The biggest question I have about all this stuff is, "Where did it come from?!" I want to believe that at night, stuff just accumulates all by itself. And truly, it often seems as though that's what happens. But we all know it doesn't, right? We have to either bring it in ourselves or let it in. Part of dealing with this stuff is facing up to the fact that we are the ones who put it there (or let it stay there) in the first place.
And this is where it gets hard, because it is at this point that it ceases to be just stuff and takes on such emotional weight that it seems as though we are all Jacob Marley walking around in our (invisible) chains. Take all those children's clothes I had stored in the basement. I began keeping them for a good reason... to save so that I didn't have to buy each child a new wardrobe each season. But good intentions can go wrong and this one certainly did. There came to be so many boxes of clothes in my basement that I couldn't find the ones I was looking for... I couldn't put things away... and I didn't feel as though emotionally I could do anything about it. In my mind, those clothes had become part of my children. To give them away, was to give away a part of my children and I couldn't do that. It was when I started to fantasize about major flooding in the basement which would ruin the boxes of clothes, so that I had no choice but to throw them away that I knew I had to do something about it.
It was hard. It was hard work to physically sort through it all. (The pile was so embarrassingly huge that I couldn't even take a picture to show to you. I've seen stores with less clothing.) But it was also hard to give it away. When the yard sale was over, I still couldn't face the bags being loaded into the van, and if I had thought about it too hard, I would have bawled right there in the front yard. Once the clothes were gone, though, I realized something. My children were still all here. My memories of my children were still all in my head. The only thing was missing were the boxes and boxes of clothes taking over my basement and the vague guilt and worry that I had been carrying around in my head about them.
It can be hard to get rid of stuff. You have to ask yourself if the stuff is hurting the way you want to live with your family. Is it causing you worry or distress? Is it taking time away from the people in your life? Is it making it difficult to do the things you would rather do, such as use a storage room for a better purpose? Is it costing you money? What makes it hard is that I don't think we realize that this battle with stuff is not just a battle for organization, it is a spiritual battle. Satan does not want you to focus on what's important: thankfulness, peace, joy, contentment, loving the people in your life. All of these things are the opposite of hoarding stuff. Satan tries to get us to replace real life with things. And he is very, very good at it.
I find it easier to be ruthless in my cleaning out if I picture myself fighting a battle. A battle that says I don't need too much to have enough. A battle that puts God firmly in control of providing what my family needs. A battle that put things firmly in their place as useful objects, but not ones that are in control.
Stuff, part 1 -- Lessons from the playpen
Stuff, part 2 -- Lessons from the too small house
Stuff, part 3 -- That's entropy, man