We have lots of stuff.
It’s a blessing to have that option, I know. Especially when it comes to shelter and food. Aside from cash flow challenges in my young adulthood that left me scrounging in the cupboards the week before payday (I was paid once monthly at one job – yikes!) we’ve always made ends meet. We also have family who has been able and willing to provide financial support when we’ve needed it.So blessed. And we are truly grateful to God for that.
And I have known or a long time that having lots of stuff can be a burden, too.
For one thing, it creates clutter. Clutter – for me – creates stress. I’m not a clean freak by any stretch of the imagination. I have a healthy tolerance for piles of papers, full storage spaces, crammed closets….but I like a generally tidy appearance in my living and work spaces. And if it gets tough to keep things tidy, I have to swoop in and reorganize it, clean it up, and thin it out somehow by giving away what I don’t use anymore (a tough process) so I can breathe again.
Materialism is a bad “-ism”. It means that stuff is important. Too important. Stuff defines you. Not good. Hollow, really.
I do like stuff. Maybe not to an extreme. It definitely doesn’t define me. Our farm, for example, counts as stuff. I love our farm. I want to keep it. Enjoy it. Do good things with it.
And I do like to shop. I am on vacation right now, and I spent the day shopping in Bratislava. I don’t generally love shopping, but I do enjoy it. Especially for home accessories and gifts. Less so for clothes. Anyway, we do accumulate stuff. And when we lived in a big house, we filled up the abundant storage space over the course of 15 years.
As a result, when we first looked at our farm, now about 3 years ago when it first went on the market, I rejected it as an option because of the almost complete lack of closet pace and kitchen storage. The house was built in 1906. People didn’t have extensive wardrobes on a farm. And they didn’t shop at Costco, either. We loved loved loved the large, finished dairy barn, but the house really didn’t seem liveable.
John was so disappointed. He doesn’t need closet space. And clutter doesn’t bother him in the least. It was me. I needed my stuff.
Flash forward a year. I attended a retreat at my church. The speaker was a priest I know well. He was talking about materialism. I’d heard this subject before. I recall this very priest coming by our home a year before and feeling guilty about our overflowing shoe basket (an attempt in my part to centralize a category of clutter). As he stepped past it, he said, “That’s a lot of shoes.”
I immediately thought, Hell yes, it is. We should be ashamed of all our shoes.
But I kept accumulating and turning down Dream Farms because if my Stuff Storage Requirements.
And I find myself at this retreat, listening to this same priest on that very subject. Materialism.
Except this time, he said it in a way that struck a new chord with me. He pointed out that stuff – as long as you have it – is not being used. You’ve pulled it out of circulation, and you’ve stuffed it in a closet. It’s not doing anyone any good. You included. Get it out of there. Get things into circulation.
It’s not just the stuff I will never use again. Not just the stuff I don’t need or like any more. It’s everything that anyone else could use right now.
That’s a lot more stuff that what easily hits my “donation” pile.
This made a lot of sense to me. Instead of looking for things I would never ever use agin – which is very little stuff, because I have a fertile imagination – it’s about getting stuff out and back into the hands of people who will use it now.
I told my table partner at the retreat about my epiphany, and I also told her, “You know, about a year ago my husband and I looked at a farm that was so lovely. And I told him we could never move there because there wasn’t enough storage space. Can you believe that? I am missing out on wonderful things in my life because I am hanging on to stuff. That’s it.” I proclaimed. “I’m never going to let that happen again. I’m going to get my stuff back into circulation.”
That was a Saturday. I started my new effort the very next day. I created the biggest, most wonderful Donation Pile, full of things I never considered donating before. Good stuff. What’s more, I got an email from a friend at work who was having a garage sale for charity, and I wanted to get her stuff that would sell well. Even better stuff. I was on a roll.
Monday afternoon, my husband called me at work. I’ll never forget it. He said, “Hey, Honey. You remember that little farm on Orange Blossom we looked at a year ago?”
I was shocked. “Yes. I was just talking to someone about it this weekend.”
“Well, it’s for sale.”
“What? I thought they sold that.” My head was starting to spin.
“It did. But it must have fallen through because it’s back in that market. I know you thought it was too small, but could we please take another look at it?”
“Uh, yeah. I think we should…”
And we did. And the rest is history. We’ve been on that wonderful farm a year now. And it has transformed our lives. We are so blessed.
Stuff is never going to get in my way again.