• Laurel Gustafson

What Reductionism looks like to me

There are many intriguing things I'm learning.

  • The grace that abounds in my life.

  • The availability of free education for all through state parks, libraries, and communities.

  • How gratitude and thanksgiving can simply replace bitterness and anger.

  • Intentionality.

In Fall of 2014 while I was out running some errands, I picked up a pair of tall, suede boots which had that scrunched-up-to-the-knee look. The fashion trend had been popular and part of me wanted to join in. Not that I had the closet of clothes to complete the look… but I had to start somewhere. I tried them on with an outfit which did not work – they didn’t feel like me. This situation repeated itself over the course of a couple months as I tried different outfits for different occasions. Nothing worked. NEVER were those boots shown off outside of my bedroom.

Last Spring as Nate and I started going through our belongings, I pulled them out of the closet once more and asked him if I should get rid of them. An instantaneous YES came from his mouth. With such a quick reaction, I paused and thought about it. “So they’re not me, are they?” I ask. He said very directly, “No. They’re not.” I started giggling at the thought me going out in public with them on.

This picture was taken just before donating them to the thrift store - the expression on my face is my understanding of how ridiculous it was that I purchased them in the first place.

Donating them was a tangible confirmation that seeking to fit in (relating to fashion or not) is not my goal. Learning is my goal. Learning is exciting. Learning more teaches me how little I know - acting as a continuous spark.

With this in mind, the routines and demands our society has deemed as ‘normal’ are things I no longer feel tied to - on a large scale:

  • Bureaucracy and policy suffocates room for learning in classrooms.

  • Corporations that step on the toes of the small businesses who know and serve customers.

  • Religion and structure gaining more traction than showing love, grace, and forgiveness in a relationship with Christ.

We’ve been working to live more intentionally with less possessions and less distractions. It isn’t easy but it has been enjoyable.

​As we prepared to move back to Mankato last year, we chose our possessions carefully. Sure, we use the waffle maker 1 or 2 times per year... along with the 25 other kitchen gadgets that see that same rotation of use. The thought of being inconvenienced by not having those few times is nothing in comparasson to the kitchen cupboards being freed up from clutter. Gone are the annoyances of putting away clean dishes; fitting our 2 coffee mugs into a cupboard where 15 were crammed and stacked in a very methodical manner feels liberating.

We have

  • Sold our TV, sound system, PlayStation, and boxed sets of favorite TV shows.

  • WHY:

  • We have phones and a computer that can serve a similar purpose.

  • If we’re watching reruns, we’re actively deciding not to learn new things (albeit fun and comforting so there is still some of that).

  • The internet is full of quality documentaries and funny videos.

  • Donated over ¾ of our clothes to local thrift stores.

  • WHY:

  • If I don’t have tan pants, I won’t need brown shoes.

  • If I don’t have 40 options in the morning to pick from, getting ready will be streamlined every day.

  • I’ve only kept my favorites… so I wear my favorites every day.

  • Sold many furniture pieces that had one job: hold our stuff.

  • WHY:

  • ¾ less clothing takes up ¾ less space in drawers and racks.

  • After a 2-year contract was up, we didn’t renew cellular service.

  • WHY:

  • The devices work almost as well on wifi only.

  • It’s impossible to be distracted by the phone while driving.

  • Cell phones without service can still call 911.

  • Given treasured pieces of items to people who will treasure them as much as us or more.

  • WHY:

  • My sister who actually makes apple pies should have the Apple Peeler/Corer/Slicer. It was sitting in the cupboard as a constant reminder that I didn’t meet my self-given expectations of making pies for myself and my husband.

  • We know this: giving is better than receiving.

What are we making room for? The unknown. The possibilities. Intentional living.

As much as I continuously try to plan what happens next in life, I can’t control outcomes. I can work towards something on a day-to-day basis and one thing's for sure: the weight of our belongings (physical and mental) were holding us back from enjoying all that the present has to offer: contentment.


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