Lightening Your Load...

I've been doing a lot of decluttering in my life the last few months: spiritually, mentally, and especially in my physical living space. I'm finding a lot of joy in finding new homes for my stuff at The Salvation Army, Freecycle, other people's houses. I am finding some mental peace in reorganizing things so that it has a better place (you know, "a place for everything and everything in it's place?") and is not so prone to being strewn across the floor.

And what precipitated all this, you ask?  Well, I hold the A&E show, Hoarders, directly responsible.  If you've seen the show, you probably are nodding along with me right now. If you haven't, you definitely need to watch an episode. One is all you need to scare you straight.  Why?  Because we all deal with stuff -- excessive amounts of it.  In America, we are pretty much bred to buy it, trade it, and hold on to it. We hoard it. Just the sound of that word makes me shiver. It's an unattractive sounding word. You can just hear the connotation of negativity in its mere utterance. I just sit back in wonder and horror at the some of these people who literally get buried alive in their homes -- sometimes by their own waste (soiled adult diapers piled all around them!). It's terrible. But, it really happens. These people have a mental disorder and usually some sort of trauma that has caused them to fixate on stuff. Many consistently choose their stuff over relationships.

As soon as I am finished watching an episode, I immediately want to start organizing or going through something to get rid of because I'm terrified of something like that every happening to me ( I in danger of being a reverse-hoarder?) But, more than that, it makes me determined to teach my children the following:

1.) We own stuff (by the grace of God).
2.) Stuff doesn't own us (there is nothing we have that will ever override people).
3.) Stuff is just...well, stuff.

Just to clarify, I'm not referring to family heirlooms, or that tapestry you picked up when you traveled to Belgium. Rather, I'm talking about all the things we accumulate over the years of living this life. I think you know what I mean. Stuff.

I'm not saying stuff can't be important or even necessary. However, there can be a tipping point where it starts to hurt, rather than help. And, instead of it being a blessing, it can quickly become a burden. I firmly believe that in America, we put too much importance on having stuff. We know, but sometimes forget, that in the end our stuff won't be around hundreds of years from now. Although I dearly love (love, love, love) my KitchenAid mixer that I waited 10 years to get and finally bought for myself for our anniversary, I'm pretty sure I won't care about it's lucious yellow sheen and multi-attachment usability when I'm dead.

While I'm at it, the other thing we're guilty of is not taking good care of the stuff we have. I can't tell you how many times I've watched a hoarder finally dig through years of layers and grime and find something that is very significant and precious to them and then wail and cry about how they didn't love their stuff enough to take care of it properly.

In fact, I should add another thing to the kiddo lesson:

4.) Stuff is a blessing, so we should take care of it like we're grateful for it.

This is something my parents taught me well. My dad was (and is) very fastidious about the upkeep of his vehicles inside and out. He takes pride (in the good use of the word) in keeping them clean and well-serviced. I can't tell you how much it pained him to allow us to eat or drink in the car when we'd be on long road trips. Woe to the daughter who either spilled her lunch or forgot to remove her trash at the next pit stop. I used to roll my eyes, but guess who is obsessive now about having her kids, "take your junk out of the van when we get home?"  I see the value of not riding around in a veritable garbage heap (and as a parent, you know how quickly that can happen -- have you seen "Mom My Ride?").

I might have even taken this lesson to the extreme at the expense of my poor husband. I have to admit that I made his car an object lesson of this principle with some of the children. Let's just say that he doesn't share the same point of view about keeping his car neat and tidy. My opinion is that how well you treat something determines....well, how you treat it. For instance, if you drive a pigsty, then why would you care if you dump an entire plastic bag worth of spit-covered and cracked sunflower seed shells all over the know, purely for sake of discussion. And, then once that happens, why wouldn't you throw your grass and dirt encrusted soccer cleats onto the upholstered back seat?  While you're at it, you might as well just crumple up any fast food bags and throw them on the seat next to you. While in the short-term it hasn't made the world stop turning, it has indirectly led to some cosmetic issues with the vehicles that have ended up costing us money to fix later on. It has also made it frustrating at times to try to carve out space for another person(s) to ride along....and, okay, embarrasing for me.

I might have mentioned this once or twice to my seven-year-old. I wanted to explain to her why it's important to take care of things God has allowed us to have. She might have understood a little too well when she announced that "daddy's car is kinda like that lady's house with the adult diapers in it."  (Ah yes, I will neither confirm nor deny that she may was watching that Hoarders episode with me.) husband winced when I laughingly told him what she said (because it was funny and he is definitely not a hoarder), but guess what happened?  The car got a lot neater in the days to come.

I can laugh and point the finger at my husband's car issues, but all those fingers point back at me when it comes to the house. I really don't enjoy cleaning, but I do it because it's necessary -- and definitely not as often as I should or as often as many would think necessary. I have some neat-freak and cleaning addict friends (crazy talk if you ask me!) who love, love to clean; however, there are those of us who think cleaning the bathroom when you see can see the ring around the toilet is enough. I think there definitely is a inclination towards being one way or the other. But, for those of us who really don't prefer to clean and might like some instruction or advice on how to do it efficiently, it can really come down to an issue of stewardship and discipline.

It's just like getting my teeth cleaned at the dentist -- I may not enjoy the process, but I sure enjoy the result. In the same way, I feel a clarity of mind when everything is organized and put away and is all sparkly and pine-scented. I also really enjoy taking a load to the donation drop-off site. I feel lighter -- like I've lost some weight. And, in reality, I have. Every time I let go of stuff, my "burden" gets lighter. And, I like that!

So, here's my challenge. Take a good look around. Set aside some time every day to go through a drawer or closet. Put a storage bin in the garage and over the next month, try to fill it up and disperse the contents to the appropriate person or organization. Let it go. Lighten your load.

You might be amazed at how good it makes you feel.

Update:  I just found an amazing website called The Story of Stuff. On it, there is a 20 minute animated video that discusses the impact stuff has on us, and our planet. I highly recommend that you take a few minutes to watch! Also, there is a book that I think I'll borrow from the library.

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