An image of an empty house representing the author selling everything she has to take a risk with God


Why I Gave Up All My Stuff And Moved In With Strangers

Baylee Waterman

8 mins

I’m a single, 30-year-old woman who wants to be a wife and mom, but the husband and precious kids are currently nowhere in sight. So I did what any independent woman would do. I got rid of all my stuff, gave up one of the (false) cultural indicators of a successful life (living alone), and moved in with a family I had only met once—in the middle of a pandemic.

You read that right. Last October, I donated all of my stuff—bed, dresser, coffee mugs, pots and pans, FOURTEEN bags of clothes and moved in with a family. If you think that’s crazy, you aren’t wrong. It was crazy, and it was also the best decision I’ve made all year. Why did I do it? I chose to follow (instead of ignoring) my “eww, no” moments. Doing that has changed my life, and it just might be the key to changing yours.

Matthew 19:21 says, “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”

I remember the first time I read that. I laughed. Out loud. Sell all your possessions and give to the poor? Yeah right! Only Jesus would do that. Little did I know less than two years later, I would find myself doing exactly that.

Growing up, I didn’t have the best example of what it looked like to be a wife and a mother. My parents divorced when I was six years old, and I was raised Jewish. From as early as I can remember, I’ve always wanted to be a wife and a mother. I also knew I didn’t want to make the same mistakes my parents had. And now that I’m a follower of Jesus, I also want to raise my children to love God. But how? Live with a family I can learn from, of course! Thanks, God.

A couple of weeks before I was due to move out, I decided it was time to start packing. I debated getting a storage unit until I remembered the voice I had heard earlier in the summer, “get rid of all of your stuff and follow me.” I reached out to a woman in my small group and asked if she wanted all of my bedroom furniture as she had just bought a house. She was quick to say yes! Check, one thing down, a lot more to go. I had so much anxiety around packing (truly, it makes me nauseous). I went down to the basement to begin sorting through my belongings only to discover 90% of them had been destroyed by, I kid you not, moths and vermin.

Matthew 6:19-21 says, “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” God has quite the sense of humor and was making it abundantly clear that I was to be obedient to what He had already told me.

So I donated what had survived (except some mementos that can’t be replaced), put them in storage in my dad’s basement, and packed what was left into my backpack, duffle bag, and three suitcases. On an unusually warm Friday morning in October, I remember loading my life into the backseat of my car, pulling out of the driveway, wondering where I would go after the month was up and if I was making a mistake.

As I drove out of the neighborhood, I felt a sense of peace wash over me as I stepped out into the unknown and into where God was telling me to go. I moved out of a comfortable house and into the guest bedroom with a family that I had spent a total of 3 hours with before moving in. I had no idea where I was going after one month, but I knew God had me exactly where He wanted me.

In my month there, I began to learn what a family unit looked like. I learned how a husband and wife fight for each other and how to be a teammate for your spouse. I learned how parents have to love and lead each of their children individually (seriously, I thought it was a one-size-fits-all type deal before this). I learned that kids thrive off of routine and come to expect things at certain times, such as prayer at 9pm (yes, friends, you can pray with your kids every night!) I also learned things that I was looking for in my next arrangement.

It hasn’t all been smooth sailing. In fact, there have been moments where I’ve doubted myself and what I’m doing with my life when one door has closed, and it’s felt like I made a huge mistake because I don’t know where I’m going next. I’ve tried to take control and look for an apartment for myself on Zillow. Both times I did this, my laptop went black and turned off. Message heard loud and clear, God.

It’s now been five months since I moved out of a perfectly comfortable home and into others’ homes with their families. At the end of next month, I’m moving in with my fourth family for three months, where I will learn how their family unit works. I will continue to take notes on things I like and want to take into my future family and things that I’ll set aside and not follow.

At the end of that time, I don’t know where I’ll go next, and that’s OK too. Jeremiah 29:11 says, “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” I do know God has a plan for me that is far greater than anything I could have ever imagined for myself.

Did I ever think I would be thirty years old, living with families I’m not actually related to and working for a church? Absolutely not. But here I am. To the world, what I’m doing makes no sense, but to God, it’s exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I don’t know how long I’ll be living with families, I don’t know when I’ll meet my husband, I don’t know when I’ll have children of my own, but I do know that I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now.

Despite how abnormal this is in our culture, there’s something strangely natural about it. I think it’s because the “normal” American independence narrative is actually a pretty new idea. People never lived alone in previous cultures or time periods. We’re designed to live in community—to learn from one another, help each other, do life together. Surrendering my independence to choose community and growth fights back against so many of the pains that tear most “normal” Americans down (anxiety, loneliness, etc.) I’m experiencing tons of growth, and the families are blessed too.

Beyond the inevitable things I’m learning about being a wife and a mother, I think something important to note is that I’m also learning to be obedient and listen to the Holy Spirit. This is new to me, and it makes me incredibly uncomfortable when I take the first step. But once I get moving, I am filled with a peace that surpasses all understanding.

If you think you’re hearing something that makes you cringe and say, “ew, no,” I’d like to encourage you to slow down and ask God if that’s something you should actually be leaning into. That’s why I’m writing this article right now. My current housemate suggested I write this article, and at first, I said, “ew, no.” But I’m learning there’s incredible growth found in the uncomfortable and deep goodness that comes when we rely on Him and only Him.

Process, journal or discuss the themes of this article - here's a few questions to get the ball rolling...

Why I Donated All My Belongings and Moved In With People I Didn’t Know

  1. What stood out to you most about this article? Why that? (Noticing what stands out to you can be the beginning of hearing from God. Lean into it. See where it goes.)

  2. How does the idea of living with another family sound to you? Be honest! If you resist or aren’t interested, why not? If you have any interest, what intrigues you more—learning how to build a healthy marriage and family or doing life together? Where does your answer come from?

  3. There is no rule that this is what singles should do, but if living alone isn’t working for you, there is a cultural barrier to being as brave as Baylee modeled. It’ll take courage to break away from the independence narrative and choose community at this level. If you want to go for it, pray for the boldness to make it happen.

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Baylee Waterman
Meet the author

Baylee Waterman

Daughter. Sister. Friend. Jewish child turned fierce follower of Jesus. Recovering sinner and addict. Lover of light and deep conversation. Former sales rep of uniforms, towels and IT solutions turned ministry leader. Passionate about ministry and leadership development and an evangelist at heart. Ruthlessly obedient and honest. Always up for a long run, walk or hike, especially if it ends with good food and a beer.

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