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Lessons Learned in Losing [Almost] Half Your House

I lost almost half my house.

No, it did not catch on fire. And no one robbed me of my possessions. I gave it up. Almost half of it. Half the rooms, half the square footage. Half the stuff that fit inside. No kidding.

If you’re a regular reader of this blog (and-well-duh-why-wouldn’t-you-be?) then you know that my wife and I decided to sell our house on purpose. We did so for some very specific reasons, which you can read about here.

294096_10150397125467387_924350687_nSome people thought we were idiots to sell a house we own to rent instead. But it was about more than making a wise financial move for us–we also realized we were living our lives in excess and not being generous enough. So we sold our big house and we are now renting a small one.

It should be noted that “small” is a relative term. In many places in the world, our new domicile is still considered quite large. But the personal stats for us are still staggering.

  • 312064_10150397125577387_1677407627_nOur old house had over 2,700 square feet of living space. Our new one has a little over 1400.
  • Our old house had two areas designated for eating food. Our new house only has one.
  • Our old house had two areas where you could do “living.” Our new house has one.
  • Our old house had 3 places where you could do your business. Our new house only has two.
  • Our old house had four rather large bedrooms. Our new house has four, too, but they are tiny. Three of them are, anyway.
  • Our old house had four walk-in closets. Our new house has two walk-ins, but only if by “walk-in” you mean “take one half-step into.”

Some funny things happen when you forfeit about half your house. You realize some things you didn’t notice before.

312655_10150397125697387_10188915_n1. We have a disgusting amount of personal possessions.

We spent the entire month of August purging stuff. We sold furniture. We gave away bags upon bags upon bags of old clothes, toys, and housewares. I made no fewer than 4, fully loaded down trips to our local donation drop-off point. Then we moved into the new place and realized our furniture was too big for these rooms so we sold more. I’m still trying to sell stuff and give stuff away. Our new garage doesn’t fit a car because it has all our over-sized furniture from back when we had two or more of every kind of room.

There are 2 arm chairs, a sectional, a couch, and a chaise lounge IN MY GARAGE because I don’t have room for them. You could furnish a huge living room with my leftovers. It’s really kind of gross when you think about.

2. It took me having a lot to realize I didn’t need it.

312906_10150397125492387_1891508925_nI grew up almost exclusively in small houses. I cannot remember an instance where we bought a piece of furniture brand new. I slept on the same bed for most of my childhood. The house I lived in when I graduated high school was probably less than 1,000 square feet. I slept in the partially finished attic.

As an adult, I bought into the old American Dream hook line and sinker. I bought furniture on credit before I was even married, and as soon as I could buy a house I did so. Then I moved to Texas where everything is bigger and bought my first McMansion. I filled my 4-bedroom, 2.5 bath, 2 dining room, 2 living room house with more and more stuff. Big stuff.

IMG_20130907_103439Then I realized I didn’t need any of it. I didn’t even want most of it. So we downsized. On purpose. Not because we’re idiots, but because we realized one other thing:

3. To whom much is given, much will be expected.

That’s not my pithy statement, those words are straight out of Jesus’ mouth. Sure, he was talking (I think) about the Jews and their position as God’s chosen people and how they needed to make the most their position by bringing glory to God and serving His Kingdom. But it also has huge applications to all people who are in positions of status, wealth, and influence.

I was not given a lot so I could sit back and enjoy my loot. To the victor goes the spoils is a great quote, until you realize that all the spoils eventually spoil. Then the somewhat less inspiring quote applies:  “to the victor goes a bunch of rotten, rusty stuff.”

I think for those of us who have a lot–a huge house, a significant income, two or three of everything–we need to wrestle with this thought:

Maybe stewardship that honors Christ is not about living within our means, but leveraging our means to help others live. Acts 4 paints this exact picture, that the church was generous to one another and no one did without (a la Barnabas & Co.). Acts 5 paints a darker picture–of selfishness and greed and deceit that led to death (Ananias & Sapphira, for instance).

1379692978402For each of us, we have to decide if we want our lives to be about Acts 4 or if we want our lives to be about Acts 5. My wife and I were feeling a little Acts 5ish, and we made some decisions to head in the other direction. That doesn’t make us better than anyone, but it does inspire us to share our story and invite others to do the same. I’m excited to think about the next few months and how losing half our house will allow us to gain much more than we surrendered.

The house thing was our conviction. If you live in a house bigger than mine, no worries. I’m not into the whole, “I love Jesus more than you because I…” thing. But the calling to sacrifice something is not just for a few of us. It’s for everyone that follows Jesus. Maybe it’s your coffee. Instead of buying one every morning, strip it down to 2-3 days a week. Maybe it’s your cable. Ditch it and get Hulu and Netflix. Maybe it’s your car. Gently used is a lot cheaper than brand new. What can you spend less on so you can give more? How can you leverage your possessions to do Kingdom work?

If each of us gives a little, we can all do a lot.

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Speaking of doing a lot, since selling our home my wife and I have started a nonprofit corporation aimed at leveraging wealth to do good. We need your help. If everyone who reads this can chip in for $25/month, we can fund all sorts of projects that feed the hungry, etc. You can get involved in The 25 Group here.

One comment

  1. Understanding the purge before one moves. We did the same thing and while we don’t have furniture to give away as what we have is all being used, we do have boxes of stuff to still unpack and either keep or give away. We are also in the process of getting a new vehicle, but are going the used route, too, as many more missionaries whom we personally know, we want to be able to help financially. Always enjoy your posts, Titus!

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