I remember the threat well: “if you don’t clean your room I’m taking a trash bag and throwing away all your toys!”
Look out! Whenever my mama made a threat like that I knew it was time to get my butt in gear. I really didn’t want my belongings relocated to the local dump, but I looked before me at the mess and was overwhelmed to the point of making no efforts at all. I wasn’t enjoying the benefits of my tea set or my life-sized Barbie when they were buried somewhere under coloring books and Lite Brite pegs. Yet I just couldn’t muster the energy to even begin. I already felt defeated. The things I owned were owning my emotions and draining my energy. I half considered letting my mom follow through on just hauling it all away.
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(Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)
If I’m being honest, I’ve used that threat on my own child before.
It probably sounds irrational until there are heaps of toys, parts, and assorted junk spilling over in front of you. Any parent out there has probably at least thought as much. (Right?)
Toys aren’t the only culprit for that uncomfortable overwhelming feeling, either. I accumulate my own heaps and piles. One of the worst is the closet under our staircase. It catches everything. (Literally…. sometimes you have to toss items into the back because of the slope of the ceiling in there- don’t judge!) It’s perfect for wrapping paper, old paint cans, boxes of seasonal decor, and items I plan to return “someday”. You know what I’m talking about…. we all have that closet. I may go days without thinking much of it, but anytime I reach in there, the excess consumes me.
Over the years I have realized something very important whenever any corner of my home momentarily starts resembling my childhood room or that stair closet: it stresses me out. If I come home to clutter, my anxiety starts in. If I wake up and it’s there, my day can start to derail. It’s why so much of my day is spent tidying: ahh, peace of mind.
I can’t believe it took me so long to realize that property can penalize you.
But it can.
(Photo credit: Cheryl Winn-Boujnida)
“Better to have little, with fear for the Lord, than to have great treasure and inner turmoil,” says Proverbs 15:16. And that’s exactly what excess eagerly gives me: inner turmoil.
After all, “what good is it for someone to gain the whole world, yet forfeit their soul?” (Mathew 8:36). I don’t want to forfeit my soul or what peace of mind I could have by eliminating the distractions that keep me from living simply in Christ. That’s why “living with less” became my number one resolution for 2019.
I’ve started this process in small steps, and I imagine it will be just that: an ongoing process. It took me years to accumulate my belongings, so it makes sense that it will take a while to weed out the unnecessaries among them. I started in the kitchen by pulling out every pot, pan, and gadget that I have no reasonable use for. Away to donate they go. I plan to continue on this way throughout the year one cabinet, closet, and cranny at a time. At the end of the day, my motivation to make these changes comes from four of what I think are the greatest benefits.
- Less distracting
- Less costly
- Higher quality (vs. greater quantity)
- Less fuss
If I don’t have my nose in my shopping apps I have more time for doing what matters. If my goal is to have less, then the intrinsic benefit is that I’m spending less. When I do purchase things, I then have the ability and the space to go for higher quality items which will last longer and not need replaced as often. I’m able to clear away useless items that do nothing more than take up space.
Now I don’t think this has to be intimidating, and I don’t think it has to mean that you’re going to live in a plain house with a few walls and empty space in between. To me, the whole idea is to take a reality check on your heart and mindset when seeking out material things, and when observing what you already own.
(Photo credit: Hutomo Abrianto)
These are some of the things I ask myself when deciding on a purchase or making decisions of what stays and what goes:
- Am I/Why am I attached to this?
- Is my attachment to this item making me loosen my grip on what God wants for my life?
- Do I spend time on upkeep or shopping for accessories for it and wasting time and money better spent?
- Does the cost of it leave me less inclined to give to church or charity?
- Does the storage of it cost space or money that I could use more wisely?
- Am I buying/holding on to this to impress someone?
As I move down the list of questions, my motives for whatever item become clear. Sometimes I don’t even realize there’s more to wanting a possession than just wanting it, but there always is. Buying or holding onto things for the wrong reasons just tends to stack them in between me and my Creator until eventually I can’t even see Him over the pile. It blocks my view of what a calming and peaceful environment looks like. It’s not until I start eliminating the excess that I can start to see the blessings on the other side.
Have you come across any great tips for keeping your home decluttered, or cutting down on unnecessary items? Comment them below!