.
Then I remembered, we have an outdoor table on our back porch! We never use it out there though because the mosquitos are bad. I went to Nick…I have an idea I said…
He smirked and asked, does it have to do with gerbiling? Grinning back, I announced, Yep!
I pitched my idea and he said he would help if I measured and made sure it would fit through all of our doorways and up the stairs. I grabbed our tape measure and confirmed it would. He was on his way out the door to attend a funeral so I said we could move it later.
After he left, I went to the gym and grocery store and came home to find our table on the balcony! What a great surprise. I quickly rummaged around the house and added a cluster of succulents and an uncracked geode for a paperweight and sat down in my new office.
It is beautiful up here. There is a breeze. I can see the mountains. I am level with the top of a tree. What a wonderful place to sit and think and create.
Sometimes we need to reimagine our spaces and possessions to give room for creativity to flow. I find I am particularly inspired when I can find ways to use the things I already have rather than go out and buy more.
I’ve talked before (here and here) about how I love to rearrange, and I love the peace and calm of a decluttered space. What I haven’t thought much about is how this relates to simplicity, something my soul is yearning for since returning from Italy. While on pilgrimage I carried everything I needed on my back. It was easy to keep life from getting weighed down with possessions because I had to take everything with me every day.
I think metaphorically we are always carrying our stuff. It weighs us down with thoughts of how to protect it, how to get more of it, how to keep it clean, how to repair and replace it…and the list goes on.
Our house has a lot of space for storage and it is easy to just rearrange and reorganize and put the clutter out of sight—to gerbil—but it doesn’t ever really go out of mind, not for me anyway. At some point, I know I will have to deal with the stuff in our attic and garage and extra closets. I’m looking for ways to lighten my load as I go and share the abundance I have stuffed away with people who could actually use it. It’s a slow process, but as I practice simplicity and generosity and making do with the essentials I find more room for creativity, it’s easier to move and stretch and grow.
This is a popular topic in our culture right now from KonMari to the art of Swedish death cleaning to professional organizers for hire to influencers on Instagram showing off their culled and coordinated lives. But what I’m thinking about lately (and reading about, too) is the spiritual discipline of simplicity.
I just finished a book by Richard J. Foster called The Freedom of Simplicity and highly recommend it. I read it right before leaving for Italy and God has used it to really challenge the way I think about money and possessions and what scripture says about true abundant life.
As I sit at my repurposed desk on my porch right now, I am grateful for the gifts of beauty and utility that God gives. I am reminded that all of this is truly a gift, something I didn’t earn and don’t deserve. Considering life and the stuff in it as gift is helping me learn how to hold onto things more loosely. I’m learning that I don’t need more stuff to experience abundance, God’s presence is more than enough.
And yet, I find myself shopping for rugs and murphy beds and more furniture when adding pieces to our home would require us to get rid of perfectly useful things. Simplicity is a slow and ongoing practice that my HGTV obsession undermines in some ways.
Thankfully, there is grace. I don’t have to do any of this on my own or all at once. God is walking with me daily and opening my eyes and loosening my hands and heart of the things that distract me from abundant life.