Why We Keep So Much Stuff

imagesDo you ever wonder why we keep so much stuff in our homes? We know we have more than we need, often more than we even want, but we have a hard time letting go just the same. Why is that?

I think many of us feel guilty wanting to get rid of things that have some sentimental value. We feel connected to things that remind us of the past or connect us with a loved one, and we think it somehow would be disrespectful to get rid of said thing. But the memories we have of time spent with those closest to us don’t reside in possessions; we can get rid of things we don’t use or love and still hold dear to our memories.

I am not my stuff; we are more than our possessions.
Our memories are within us, not within our things.
Holding on to stuff imprisons us; letting go is freeing.
You can take pictures of items you want to remember.
Old photographs can be scanned.
An item that is sentimental for us can be useful for someone else.

I don’t think sentimental items are bad, or evil, or that holding on to them is wrong; I think the danger of sentimental items (and sentimentality in general) is far more subtle. If you want to get rid of an item, but the only reason you are holding on to it is for sentimental reasons—and if it is weighing on you—then perhaps it’s time to get rid of it, perhaps it’s time to free yourself of the weight. That doesn’t mean you must get rid of everything, though. – Joshua Fields Millburn

That’s not to say we can’t keep anything that is sentimental; it just means we don’t need to keep every birthday card or every piece of our grandma’s jewelry if they’ll just sit in a box in our closets. We need to evaluate items outside of the sense of nostalgia they carry and choose to keep just the ones that really mean the very most to us.

We may keep gifts from friends and family members because we feel bad about donating or selling them, even though they’re not things we particularly like or use. We hang onto them because we’ve created a sense of shame surrounding the idea of getting rid of gifts from loved ones. We think they’ll notice if we don’t have their gifts around our house, but the truth is they really won’t. And they’d likely feel bad for making you think you had to keep something just to appease them.

Maybe we hold on to things with the intention of maybe using it someday in the future. But if we dug a little deeper and asked ourselves how often we’ve really ended up using things we’ve stashed away for that “just in case” situation, we’d maybe be more willing to let things go. The truth is that we rarely need the things we keep by this kind of justification. We make ourselves feel better for holding onto things we don’t need by saying we may one day need them, but we often never do. And, frankly, many of such things could be easy to replace if we find out we do surprisingly need them ten years down the road, and we would have saved ourselves the storage space for those ten years in the meantime.

We might even delude ourselves into thinking we’ll use miscellaneous items for a rainy day craft or fix our collection of broken things, but most of us likely don’t follow through with those ambitions. We store up boxes and boxes of craft supplies, scraps and tidbits of various things we can’t justify throwing away, hoping we’ll get to make something beautiful out of them eventually. We ought to be more realistic, keeping what we’ll actually use, but realizing we’re probably not going to take the time to fix most things (unless you’re especially gifted with upcycling, then more power to you!).

We keep things out of fear of not having enough down the road. We think that if we let go of something, life’s circumstances will take us by surprise, throwing us a curveball we don’t know how to react to. But we need to realize that holding on to more and more stuff isn’t the answer. Facing the underlying fear is a much better solution. And it will free us up to get rid of the unnecessary things that are cluttering up our homes and our lives.

What other excuses do you find yourself making for keeping things around? Will you join me in letting go of the guilt and fear?

 

Resources:

Fear Is Why We Have Too Much Stuff by Leo Babauta, zenhabits.net

How to Let Go of Stuff Guilt by Ruth Soukup, livingwellspendingless.com

10 Ways to Let Go of Your Stuff by Erin Rooney Doland, realsimple.com

Letting Go of Sentimental Items by Joshua Fields Millburn, theminimalists.com

How to Simplify Your Stuff and Honor Your Memories by Courtney Carver, becomingminimalist.com

Image source: https://hotcutegirlygeek.wordpress.com/2013/01/11/too-much-stuff/

Quote

You Won’t Relent

“You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours
You won’t relent until You have it all
My heart is Yours

Come be the fire inside of me
Come be the flame upon my heart
Come be the fire inside of me
Until You and I are One.”

