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 | Natalie Burt

Less Stuff / More Beauty

I’ve always been enamored of St. Francis of Assisi, from his quest for simplicity to his love for nature and art, and his joy. But where do we find that today, simplicity, beauty and joy?

We are bombarded by advertisements that guarantee all that and more: Simplify your life with this calendar system! Use our products and you will be more beautiful! Live here, and you will feel like you are on vacation! Eat what you want and STILL lose weight!

At times I have felt that all modern life is one big sales pitch. Sadly, even the business of simplifying can be the same: Minimalism is the key to happiness! Tidying is “magic” and “life changing”! Peace is found in this organizing method!

In my work as a professional organizer over the past 12 years, I have had clients fall prey to the “get organized” sales pitch. Yes, decluttering, simplifying and organization can help minimize some stress, and when we can find things, we don’t feel suffocated in our living spaces. But true simplicity is more than a decluttered home. It is a lifestyle. In our culture of more, more and more, simplicity has to be an active decision — to be content with less material possessions, less activities on the calendar, less news and social media, less perfectionism.


Simplicity is a decision to live life differently. Remember, all life is a gift; relationships are a gift. And, our material possessions, with the proper mindset, are also a gift. Satisfying employment, marriage, family, faith, a home, a car, education, developing your talents and skills — seeing all the parts of our lives as gifts enables us to be grateful. Then, gratefulness fuels simplicity. Let me state it again: Gratefulness fuels simplicity. It allows one to see the beauty in life instead of the constant dissatisfaction with anything less than what advertisements tell you is worthwhile.

Gratefulness frees us from unhealthy attachments, especially to material possessions. This is key for an organized life and home. We must not be overly attached to stuff. We must be content with less. Otherwise, trying to get organized to a more simplified life is merely relocating what you already have.

We live in a “constant input” culture. There is a never ending influx of mail, paper, gifts, expectations and of course the barrage of marketing to make you feel dissatisfied so that you buy a product. Our culture screams: Buy! Buy! Buy!

It’s time we stop the madness of consumerism.


One of my favorite stories from the life of St. Francis is his radical conversion after he heard the voice of Jesus asking to rebuild his Church. He interpreted this request to be the rebuilding of a small broken down parish where he liked to pray and where the Lord had spoken to him. Francis came from a wealthy merchant family, and he began selling the cloth from his father’s business to earn money to repair the building. His father was outraged and took him to the bishop. During the meeting, Francis not only returned the earned money to his father, but proceeded to give his father all his clothing. He disowned his earthly father and all material possessions to surrender himself entirely to God’s service.

So, how does this story relate to organizing? Primarily, St. Francis prayed and responded to God’s call. He used his goods — which essentially belonged to his earthly father — to earn money for the kingdom of his heavenly Father. He desired radical detachment from possessions, even the clothes off his back.

Have we considered that our abundance could be another’s sustenance? We own closets full of clothes, shoes and coats. We have books that we will never read again, dishes, toys, movies, appliances, furniture, art supplies, home décor and an abundant supply of hair and beauty products that we’ve used just a few times. Why do we hold onto stuff that we have no use for when there are people and ministries in desperate need of them?

Similar to St. Francis, we can begin to see our material things as a means to participate in God’s call to clothe the naked and feed the hungry. Yes, purging our belongings and detachment can be difficult, but it is so much easier to let something go when we know that it will go to a good cause.

While we’re not called to strip down to our birthday suits, we have to admire St. Francis’ pivotal decision to be freed from attachment to anything material. He realized that a life full of possessions left no room in his heart and life for God.


And about us — what stuff crowds our hearts and homes, leaving little or no room for God and others? How much time do we spend deciding what to wear? Do we avoid inviting friends or guests to our homes because of clutter? Are we embarrassed or even perplexed at how we accumulated this much stuff?

We can conjure up a list of reasons why we should keep our things, but that’s only if we have not developed our hearts and minds into the habit of donating. We need to ponder if our love of things is selfishness, and if so, to then do the work to cultivate generosity.

Franciscans, whether religious or lay, take a vow of poverty. Contrary to what some believe, this is not a promise to live financially poor, but rather it is a decision to honor everything as a gift for God’s service. It all belongs to him, and we are merely stewards of these gifts.

Embracing this disposition allows us to live simply and generously. When we are detached from our material possessions, we are free to donate and understand how our donations can be put to better use — less attachment, more life; less stuff, more beauty. Whatever we purchase, let’s always remember that everything we have is meant for living our lives for and in service to God.

Natalie Burt is a professional organizer serving the Rock Hill area, and the administration assistant for the diocesan Office of Family Life. Email her at