I have too much stuff!
How many times have we looked around our houses or apartments and said these same words to ourselves? Recently I was doing a bit of redecorating. In the midst of this redecorating I had to take things out of drawers and off of shelves and move them to other rooms so that my husband and I could move the furniture around. The more I removed from shelves and drawers the more I kept saying to myself “I have too much stuff!”
This little exercise got me to thinking about all the rest of the stuff in our house. Phrases such as: “Funny, I thought I had more counter space than this when I bought this house…” and “Hmmm, these closets seemed bigger years ago…” kept going through my mind.
Now admittedly, when I bought my house I was not yet married. My husband’s stuff was still in his house and most of the small appliances we now have were wedding gifts. But, before the wedding, to make room for him, I did take a car-full of my possessions to Goodwill. Last year another car-full went. And soon a smaller load will be donated again. Upon seeing the second car-full of my possessions going to the less fortunate, my husband said “don’t give away everything, keep some of your stuff.” Obviously he didn’t realize that much of what’s still cluttering up the closets is still my stuff.
What happened? My husband will be the first to admit that I don’t buy very much. No retail therapy for me. And, after the last carload was taken to Goodwill, I made the rule that for every one thing that comes in to the house, one thing has to go out (with the exception of books). So, this alone should alleviate the overstuffed shelves and drawers. But it hasn’t.
Something deeper is going on. What is cluttering up those closets?
First, the “we may need this someday” syndrome. My husband and I are both guilty of this. If something breaks, my husband salvages the old parts. We save things that we haven’t used in years, “just in case.” We both read interesting articles and then save the articles or the whole magazine thinking that we may need to refer to this information sometime in the future. Do those articles ever see the light of day again? Rarely. Do we keep clipping articles and saving magazines. Yes. Why? Just in case.
Second, memories. Yes, memories. Now, some memories are keepers. Old pictures, for example. But then there are those boxes of saved stuff from my school years or mementos from other events in my life, in my past. Over the years whenever I want to save something that is important to me, I put it in a box. It’s amazing how many “important” things one can accumulate in 39 years of life.
The original intent behind these boxes was so that I could look through them periodically and reminisce about the happy (and in some cases not so happy) times in my life. That was nice in theory. But, as time went on, the original box stayed, and more boxes were added, mementos kept being put in them, but rarely have I ever actually opened the boxes to see what’s there.
And, this perhaps is the biggest problem when it comes to my “clutter”. Not wanting to deal with my past. But deal I must if I want to make room in my life for the future.
In church last weekend the gospel reading was Mark 10:17-30 (from The New American Bible):
As he was setting out on a journey, a man ran up, knelt down before him and asked him, “Good teacher, what must I do to inherit eternal life?” Jesus answered him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good but God alone. You know the commandments: ‘You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.'” He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.” Jesus looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking one thing. Go, sell what you have and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” At this statement his face fell, and he went away sad, for he had many possessions.
In our pastor’s homily, he asked us to ask ourselves “What is keeping me from following Jesus?”
Now, I don’t think that the individual pieces themselves are keeping me from following Jesus, per se. But, as I think more about the stuff, as a whole, that I consider important, I have to ask myself “where do my priorities lie?” Does this stuff bring me closer to Jesus, or take me farther away? That ultimately will be the deciding factor in what to keep and what not to keep in my memory box.
I think it’s time to open up those boxes, confront those memories, put things in perspective and decide what is truly important to me now. Then, and only then will I be able to free up some space in my closets, in my life, and in my heart.
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