How the Shoebox has Changed Us {How will your current circumstances mold you?}

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I learned about the course of a river in geography class. How over years rushing water cuts through a valley, finds the lowest path and turns into a meandering stream and eventually creates crescent lakes as a result of its journey. I am fascinated at how something can start out one way—a mighty rushing torrent—and through the years become moon shaped puddles in an open plain. Life is like that though. People are shaped by their experiences, their pains, their choices. I believe we have the ability to choose just how we will allow life to affect us, but the change happens all the same. Past experiences shape our future selves. Caveman and I, we are forever marked by living small—in a good way. {Click through to learn how our current circumstances have changed us, then share the blessings of your own meandering river.}

I often marvel at how short-signed we were—or at least I was—when we downsized and began Shoeboxing. We genuinely thought it would just be for a year. “You know, something better will come along. Circumstances will change and we’ll be able to live somewhere else,” I thought. As much as I liked this tiny apartment, I didn’t have a great attitude toward staying here for long. Temporary, we guessed. But in a life span of 80 years, give or take, what is temporary?

“Yet you do not know what your life will be like tomorrow. You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.”  James 4:14

I smile now, thinking back 3.5 years ago. It turns out that circumstances did change, but not how we expected. 6? 7? jobs later, sometimes it feels like we’re in the same boat, just farther down the meandering river a bit. And that’s perfectly fine, because things have changed.

It turns out that something better did come along—two lively, handsome sons and one daughter we have yet to lay eyes on. (Hopefully we’ll meet her in 3 weeks or so!) Laughter and learning and dance parties and crafts and reading snuggles fill these worn walls.

I could never have guessed that this season carving a crescent in 450 sq. ft. along our river’s path would be the sweetest one yet. That this “temporary” break from normal American middle class living would help us see priorities more clearly… and change us permanently.  That this Shoebox would become more of a home than anywhere Caveman and I had ever settled.

Sure, we still have dreams and desires that involve moving somewhere else someday. And I think that’s OK. For now, we are content to fill this Shoebox up with life and good food and lasting memories until new opportunities arise. The remarkable change our river has rippled into us is this: our aspirations have shifted.

Our expectations for a good life include simpler necessities. Intentionally living small and meaningfully pairing down will do that to you, you know. Sometimes limiting living space and accessories actually widens living satisfaction.

Sometimes limiting living space actually widens living satisfaction.

Our dreams for the future look a little different, and I think in a way we do too. Much like that stream, we wear new ripples (or maybe that’s just my stretch marks?) and view life from a fresh vantage point. God gave us this journey, this gift of a river ride. We trust that it is a present to make us more like Him as we settle deeper into our peaceful crescent-lake and wait for the current to alter.

Did that make sense to anyone out there?  How have your current circumstances molded you? Comment below and share your current crescent with us.

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20 Comments
  • Kim
    January 20, 2014

    I have been in an “oxbow” lake for a while now. It’s a good place. Sometimes, however, it is challenging to be different from peers. I read a book called “When People Are Big and God Is Small,” by Ed Welch. It deals with peer pressure, codependency and the fear of man. This book helped me to become more confident in following the plan God has for my family, rather than feeling unacceptable because we don’t have the same plan as others. I am glad to say that God loves “smallish” people and nonsmallish people alike and that God is not small, but became small for all of us.

    • Evelyn
      January 20, 2014

      I.Love.This: “God is not small, but became small for all of us.” AMEN!

  • Jenifer
    January 20, 2014

    I would say, most definitely.

    Just yesterday, we went to Ikea. A free hour of child care while DH and I sat in the cafe (no food) and chatted. DS had a blast, and so did DH and I.

    We talked about living smaller. We talked about the new apartment we want to get (in the neighborhood of our preference), and how we would like a one-bedroom. we talked about letting go of more of our possessions that we don’t use (books, some plates/platters, some kitchen tools, etc). We discovered that we are living more minimally in stuff, but more maximally in terms of happiness and satisfaction.

    We really love the lifestyle that we have created for ourselves. We know it’s different from so many people, but it just brings us so much peace and happiness. It’s so simple. It’s just a great life.

    • Evelyn
      January 20, 2014

      Jenifer, what a sweet moment to reflect on where you’ve been, where you are and where you want to be. I love the intentionality of simple, and I feel like you do it so well. Thanks for sharing with us!

  • Jane Sasser
    January 20, 2014

    Well, we aren’t living small, although soon we will be living smaller. But what I have learned from the last two places I have lived is that I love light more than anything else in a house. If a home has windows that face southeast, and all that morning light pours in, I am blissfully happy. So I guess I have been molded into a light-lover.

