The Good Practice of Cutting Ties with Your Stuff
She was a captivating, animated story teller, let me tell you, made better only by the accent she still carried from growing up in South Africa. We ate lunch together in Canada, where I was the guest speaker at a pastors’ wives retreat. She began one story with her move from Africa to Canada and how she sent all of her earthly possessions by way of barge.
But the barge sank in the ocean.
“I lost everything I owned that day –including my mother’s china and other items that were precious to me,” she said soberly.
My heart went out to her, as I imagined this great loss. Then she slapped the table in front of us and shouted, “Best thing that ever happened to me!” Her testimony was that in one day the Lord had freed her from the bondage to stuff. I will never forget the joy I saw in her eyes.
The preacher and I are on a new adventure. After long thought and much prayer, we have made the decision to move west.
West of town, that is.
We’re going to move in with Matt’s mom and aunt, so that we can better do chores for them, like mowing the lawn and shoveling snow. (That’s our cover story. Really we want to be closer to what comes out of their kitchen. Shhh.)
So here we are in a 1700-square-foot house, with a large crawl space and shed full of stuff, and we’re going to squeeze down into a bedroom, office space, and shared crawl space.
I have my minimalist game face on, but I have to admit that even for me it’s painful getting rid of stuff. In Renovation of the Heart (a book I highly recommend for you to devour this year), Dallas Willard says:
Feelings live on the front row of our lives like unruly children clamoring for attention.
Yes, I find this to be true as I determine to get rid of most of our possessions. All of a sudden, I feel like I can’t live without them. I feel like my heart will break if I cut loose from items to which sweet memories are connected. I feel loss and pain when I fill the trunk and head to the thrift store.
But I am learning to be a better thinker.
Thinking trumps feeling. I think of that lady from Africa and what joy she experienced when the stuff was gone, even the very, very special stuff. She experienced freedom, and maybe freedom is a better feeling than the clutching, I-need-this-to-be-happy emotion that tethers me to stationary objects.
I think of the rich young ruler.
Jesus looked at him and loved him. ‘One thing you lack,’ he said. ‘Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.’
At this the man’s face fell. He went away sad, because he had great wealth. (Mark 10:21-22 NIV)
This young man had feelings for his stuff that became a deal breaker in his ability to follow Christ.
So I have a few months of cleaning and packing and purging to do, and I have feelings. Wow do I have feelings –like when I gave my son’s bed to a friend? Tears. My baby’s bed! But it went out the front door, to be of use to people who needed it. Feelings be hanged.
Think, think, think.
Treasure in heaven. Give me that.
And you, my friend? If all your possessions were to sink on a barge one day, what would happen in your soul? I say let’s not wait for a barge or for the necessity to downsize. Open your car trunk and take boatloads of stuff to a thrift store where it can benefit the people in your community who could use it.
Note: You’ll need to buy noise-cancelling headphones, to drown out the tantrum your feelings are throwing.
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In the past 5 years, our family has pared down to only what will fit in our car- thrice. To move across the country three times. At the moment we are living with my parents, hoping and praying for a home of our own at some point soon. It’s been hard not being settled. We want to find a place to call home. But we don’t want to fill it up with unnecessary stuff. It IS so freeing to get rid of EVERYTHING except those few small things like clothes, dishes and maybe a few luxuries like a guitar or a sewing machine. The feelings tell you it’s not worth it; but it so is. I worry that my 3 kids will become hoarders because we’ve had them get rid of so many things; that they’ll swing to the opposite extreme. But hopefully they’ll just realize that stuff is not what makes us happy. Jesus is. And loving others, and sharing our home with others and building community. That is way more important than having a lot of toys or clothes or cool name brand things. I wish you the best in your de-cluttering and your new adventure!
That sounds like a long, tiring journey but also a great example for your kids, to see that you have joy without stuff!
I’ve long tried to de-clutter, but somehow always want to start with my husband’s stuff, or my children’s. I am becoming convicted that it will only work if/when I start with my own stuff!
I need the link for those noise-cancelling headphones, to drown out the tantrum my feelings are throwing – !! 🙂
You can do it. Start with your own! It will be so worth it. And yes, if only those headphones were available on Amazon. LOL
I love this , Christy, and the example Matt and you are setting! With all the moving our family has done, we’ve released our wordly treasurers repeatedly. Yet, there remains more to be accomplished. Thanks for the encouragement to press on and fill more garbage bags!
Yeah, you guys have moved a lot! It’s just so easy to accumulate new stuff…
Ah, stuff. When doing a Bible study this summer, one week (don’t remember what the lesson was really about) I had the thought “if we are aliens and strangers in a foreign land, why do we cling to so much stuff?” Think about it. Aliens and strangers don’t take much baggage/luggage with them, they travel light. I keep being reminded to travel light in this world. Do I have too much stuff? Absolutely. Trying to get DH on board with letting some of it go.
Wow -you really got me with that verse. I’m going to go write that down and let it sink in. Thank you for sharing!
Just the encouragement I need. I’m drowning in stuff in our home. I have been working on clearing the clutter for several years and never seem to get far with it, although I take filled boxes regularly to the thrift store. I need to get more serious with this and put on those noise canceling headphones ?
What amazes me is that I am very good at going through things and getting rid of stuff on a regular basis. So how is it that I still have SO MUCH! Ugh. It’s really helpful to move, because I’m thinking much more seriously of how much I want to carry into my mother-in-law’s crawlspace, which is back-breaking work. Pain is a good deterrent to keeping things!
Best of luck! It really is a freeing decision!
New to your writings and LOVING them! Thank you!
You’re very kind. Nice to meet ya! 🙂
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