October is the craziest month of our year, as we come off birthday season in our house (3 of the four of us have birthdays within 13 days of each other) and head into a quieter time before Thanksgiving. This year especially, I was looking forward to it.
But the last three weeks have proven to be anything but quiet. We made a rapid-fire (but not rash) decision to try and sell our house and move into something else. I won't go into the trigger incident for the move. I will say the goal is to be in a house that has better space for our guests and that is closer to church.
That means that it fell (mostly) on me to declutter and clean the house and make it ready for house-shoppers to come through and peruse what our little home has to offer them. I have boxed and cleaned, cleaned and boxed, and moved furniture out and in to make the house look...different. About half of our belongings are now either in the trash, at a thrift store, on Craiglist (printer/scanner anyone?) or in a storage space that we rented, and the house is starting to come together as a sell-able product.
That makes it sound like it's been easy, right? And yet, it has been an extremely humbling experience. I have, for a long time, clung to the idea that since I have a small house, I must be a minimalist, free from the constraints of materialism and the longing of having All The Things.
But I've come to realize that I was not practicing what I thought I was practicing. In many ways, we continued to accumulate things when we should not have. When The Stuff got to be more than we could handle, sure, I'd haul some of it to Goodwill, but there have also been a lot of trips to Ikea to buy Stylish Swedish Vertical Storage to fit The Stuff into the small space.
I wish I could say that in the process of the packing that I decluttered more than I did, but in truth some of those things won't be clutter if we have the space to house them in the new place--though I intend to do another round of decluttering once we move, if the Lord is willing that we do so.
In the meantime, and especially with the Season of Marketing and Advertising upon us, I have been giving a lot of thought to The Stuff. And how to truly be free of any unproductive attachment to it. Here's what I plan to do to stay on the right path as we move forward--whether the Lord blesses us with more space or not.
1. Take care of what I do have. This has been a truly convicting point for me, and perhaps the most humbling part of the whole experience. I have found several things that I have really enjoyed, and perhaps have even used a lot, that are no longer as desirable to me simply because I didn't care for them as well as I should have. I have been instructed to be a good steward of what I have (1 Pet. 4:10). Realizing the many ways I have failed in that has been disturbing to me, and I am newly resolved to discontinue that trend! The good news: since I am determined to have less stuff, that will be less stuff to clean and maintain. More care to lavish on what I really do enjoy.
2. Use what I have. My wedding shoes--the ones I lovingly had color-matched to my dress and that were a real splurge for my parents, are in the trash as of this week. They did not hold up well, tucked away in their box in the top of the hall closet. I found them discolored and unsightly, and realized that even if they still looked nice, the style is far too youthful for me now. Wouldn't it have been nice to wear them a time or two in the years just following the wedding? They got ruined anyway, at least I could've used them. I have been far too guilty of not using my 'nice things.' Well, what's the point of having them if you're not going to use them? How will I tell the children stories of the china my grandmother gave me if they never see it? At some point, I'm not going to have it anyway--it will either get lost or broken or stolen or I'll die. So... why not use it and enjoy it? I remember reading Alice Walker's short story Everyday Use years ago, and being touched by it--but not always putting it into practice, that using important things is important and good.
3. Use my things to serve. This is the most productive way to do #2. If you look at 1 Pet. 4, there is a clear link between stewardship and serving. We aren't given things (physical or spiritual) to just sit around and stare at them--or even worse--to put them in the closet! It can look different depending on your interests, who you know, and what people need. Maybe it's using your dishes to have people over. Maybe it's using a casserole pan to make a meal for someone. Maybe it's letting someone borrow your outdoor gear because they want to try out camping without committing to buying a slew of stuff just yet. My things, while now clutter to me, can be a blessing to someone else. When I have clothes that are no longer my style or are too youthful for me, there may be someone else out there who will love it. My random small appliances may have been on someone else's "want" list for a while. Getting a freebie from someone else is such a nice surprise, and giving one to someone means both of us win. Just don't be offended if they don't take it--all you can do is offer!
4. One thing in, one thing out. When you do find that you need to bring something into your home, this is a great rule to follow. I'll warn you though-- this one is hard! We "need" the new thing, but have a tough time letting go of the old. But it is a good practice in just how much we need it, if we already have something we don't want to let go of. Going forward, I intend to decide just what I will let go of BEFORE I buy the new thing.
5. If it hasn't been used in a year, let it go. Oof, this one is hard for me. I always want to fudge and make it two--or even three--years, but the one year rule is solid. If it's important to you, you'll use it. If it's not, it's clutter.
Alright, I'm off now to clean the newly-discovered surfaces in the house in preparation for family and Thanksgiving. I have so much to be thankful for--including my newly humbled spirit. Here's to being a better steward of all the many, many blessings I have been given.
I have been in a fog for the last 10 days or so, ever since receiving the word that a dear friend, sister in Christ, and mentor was nearing the end of a long battle with cancer. She left this earth on Monday and I confess I am in full-on Grief Stage 1-Denial & Isolation. I can’t adequately express what Mary meant to me; not sure I fully grasp the loss yet, even. She was a constant in my life for over 10 years. But more than a simple constant, she was an unwavering rock, the very definition of perseverance. She served, and served, and served others till the end.
She was not old, but she followed the Lord, and so because she was older than me, she taught me to love my husband and children (Titus 2). She showed me how to serve (endlessly, tirelessly. I’m still trying to learn this lesson). She modeled self-control, purity of heart, the joy of making a happy home (that was open to so many people, so often). She was kind. She was submissive to her husband, who valued and respected and loves her so much.
Mary was so many things that the world would not value. Not in the least. “Just a housewife,” they say about women like her. “Just a mother,” the smirk. She lived a quiet life. Had no fancy titles or letters behind her name. No, she just did a lot of work. Worked with her hands, did hard spiritual work on herself and for others—oh, how she worked.
But Mary wasn’t here to impress the world. She was dedicated to being everything that God values. A true servant. A pure heart. A beloved child. She mothered four sons, plus three daughters-in-law, several nieces and nephews and a slew of friends and loved ones. I don’t think she had a grand master plan to affect so many people. I think she woke up in the morning, studied her Bible so she would be ready, then opened her eyes to what was around her. She saw the next thing to do for the Lord, and did it.
Now so many of us are left, like the mourners of Acts 9, fingering the figurative tunics and other garments that she left for us. Weeping. Wondering how to fill this void. There will be no miraculous raising of our beloved Tabitha here on earth—and for that, we are so thankful, since her raising will be done for eternity in Heaven.
I suppose that one by one, there will be those of us who were touched by her who will pick up a little bit of service here, a good deed there. God’s will will still be done, it will just look different. The beautiful thing is, it’s not the life, or even the death of Mary that compels us to service—and she wouldn’t want it to be. It is the death and resurrection of our Lord Jesus that drove her to show love, and compassion, and to do good for others. May I be so moved, every day.
P.S. Oh, and in the notes about Mary’s funeral service, this woman that surely would not impress the world or make a lasting mark? It says the service had to be moved to a huge church building because the funeral home is “anticipating a larger crowd than they can accommodate.” All because she served. Lord, make us pure-hearted servants.
Encouragement Spoken Here
"A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in a setting of silver." Proverbs 25:11