    • Evelyn
      January 20, 2014

      Natural light DOES make all the difference. It’s also highly inspirational, don’t you think? I wish the Shoebox had more, but we just fix that by spending as much time as we can with the door open or being outside. 🙂 Love you Jane!

  • kim
    January 20, 2014

    I agree with Jane Sasser’s statement. We downsized from our cottage to a condo. It still is not small- small ;-), but smaller. I , too, love the light in my condo—lots of big windows in the living spaces. Light streaming in on both ends; for the first time we can see beautiful sunsets from our spaces—so refreshing.

    • Evelyn
      January 21, 2014

      Sounds beautiful, Kim. 🙂 Thanks for joining us!

  • Christy King
    January 20, 2014

    Beautiful post, Evelyn. I guess I’d say for us, it was when my husband was laid off. We cut back on spending, and just never went back to our old ways. We had expected to, but we found we were a lot happy buying less stuff. We added back a few things we hadn’t been able to afford there for awhile, our favorites, but I’d say the other 90% became permanent. And we don’t miss a thing.

    • Evelyn
      January 21, 2014

      Hi Christy, that’s a great journey with awesome side effects–more power over your budget! 🙂

  • Lois
    January 20, 2014

    When I moved to my studio apartment I did so thinking I would save on time spent cleaning, and be in closer to family and friends as at the time gas prices were rising really fast and no one, including myself, wanted to spend the money on gas if we didn’t have to. Instead, I have gained several new friends, friends who like living in small spaces, am out and about more and in nature much more than I was before. I found a new hobby that has given me a small amount of income as well. Yes, I was changed by my move in ways I had never considered possible.

    • Evelyn
      January 21, 2014

      I love that, Lois! Thanks for sharing. 🙂

  • Cathy
    January 21, 2014

    In 2007 my brother and I made the difficult decision close down our business.The business had been started by our grandfather in 1950. We were lucky in that we had no debt, and had inventory and property to sell…unlucky in that the market had really changed and there were not enough sales to continue. Honestly we should have shut it down a few years earlier than we did. In any case, it was a big adjustment to go to working a “regular job” working for someone else. My pay dropped in half. I sold my house and moved to a small apartment. That move alone required simplifying! Then shortly after moving I got laid off temporarily from my new “regular job”. Being on unemployment benefits required downsizing even more. Since then I have gone back to work, this time part time by choice, and have moved to an even smaller apartment. I don’t have a fraction of the “stuff” I had just 7 years ago. Strangely enough…. I am so much happier than at any time in my life so far! I have decided to continue only working part time. This does mean I live below the poverty line, but I have enough for me, and a few treats now and then. Mostly it means that I have TIME. I am enjoying this time with my elderly father and my grown children. My simple life is great! My circumstances have changed me so much. In 2007 I was totally stressed, working 24/7, and just trying to manage all the “stuff” in my yuppie life. Now I’m happy and content.

    • Evelyn
      January 21, 2014

      Wow, what a journey you’ve had, Cathy! It’s funny how quality of life and amount of income don’t necessarily have to match up, now do they? Thanks for commenting. 🙂

  • SarahW
    January 21, 2014

    Wow. I am always challenged when I read your Life. Our life is large. And it seems to be getting larger. I miss the simplicity of a small-ish life. But it feels almost impossible to “go back” and live small. Or even small-ER. Having abundance is a blessing, and a curse. With abundance it is all too easy to forget from Whom it all came from. And far too easy to lust for more.
    Thank you for sharing your Life. I hope I can learn from you and change our own River-current to a simplier course. I wouldn’t say no to some prayers for this heart and life change for our family 🙂

    • Evelyn
      January 21, 2014

      Oh my dear Sarah, you’re right. It does get harder as life seems to pull you to “bigger and better” things naturally. But all it takes is a constant gratitude to keep your eyes on the Giver of all good things, and you do a good job of that. I will certainly pray for wisdom for you and your man as you head into year 2 (ee!) of marriage! 🙂 xo

  • Morten
    February 5, 2014

    Hi Evelyn, great post. Life in a small space can certainly be great! We just downsized to 400 sq.ft. from double the space 🙂 Good to hear you are having a good season 🙂
    Blessings…

    • Evelyn
      February 17, 2014

      Hi Morten, thanks for visiting and chipping in! Glad to have you here. 🙂

  • Jenn
    February 23, 2014

    What a lovely post! There have been times when I’ve dreamed of upgrading from our 1950’s home into something bigger. Like last year when we were fostering two babies along with our two toddlers and teen. It felt cramped. But the truth is that our life circumstances demand we stay put. And the other truth is that we love it here, surrounded by neighbors who know us and care for us. And so we remain in this little house (though not as small as yours!). It’s home.

    • Evelyn
      February 25, 2014

      I so, so resonate with your comment. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Jenn!

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