You Know, Stuff I Have to Say about Stuff

10:17 AMHeather

My journey through The 7 Experiment continues.  Last Wednesday had me wrapping up a week of clothes fasting, where I chose 5 items of clothes to be my wardrobe for a week.  More to say about that in a minute. 

Next up for fasting--possessions.  Listen, the decision a few weeks ago to give up processed food during my food fast conjured up the exact OPPOSITE emotion as this possessions week.  Purge my stuff?  YIPPEE!  

Yes, hello!  My name is Heather.  And, I have an addiction to organizing.  Which is my pretty way of saying I have OCD tendencies.  I looked forward to jumping into purging and giving myself a good reason to once again tackle what had been piling up. 

Quick side note:  Back to that clothes fast.  After a wardrobe of 5 items for a week, I realized just how little I actually need.  Not that I have any intention of purging down to that many clothes items.  I haven't gotten THAT crazy.  But, I did find the clothes week to be quite cathartic.  No guessing about what to wear.  Realizing how I tend to dress for the sake of impressing others, which is not really where I want my heart to be.  Rethinking my clothes and my misguided emphasis on appearance and man's approval was really good.  More of a feel-good week than denying myself chocolate and carbs.

Additionally, the hard facts on the clothing industry within clothes week's study were eye opening. So, I walk out of the clothes week with a determination to learn more about how my clothes are made.  To be committed to buying products produced with fair trade practices.  To be more aware of the excess in my closet and embrace the simplicity of a paired down wardrobe and an emphasis on beautifying my soul more than my body.  These were my take-aways from clothes week.

There.  I could say more...but I have stuff to say about stuff.  So back to that.

I don't consider myself a pack rat.  Now, I am sentimental.  I grew up with treasured items being tossed when the Army moved our family yet again.  Purging comes naturally when you move, right?  So, I do have a tendency to hang on to things that mean a lot.  Apparently, this natural bent is obvious to my extended family.  You see, I was made the keeper of all the family photographs when my Granny died.  Yep, I got 'em all.  Sorted those bad boys by decade into photo boxes.  Then resorted each box chronologically.  And scanned the photos so that I could make master CD's of the most important images for all my extended family members.

See?  I have an addiction to organizing.  It's a sick thrill I feel when I take a pile of stuff and make some sense out of it.  Perhaps it speaks to my love of being in control.  So, just give me a possessions week that centers around purging!

Easy peasy.

Except for this little epiphany.  Yet another moment of being hit between the eyes.  (Curse you, Jen Hatmaker!  Oh, wait, I love you!  You are a tool of the Lord to bring my junk to the surface!  Growing pains indeed!)   

If I am so good at keeping things organized and cleared out, then why do I go through these cycles of needing to purge?  The fact that there was a need to purge just 18 months after a massive purge where my mother-in-law flew in to help.  Now, that's a problem.  Because with her help, we cleared out.  A lot.  So, why do I have to do it again?

No way around it.  I could dance a little dance of justification and rationalization.  Tip toe around the whole truth at the core of this.  More of the "I'm not listening!" mantra.  But, where would that get me? (um, yes, it'd get me back to the need to purge again within a few months time.)

If I have to go to the store to buy stuff to keep my stuff in, I have a problem with stuff.  (Makes me think of a George Carlin skit on this subject.  Cultural reference that shows my age.  I'd share the link to this skit, but foul language prevents me from it.  The g-d word makes me cringe).

If you are anything like me, your stuff says a lot about you.  Since I need to routinely purge, I obviously live with excess.  So, why do I sit around and day dream about more stuff I think I need?  That really, I just want?  I must place a lot of emphasis on stuff, since I seem to keep compiling it.  Does that mean that I divert my attention to my things at times when I should be diverting my funds and focus on people?  

Hmm.  It's like I'm a glutton for punishment here as I read Kisses from Katie while I am doing this 7 study.  I've looked for that book for months at the library, and it was finally available as I dove into 7.  No coincidence, I'm QUITE sure.  I think God is laughing as He presses me to peel back layers about my priorities and my habits through 7.  Then wham-bam, drives the point home about about global needs with a huge exclamation point.  This last week, I read how Katie cleaned out a mud hut with a dirt floor where 8 people lived and had to sleep in a pile in the corner with dirty, scabies infested rags to cover them at night.

You bet they would be grateful for the excess blankets in my linen closet that I purge with so little thought.  In fact, their gratitude would probably humble me.  

