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“Fresh Eyes” or “Look Again”

Updated: Mar 7, 2023

Back in 2009, in my first year of ministry at First Universalist, I invited the staff to see everything (the building, programming, worship, the Social Hall, and more) with “new eyes.” The goal was to imagine we were completely new to the physical space and all the systems and habits that helped maintain the institution as it was. In those early days of my ministry, all of the staff intentionally left the building and then re-entered, pretending we’d never stepped foot in the space before.

In a similar way, the staff and lay leaders looked at Sunday worship, as if we’d never done it that way before. We paid attention to what was all around us, and instead of moving quickly by, or saying “that’s just how it’s done,” we asked, “Why is that way?” “What could this look like?” “What would best serve the mission and values of the church?” Out of that process, some profound changes emerged: a more functional and welcoming Social Hall, a more integrated worship service, a renewed focus on spiritual growth and community building.

Juliana and I (and our boys, to some extent) are all in a “fresh eyes” season of our own, seeing the physical objects of the house, attic, basement, and garage, (i.e. stuff!) our food habits (the purchasing, cooking, and consumption), our budget, and our relationship and ways of being together with a new lens.

One of the primary drivers for this “fresh eyes” exercise in our lives is the fact that we are transitioning to a one income family. Out of necessity, we need to re-evaluate our old patterns related to spending and consuming. But it’s deeper than that, too. During our time on the road, we learned to live with four plates, four cups and four forks (one for each of us); we had a two pots and one small cast iron skillet; we shrunk our wardrobes down to the most essential and practical items of clothing; we didn’t have room for more than 2 pairs of shoes.

We drove nearly 10,000 miles with a small drawer of toys and books for the kiddos. Having the experience of living a “smaller life” (in a much smaller space) helped us to see our house and all the things in our house in new ways. We’ve realized how much our “stuff” owns us, emotionally, at least, as we have to store, clean, wash, worry about, and organize our “stuff.” The question for us is: “What does a right sized life look like?” And seeing with “new eyes” begins to provide clues to answer that question. Being on the road for a year helped us walk out of the door of our old life, and we’re seeing everything anew right now.

As soon as we returned, we began utilizing our local Buy Nothing Facebook Group, and it’s been a delightful place to give stuff away, and ask for items we need. It’s forced us to look at our consumption patterns with “fresh eyes,” and ask ourselves: “Do we really need to click ‘Order Now,’ or hop in the car and drive, round trip, for 30 minutes to buy X, Y, or Z?” We’ve given up Amazon Prime, and embraced the “use the ‘Buy Nothing’ group” philosophy, because more often than not, the answer is “No, we don’t need to do that.”

Thanks to the Buy Nothing Group, we planted much of our garden with free seedlings, picked up a perfectly fine window A.C. unit to use in our least cool upstairs room for the hottest days of summer, had a like-new Bodium French Press Coffee Maker delivered to our front door by a neighbor we’d never met, strung up free lights all around our front porch, and were able to pick up multiple sewing needles and yarn for our youngest who is obsessed with knitting.

We’ve given away clothes, books, a backyard compost bin, extra mason jars, lamps, rope, and so much more. Items that had been collecting dust found new homes and we freed up psychic and physical space in our own house. The Buy Nothing Group has been a deep source of joy, wonder, and gratitude.

One of my favorite moments was when we gave away a lamp, and the person who picked it up shared with us a picture of the happy, shining, lamp in its new home. What’s better than this? It’s pure alchemy! The Buy Nothing Group transforms “trash” (that which is no longer need) into “treasure,” (items that make a difference in someone’s life), and re-imagines what a piece of a hyper-local economy can look like.

These are the old lamps that had been collecting dust in our basement and then one of them in its new home! (on the right.)I love our local Buy Nothing Group!

In part 2 of this post, I’ll explore how we’re applying “fresh eyes” to our finances, personal relationship, and all things food related. In the meantime, I’m curious about the parts of your life that you’re looking at with “fresh eyes?”

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