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Letting Go of Material Possessions



Editor’s Note: Programs associate Katie Rotterman shares how a commitment to pass along unused possessions led to a deeper sense of simplicity and intentionality in all areas of her life. 

I’ve been on a mission to simplify my life for about a year and a half now. A key factor of  simplifying my life has been the challenge of letting go – of things, ideas, habits, hobbies, anything that takes up space and is always met with the question: Why do I still have that?

Letting go for me, has a deep spiritual meaning but also very physical implications. It started when I discovered Project 333 in college, a challenge to live with only 33 items of clothing for 3 months. This challenge is one I still aspire to follow. After I graduated from college,  this desire for simplicity was strengthened by St. Francis of Assisi’s directive to take nothing for the journey, echoing Christ’s own instructions to the apostles.

So, when I moved to DC in 2014 to start as the programs associate with FMS, I tried to take this challenge to heart. I left behind books, clothing, and craft supplies that I hadn’t used in a while and knew I wouldn’t use. After being with FMS for a few months, I cleaned house again and boxed up the clothes I didn’t wear and put them in the basement. A few months later, I donated them  all, along with some books. I also tossed makeup I didn’t use and committed to using up my yarn before buying more.

On trips home I would go through my dresser and book shelf and donate or toss those things that I didn’t need and that I knew wouldn’t make the trip with me when I finally settled in somewhere.

It  sounds like a lot – and in some ways it is. Realizing how much I’ve accumulated and how much of my income I’ve wasted has been difficult. But I have also found freedom.  

My mornings are less stressful because my room is cleaner and my wardrobe selections are fewer. Instead of simply accumulating yarn, I’ve spent much more time actually creating and knocking things off my crafting bucket list.

But ultimately, what I’ve learned in this process of letting go is to not let me possessions define who I am. My interests are not expressed through objects but in how I spend my time and invite others to join me in watching a movie, learning a new craft, or discussing an article. I should actively work on building my relationships instead of simply remembering when I see gifts around my room.  My experiences live on in my heart not my souvenirs.

I should not be limited by what I own, but rather be set free to explore and embrace the world and all it has to offer.

While I haven’t followed Francis’ challenge to take nothing for the journey but the clothes on my back to a T, I have embraced the spirit of it: to let go, live simply, and open my arms to all those I encounter.

Reflection Question: How can you better follow Christ’s call to take nothing for the journey and live more simply?

Katie served as the programs associate from fall 2014 to spring 2016. From the Buffalo, New York area, Katie graduated in 2013 from the University of Scranton where she majored in Theology and Women’s Studies. Prior to joining the FMS team she served for a year with Capuchin Youth and Family Ministries where she helped organize and lead retreats for different Catholic groups. Currently she works for the USCCB in the Secretariat for Laity, Marriage, Family Life, and Youth.