Jesus Culture – You Won’t Relent Lyrics | MetroLyrics

I’ve been reading Jen Hatmaker’s book 7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess, and it has been doing a number on my heart. I’ve been on this simplifying journey for a little while now, and I felt like I had done a decent job of going through my things and getting rid of (or setting aside until I could take a trip to drop off) things that I don’t use or need.

Little did I know, I was going to be challenged to do more. I still have far more than I need or even want. I still am surrounded by a mountain of evidence of having bought into my consumer-driven culture. I still live in a place of abundance and extravagance. I still pride myself on filling one or two garbage bags with my second-hand cast-offs all the while ignoring the shelves, drawers, and closets full of things I barely touched in the last six months. As my eyes are being opened to my selfishness, my heart is breaking, and the kind of person I want to be is becoming clearer.

Giving away my ratty leftovers is no longer enough. Scheduling a pickup or quickly dropping things off in a drive-through at the local thrift store isn’t going to satisfy me any longer. I am being called to more. I have so far to go.

19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy,and where thieves break in and steal. 20 But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven,where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal.21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” -Matthew 6:19-20

How many times have I read those words and told myself the rewards of Heaven far surpass the trinkets of this world? How many times have I still labored to get the next best thing that will be cast aside shortly after I attain it?

I need to get to a place where I am not relying on my ability to provide for myself. I have been a packrat for years, keeping things “just in case” I might need them later on down the road. The actual number of times I’ve used those things should make me ashamed. I have feared that if I got rid of too many things, I would be left wanting for them, left in a state of need. As if by letting go of my material possessions, I could give away enough to enter into a state of pseudo-poverty. As if I thought the Lord wouldn’t provide for all my needs, like I didn’t recognize His hand in having provided me with the means to buy all this stuff in the first place, or His provision for the more meaningful things in life that I can’t buy with all the money in the world (family, friends, health, security, peace, love, joy, eternal security in Heaven with Him, to name only a few).

I’m done buying into the lie that I need more and more and more stuff to make me happy, to make me feel secure, to make me feel accomplished for having been able to provide for all of my needs, for having the forethought to stockpile things for my potential (and mostly superficial) future needs. I am choosing today to be more mindful of the things I spend my money on and spend my time doing. I will take a more honest, critical look at the things I’ve been holding onto and release more of them from my possession so that others (who actually need them) can have them and make use of them.

Jesus, You are all I need. I have been so incredibly blessed with everything in my life, but it’s not mine to hold onto. It all belongs to You. Show me how to best use it all.

This will begin a series of posts dedicated to more specific areas of life, areas that Jen covered in her book and/or areas that others have inspired me to look at in greater detail as I endeavor to take a more critical look at where I need to change some habits in order to become a better manager of everything I’ve been given.

Dear Twenty-One-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the fifth and final installment, for my twenty-one-year-old self.

Dear twenty-one-year-old me,

Breathe. Just breathe. And then let go. Let go of your expectations. Let go of your agenda. Let go of your timeline. You are not God. You are not in control. He is. His timing is perfect. His plan is perfect. Relax. And breathe once more for good measure.

Preparing to leave such a rich community is heartbreaking, I know. But what you can’t see is that there is a wonderful opportunity for you to build a new community in a place that desperately needs it, if only you will keep moving forward instead of getting stuck in the despair of leaving your current home.

I know you’re agonizing over the fact that you still don’t have a job lined up for after graduation. I know that tortures you. I know it keeps you up at night as your mind continues spinning long into the night, trying to devise a new plan of attack to provide your own safety net in what feels like a free-fall with no view of the ground. But take heart; the moment you let go of your will in this is the very moment that the pieces will start to fall together without your interference.

God is going to do far greater things that what you can even imagine. There will certainly be a lot of painful goodbyes involved, but there will also be times of joyous celebration as you see how He will graciously provide for all of your needs. You will later be able to look back and see how He was working all the while, putting the pieces together to create something beautiful.

