This is the story of the first adventure I went on by myself… and my first experience living with less.
The summer that I was 18, I packed my bags and went to volunteer with Mother Teresa’s sisters: the Missionaries of Charity. They have a house in Montreal, Canada just a few hours from where I lived, and I decided to live with them for a few weeks in order to help them in their soup kitchen, and help run a summer camp for children who live in the inner city. The Missionaries of Charity follow in the footsteps of Mother Teresa, and have a special vocation to ‘serve Christ in the poorest of the poor’, and they do this in countries all over the world.
One thing that made a huge impression on me was the seeming contradiction that they were so incredibly joyful, and yet owned hardly anything at all. They didn’t have TV, radio, a computer, the internet, a dish washer, or a washing machine- things I simply hadn’t experienced living without. Their clothing consisted of: 3 saris (one to wear, one to wash, and one to mend) and a pair of sandals. In cold climates like Montreal they owned a coat, scarf and closed shoes for the winter.
They lived a life of simplicity- and joy. This fascinated me, and I decided to try and imitate how they lived while I was a volunteer. I took out 3 outfits (from the many that I had packed) and decided to wear only those items during the weeks that I would live there. There was no washing machine, so at the end of each day I would wash my clothes in a bucket like they did, and hang the outfit to dry overnight. When there was some down time, I couldn’t run to distractions like TV or internet. I found myself spending more time in meaningful conversations, prayer, listening, learning, investing in relationships, and serving others. I was so happy while I visited them, and would later return during the following two summers.
My parents still laugh about the day I came home from volunteering with the sisters that summer: that was the day I stared getting rid of stuff! I walked into my bedroom, sat on the end of my bed and just took it all in… how much stuff I owned. How many things cluttered my life. How little I actually needed, and how many other people don’t have enough. I went through everything I owned and gave away or donated garbage bags full of stuff.
I didn’t have everything figured out… and still don’t now. I do currently own a washing machine, and a computer, and I have more than 3 outfits in my closet. But it was so freeing to discover how little I actually needed in order to be happy– in order to live a meaningful life. That was the beginning of living a more minimalist life.
“The less we have, the more we give. Seems absurd, but it’s the logic of love.”