At the early age of 17, I (Tiffany) became a mother. And as a single mom at that age, you can imagine, I was beyond poor. Not even the paycheck-to-paycheck kind of poor; my paycheck would only last a couple of days as I decided which were the most important bills to pay. I worked as much as I could to try and make life easier for us. At one point I literally had three jobs! I let that go pretty quickly because I realized I would rather be poor than miss out on my son’s life.
I rarely had an extra dollar, and I mean that literally. There were times I would scrape together a buck and some change from the sofa cushions and from under the seats of the car just so I could grab a hamburger from McDonald’s to share with my son. On a good day, I would find the extra 30 cents needed to buy a cheeseburger and triumphantly yell, “Cheese!” And on an exceptional day, I might even find enough lost change to buy two. That felt like hitting the jackpot!
The days that were most difficult were the ones where my son had a special school function with all of his friends, and if he didn’t have the money to attend would have to stay back at the school while everyone else ventured out without him. Ugh! Those days would send me straight to the shower so I could cry in secret. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it now.
Once I got married, I was really excited to be more financially stable and to be able to get a beautiful home. I couldn’t wait to decorate the way I had always dreamed. You know, the whole white picket fence thing.
The funny thing is, I’ve been living that dream but have felt such an empty feeling inside, and this feeling made me wonder if maybe all this stuff isn’t the dream? Maybe living with less would make for a richer life.
We have a pretty standard routine at our place. My husband works during the day while I tend to the kids and work my side jobs here and there as I’m able. After work we have dinner, put the kids to bed, and then…clean. Geez! I never knew how long it would take to clean this big dream home of mine, even when it’s just picking up after a day of work and parenting. All of this cleaning doesn’t leave much time for me to connect with my husband or with God. I never really thought about how time-consuming this life would be.
Every day it’s pretty much the same thing. Work to pay the bills, tend to the kids, clean. Work, kids, clean. On repeat. It’s a pretty cookie-cutter life and, while we work hard to live well in the midst of it, it doesn’t sit well with me. I long for more.
One night I shared with my husband that I desired more than this. I told him that maybe I didn’t really want the American dream, that all of these possessions hadn’t lived up to my expectations and had become a lot more work than I’d ever imagined. All of that extra work meant less freedom, less time to adventure and explore, less time to spend with my husband, and less time to be truly intentional about our lives.
I didn’t expect this, but my husband had been thinking the same thing, but neither of us had expressed this to each other until then. That night we forwent the ritual cleaning and decided to dream instead. What would it be like to live with less? What if we didn’t have a million toys and “things" for the kids but instead had more experiences with them?
Recently I was listening to the song “Called Me Higher” by All Sons and Daughters, and one portion really resonated with me:
“I could be safe here in Your arms and never leave home / Never let these walls down / But You have called me higher / You have called me deeper / And I’ll go where You will lead me Lord / Where You lead me."
After hearing that song, I felt at peace about leaving behind what I always thought was my dream. I no longer feared letting go of our things.
As we’ve been preparing for life in a travel trailer, we’ve been getting rid of most everything that doesn't fit into 240 square feet. Coming from so little, I thought it would be difficult to let go of the stuff I finally had, but I reminded myself that less doesn’t have to mean poor. As it turns out, I can’t help but feel a sigh of relief as I watch each piece go. I can breathe easier. I didn’t realize how much my things were weighing me down until I started to see them leave. Those things were making my heart heavy, creating a false reality and blinding me to the things in life that really matter.
Some might say I’m running from everyday life, but ultimately I’m chasing after God, eliminating the everyday obstacles that stand in the way of spending time with Him and living more intentionally. I know life on the road won’t be perfect. It too will have ups and downs and its own set of obstacles. But I welcome the opportunity to live with less—way less—and focus myself and our family on the things that matter most. Here’s to the beginning of a simple, more meaningful life.