Life won’t unfold just the way you want; it’s not your story to plot out. You focus too much on what you alone are capable of, putting God and what He can do inside a box of your limitations. Lay down your expectations, and you will be surprised with what wonderfully amazing things come up that weren’t possible while you were holding so tightly to your own agenda.

Expect great things, but don’t tell God how or when to do them. Know that you will make a difference, but leave margin for the when and the how. Explore your passions, giving God room to work with them and fashion them into a meaningful way to spend your time and invest your life. And don’t be afraid to dream a little bigger, darling.

All my love,

Jessie

Dear Thirteen-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the second installment, for my thirteen-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear thirteen-year-old me,

Junior high is awkward for everyone. Just embrace that fact, and things will go much more smoothly for you. Don’t be afraid of looking foolish or making mistakes. Those things are inevitable. Celebrate them. Take joy in the courage it takes to be your awesome self– awkwardness, big glasses, crooked teeth, bad hair days, and all.

I know moving to a new city threw a wrench in your friendships, and now moving from elementary school to junior high is full of unfamiliar faces, leaving you feeling like a small fish drowning in what’s really more like an ocean than a bigger pond. But you’ll learn to navigate the currents here, too.

Don’t be afraid to be exactly who you are– crazy outfit days in the name of school spirit needn’t be the only times you choose to let your oddball side shine. Stand out from the crowd. Don’t be afraid to sing loud in choir and give your next art project your all– you are capable of far more than you think.

Love yourself just the way you are. Fight the urge to compare yourself to others. Live your unique life, resisting the temptation to spend your precious time trying to fit in. Nobody else can be you. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

I promise you’ll make new friends who will carry you through these strange years. Take them up on their invitations to slumber parties, school dances, and football games. You will grow out of some of your awkwardness, and embrace other parts of it, in time. Love yourself for it and others will, too.

All my love,

Jessie

Dear Ten-Year-Old Me

This month, I’m going to be writing letters to myself at various stages in my life. Below is the first installment, for my ten-year-old self. Check back next week for the next letter!

Dear ten-year-old me,

Oh, how quickly time flies! Enjoy the freedom of your youth. Don’t take all of those open nights and weekends for granted, for they will soon be filled with various responsibilities. Don’t fret over friends who move or pets who pass away, for there will be even more friends and pets down the road to lessen the blow.

Let go of worry, and live in the moment. Enjoy the present without being so concerned about the future.You are far too young to let your time and energy go to something so useless and consuming as worry and tension. Most of what you worry about won’t happen anyway, so don’t waste your energy focusing on it.

Don’t listen to what others might say or spend your time worrying about what they might think. You are a precious daughter of the Living God, a princess loved by the King of Kings. That matters far more than what anyone else might think or say about you, and His opinion of you will never change because He never changes. Take comfort in that, little one.

Read all the books. Develop a lifelong love of learning from an early age, and it will follow you. Do what you love. Develop passions and talents, and pursue them relentlessly. Draw, write, play. And don’t be afraid to share your heart and creative side with others.

Never stop dreaming. Don’t let people tell you the things you want aren’t realistic or attainable. Don’t let that little voice inside your head tell you that dreams are foolish things only for little children, things to be abandoned as we grow older. Dreams ought to grow with us. So dream. Dream big, knowing that your dreams matter and can be attained. And don’t let anyone ever tell you otherwise, my dear.

All my love,

Jessie

 

Learning to Let Go

Letting go. It’s far easier said than done, isn’t it? I, for one, have never been good at it. I want to hold on as tightly as I possibly can to the things that mean the most to me, and, frankly, even to the things that don’t. Letting go of anything is hard.

Have you felt fatigued from holding on too tightly for too long? I have. I’ve reached a point where I came face-to-face with my own stubbornness, seeing clearly for the first time that I couldn’t hold onto everything, and that willingly letting go is less painful than having things taken from me when I choose to hold them too tightly.

