Stuff

I confess, our family is not the tidiest in the world.

There. I said it.

And sometimes it feels like no matter how much straightening up we do, it’s not long before there’s more clutter to deal with.

So if you visit us, you are likely to see piles of books and kids’ toys in various places. If you look closely, you will notice that we almost never dust.

Our back entryway seems to turn into a mess of shoes the moment we’re done organizing it.

We may very well have a few baskets of clean clothes that simply haven’t been put away yet. Of course, we hide those.

And please don’t go to our basement. Please. Because those boxes really haven’t sat unpacked for nearly 7 years. Nope. Not at all.

But the truth is, it can be frustrating. Even discouraging. And, yes, I’m sure we need to get rid of some stuff. Not books, of course. Other things, but not books.

Here’s the thing: we all have too much stuff.

And we’re often attached to our stuff. We don’t want to get rid of it. Instead, when it’s not immediately useful, we store it. We box it up. We buy large shelving units so we can do this. Some people build sheds or rent space at a storage facility. Because you never know. It might come in handy some day.

Sometimes it’s a fear of not having enough.

Or the guilt of having wasted money on something that you’re not really using.

We can also have stuff with deep sentimental value. Stuff holds memories and keeps us connected to loved ones who have died.

And then, frankly, sometimes we buy stuff because we want it. We think it’ll make us happier or make life easier. And then it just gets in the way or takes up space.

My wife has read/listened to a lot of books/audiobooks lately on minimalism, materialism, and the value of diminishing the amount of stuff we have. We’ve talked a lot about what we can do to address our stuff problem. Here and there, we’ve even talked about it in terms of what we value.

For example, we value music. We have a lot of musical intruments in our home: guitars, a piano, boom-whackers, a cajon, a kalimba, a violin, a ukulele, recorders, and a few other percussion instruments. And everyone in the family can play or bang on something.

We also value books. Did I already mention that? We value learning. We value good, time-tested stories. We value the importance of ideas and sound thinking. We read out loud with one another on occasion. When we can, we have what we call reading time, when we all pick a book and quietly read in the living room together. This often involves an assortment of lovely teas.

Hospitality is also a something we value. We enjoy welcoming people into our home. We want people who visit to feel  loved and accepted. We want our home to be a place where others can relax and be themselves. Otherwise, it’s simply too hard to play silly games! Hospitality without some laughter sounds a little boring, doesn’t it?

So my wife and I have discussed how we can begin to address our stuff problem through the lens of our values. What contributes to living out our values and what doesn’t? How can our home more fully reflect our values?

Now, we’re not there yet. But that’s the other thing. I try not to get anxious about it. I don’t want to feel overwhelmed by what I’m not always able to get done when I want it done. Life requires patience in a variety of ways.

In the end of the day, I do think that the less stuff we have to manage the more we can focus on what we really value and what really matters. After all, relationships and not possessions are the heart of life. Whatever comes between us and living that out ought to go. It’s not necessarily easy to have the time and motivation to do this. But I think that moving in that direction, even if gradually over time, frees us. After all, what was it that Jesus said?

But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys, and where thieves don’t break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. 

Matthew 6:20-21

Now, I know he’s talking about the kingdom of God and not books and musical intruments. God himself is our ultimate treasure. Yet even there we’re talking about what it means to be free to live life as God calls us to live. And so what we choose to value in this life reflects the extent to which God is indeed the treasure we truly seek. Even if that’s a shelf of really good books.

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