You see, the contrast of my excess with the basic struggles others face is what is on my mind today.  We sit around with all our stuff, looking through sale ads and catalogs, longing for more stuff.   Because what we have isn't enough.  Or good enough.  We need more!  We surf the internet after clicking on that email with the sales info, and we drool over the stuff we need to put in our houses and in our closets.  We have bought the marketing and advertising lie about how we deserve more and it convinces us that the stuff we want is actually stuff we NEED.  We live in a disposable society, where the last generation iPhone is so irrelevant that it is just given away or piles up like trash.  You crack your screen on your last generation iTouch?  Oh, well!  Just upgrade to the new one.  It's not THAT much more than the cost of repairing that electronic device that is so last year.  And, I'm as guilty as the next person, trust me.

Yep, my stuff says a lot about me.  In the last week, I have purged approximately 6 trash bags of clothes--not because they are worn out, but because they are outgrown or outdated.  I have a huge toy box full of things to donate, and two boxes (and counting) of random assorted items to pass on.  Honestly, I'm probably only about half-way through my house at this point. And, this after I thought I didn't have THAT much to purge.  

Ouch.
 
Ok, here's another thought that's hit me.  If you are on Pinterest--do you have an organizing idea board like I do?  Cause it's another symptom of this problem with stuff.  When we need to glean ideas about how to keep all our stuff in order, then we might just have too much stuff.  

Meanwhile, millions of people around the world would laugh at how ludicrous this is.  Millions of people don't know where their next meal is coming from and they exist with the clothes on their backs.  Their circumstances are so dire and their needs so basic, they would find it laughable that we stress over how to manage all our stuff.  There's quite a disconnect going on here.

A-hem.  Yes, my toes are stepped on, and I guess I'm hoping to bruise yours in the process.  Misery loves company.  Or rather, awareness loves company. Something like that anyway.  Let's join forces and create our own new norm so we aren't so weird and counter cultural!

Friends, I think we need to take some time to evaluate our stuff, our need for stuff, our desire for stuff, and our obsession with stuff.  Because there is stuff going on in the world that we can impact.  If we'd just forego a little more stuff and send our savings to help tackle big issues like hunger, poverty, human trafficking, orphans, diseases, and the like.  

For instance.  I heard yesterday on the local Christian radio station that in a village in Laos, the average ANNUAL income for a family of 8 is $35.  

$35.  

The cost of 3 rubbermaids for more stuff.  

 A set of shelves for the garage to store our stuff.   

A pretty frugal trip to The Container Store for some of their cool stuff to organize all our stuff.

Listen, I can try to guilt you into joining my own convictions here about just how much stuff we really need.  But, that's not my goal.  Because guess what?  In about 18 months, you'll need to purge your stuff again.  Same for me.  If I act on the guilt, it won't change my habits.

But, if I really look at how I compile stuff and get to the root of it, determining where my treasure REALLY is, and being determined to not let my possessions own me--THEN, I think I'll be making progress. If I can pray for the self-denial and discipline to be a better steward of all my resources, THEN, lasting change will come. 

This is my hope anyway.  That I would continue today to take little tiny steps toward decluttering my house and my heart.  Resolve to learn these decluttering lessons once and for all.  And then be determined to take my stuff I purged and use it for the sake of helping others with specific needs.  Then, I'm not JUST decluttering in a self-serving way.  Then, I'm serving and ministering and connecting my excess and blessings with the needs that others have.  For example, how about a multifamily garage sale to benefit orphans?  (Check out this website for more on that!)

I gotta admit, when Jen challenged us this week to not just purge but to connect our excess with a specific need, I thought, "Ain't nobody got time for that!"  But, I couldn't shake the thought of not just giving to the poor but CARING for the poor and being hands-on.  So, I prayed about where I might find a need to meet.  Within 48 hours, I received an email about a garage sale fundraiser for a mission trip that I have such a heart for.  Thanks, God!  You made that one easy for me.  


Here's the gist of the stuff I have to say about stuff. We can be disgusted with our stuff and become self-serving in our purging so that we can enjoy living more simply.  And that's all well and good.  Or, we can take it to the next level--the heart level.  And we can be so aware of the needs that juxtapose our excess that we are moved to action.   That's where we can get radical and impact a world in need.  And quit this cycle of compiling and purging.

We don't live in a world that needs more stuff.  But, we live in a world in need of our generosity.  A world in need of our willingness to invest in the eternal treasures of God's people.  Let's quit hoarding stuff in our houses, bloggy friends.  Let's set our hearts on hoarding heavenly rewards by serving and giving to others.  Let's store up stuff in heaven and not stuff on earth!  That's the stuff I'm talking about.         

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