When I refuse to let go, it’s as if I’m saying the things I have right now matter more than what I might get if only I were willing to let go of the past and move forward. You can’t receive more blessings when your fists are clenched around the ones you currently have. When you open your hands and choose to let go, you are then free to receive abundantly more.

I have seen this concept more clearly in hindsight in my present circumstances. The biggest blessings have come to me when I have let go of the control I had on a situation, stepped back, stopped striving to make things go my way, and just trust that God will work it all out in His timing.

I worked incredibly hard to find a job for after college graduation, and went months without finding anything even remotely promising. I was getting more and more bitter as graduation drew closer, despite saying that I was trusting God to provide. It’s abundantly clear to me now that I wasn’t trusting Him at all; I was working to make it happen on my own. I took a part-time job when I felt I had hit rock bottom, just to make some money until I could find something better. Because I was so burned out from months of job searching, I decided I would take a break and temporarily be content with my part-time job to recover emotionally. Shortly after that, I got a call out of the blue which quickly led to me getting a full-time job– one that I wouldn’t have been able to get on my own. As soon as I let go of my plan, I gave God enough room to work His.

I have a tendency to work really hard to try to get things to work out in a certain way, praying that the Lord’s will would be done, but all the while basically just asking Him to bless my will instead of submitting to His. I have my own agenda, and I have gone through life like I can make things perfectly fall into place by sheer willpower and effort of my own making.

If you haven’t reached this point in your life, learn from my experiences with it: you can’t make it work out your way. Sure, you might get what you want, but it likely won’t be as good as you thought it was going to be, and you might have missed out on something far better in the process because you were so tunnel-visioned on what you thought was best for you. In doing this, we blind ourselves to God’s better offers for our lives.

He came that we might have life, and have it to the full. What makes us think that the things we want are better than the things He desires to give us? Yes, sometimes we want the same things He wants for us, but I encourage you to be willing to let go of your plans and remain open to the idea that He might have something far better in store for you than even your wildest dreams. And that’s pretty amazing.

Less is More

While this may be a common platitude, it still rings true. If you are involved in fewer things, you get to be more involved with each of them than if you tried to be fully involved in a greater number of activities. If you have a smaller group of close friends, you get to know them better than if you tried to get to know a larger group on a deep level. If you own fewer possessions, you use them more and appreciate them more than if you had an overabundance of things you never use and misplace or forget you even own.

I’m not advocating having less simply for the sake of trying to have the least amount of stuff possible —that is still, at its core, about having pride in what you possess. There’s nothing wrong with owning things, as long as those things don’t end up owning you. We have far more than we need, and even, at times, more than we want. Embracing the idea of “less is more” is really more about choosing which things, activities, and relationships you care about the most, and then being willing to let the others go.

I recently have become a big proponent of simpler living. Not only does it support my desire to be intentional about investing in what really matters to me and not stretch myself too thin by saying yes to too many things, but it also offers small steps to accomplish those things.

Decluttering (or editing,purging, downsizing, or whatever you choose to call it) has become fun for me, as I evaluate the physical possessions I have in light of what I want my life and my home to look like. As a mildly OCD (or not-so-mildly, depending on who you ask) person with a distinct Type A personality, I like things to be clean and organized all the time. With fewer things crowding up my space, it takes far less time to keep things the way I like them. I’m also far less likely to misplace things, since there are fewer things to lose and fewer places to lose them in.

I have begun to let go of my packrat tendencies, saving everything “just in case,” and adopted a more realistic view of the things I own, recognizing that I probably will never again look at all the papers I wrote in high school English or feel the need to wear my graduation gown again. While some things have sentimental value (which is totally fine; we need things that are special to us), I don’t feel the need to save everything anymore, and that’s quite liberating.

Getting rid of unnecessary things is kind of addictive. Once I started, I couldn’t stop thinking of more and more things I no longer use that could be added to the bags accumulating in the hall closet. I just couldn’t get enough of the freedom I found when I let go. Having fewer things makes me more appreciative of the things I choose to keep, and the things that I now will have more time for, like relaxing with friends. My room and my life are starting to have more wiggle room in them, and that’s beautiful to me.