Monday, June 25, 2012

When Stuff is a Blessing…and When it’s Not

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Some days I wish I was a minimalist.
I recently found some interesting blogs and stories of people living with only 100 items total. Intriguing. Enticing. Almost. It is a life of simplicity they seek, overwhelmed by the clutter and chaos that stuff has introduced to their life. They realize that a life spent striving for the next greatest thing is not a life at all. 

But other days I realize this type of minimalist path is not for me. Not exactly. I know what these people are searching for by eliminating stuff from their lives. They desire peace. This is something I know I can have regardless of what is around me, simply because God supplies that peace.

Yet there is truth in balance. That peace must be guarded. First by what we believe, then by what we think and say, then the things we do. That peace stems from God dwelling within us but then we must structure a life that is focused on dwelling with Him.

Sometimes stuff helps us do that. Sometimes it does not.

Starting at a very young age, I grew to love collecting things. Stuffed animals, Treasure Trolls (remember those creepy creatures?), Beanie Babies, stickers, stamps, coins, rocks, candles, picture frames…the list goes on. At the end of one phase we would pack up my stuff and I would begin another. To this day I have no idea why I loved collecting so much. The interesting part is I have always loved organization. I never liked a messy room and even though I had lots of stuff from my collections, it was organized stuff.

As I have gotten older, my desire to organize and be organized has increased. But I’m learning it is a constant battle. Lots of stuff means organizing, re-organzing, sorting, purging, cleaning, trashing…always…all the time. Maybe the minimalists are on to something. If the stuff isn’t there in the first place, there is no need to constantly organize it. 

But why struggle to organize at all? 

We are back at the whole peace thing. For me, stuff yields distractions. A cluttered space leads to a cluttered mind. I also enjoy beauty and find it more in my home when things are in their place. God is peace; God is beautiful. It all starts with Him, but I desire to experience His attributes in all areas of my life. Including how I manage my stuff. I also believe being a good steward of the stuff we have is God-honoring.

Yet He has showed me that getting rid of all the stuff is not the solution. God desires to bless His people, often with things. Some things are tools and resources. Some things have entertainment value. Some things end up blessing someone else.

I have to look at all we have and regard (most of) it as a blessing from God.

We have a lot of kitchen utensils and bake ware; as a result I am able to prepare many wonderful meals at home instead of relying on restaurants or frozen dinners. We have a shelf full of movies and enjoy them even more every time box office prices jump a few bucks. We have more furniture in our space than we need right now, but almost all was given to us and there will be a day we will have more rooms to house more people. I’d rather refurbish what we have than drop several hundred bucks on new furniture, even if it is in the future, even if we can afford it. There is no sense in waste.

There is also no sense in hoarding nonessentials, in keeping stuff for the sake of having the stuff. This is the balance I am trying to achieve. What good are the books we’ll never read again, the CDs we’ll never listen to, the vases that don’t match my style? What good are the old toys smashed in boxes, the old shoes gathering dust, the old candles decaying in a drawer? No good just sitting there. No good at all.

But if the shoes are wearable, someone else may need them. If the book contains wisdom, someone else may learn from it. If it’s not my taste now, someone else may treasure it. We were blessed at one point in time, to be a blessing in another.

And in the process of removing the things that are no longer good here, more space is revealed. An openness, a simplicity. Less stuff, more blessing, less organizing, more peace. 

Then comes the task of not replacing the stuff.  

Just because something leaves, doesn’t mean something else should come in. (Unless it is air…light…space. Those things are always welcome.) So the trick to managing stuff is managing what comes through the door.  Thankfully, I no longer collect things. And now I begin to think about what I buy or receive from others. Is it necessary? Does it fit our purpose in life? Can it replace something else we own and be better, not just different, than what we had before?

I am certain I am on a journey to learn what the right amount of stuff for us is. And I am certain that quotient will be ever changing. But I think it is important to discover what things truly are necessary, what things are blessings. I want to open myself to receive the blessings God has for us to do His work. But anything beyond that should not have a place in our lives. That is my new minimalist philosophy. 

How about you? Do you struggle with clutter and an over abundance of stuff? Or do you have a minimalist lifestyle? I’d love to hear how you manage the stuff your life. :)