A Captive of Stuff

Some of you know that a couple of months ago we had a problem with the sewer in our basement. A drain in the floor of our basement got clogged and backed up, coming out all over the carpet, ruining much of our subfloor, and generally creating havoc in our lives.


The basement is where we kept our homeschool library, file cabinets with papers and office supplies, DVD and CD collection, and all other sorts of stuff. Some of this stuff was actively in use. Some of it, not so much.


For example, most of our homeschool library was picture books covering all kinds of stories and topics. We had picture books covering everything from Gilgamesh to Paper Airplane construction, the planet Mercury to the War of 1812. But my youngest is now in the 8th grade, so those books haven’t been used in a very long time.

But I held onto them. Someone might use them. I might find a way to sell them. I might find someone to give them to someday.

The CD’s… we paid good money for those CD’s back in the day. Granted, that was a couple of decades ago, and all the music is now either online or forgotten. We hadn’t listened to a CD in several years. But it felt somehow wasteful to get rid of them. We even had some VHS tapes on historical topics that Hubby used when he was teaching at the seminary. We don’t even have a way to play them, and haven’t in quite some time. But again, we paid good money for them, and they had been used before, and who knows? Maybe they’d get used again.

Well, the basement sewer fiasco was just what we needed, though we didn’t know it at the time. It sounds strange, but that may be one of the best things that happened to us in a while.


Since we now needed new carpet, and everything was going to have to be moved anyway, I took this opportunity to clean out, clear out, and get rid of. Some of the things needed to be kept, though, since they were actively in use, and the perfect place to put those things was our garage storage. The only problem? The garage storage was full of old children’s clothes. But as I said, my youngest is in the 8th grade. She’s almost done growing, and we’re not planning to have more children.

For years we did have stair-step children, and shopping meant going out to the garage, selecting the correct box of hand-me-downs, and hanging up the contents into the proper closet. I held onto them because I wasn’t absolutely sure we wouldn’t have more kids, then because it was a pain to get rid of them, and someone might want them someday. However, I held onto them SO long that the things were out of style, out of date, and the elastic on some of the underwear had become crunchy. Crunchy underwear is not good.

So we got rid of the clothes and got rid of the books. It felt strange, like a part of me had been cut off; it was somewhat painful, but also strangely liberating.

It was so liberating, in fact, that I just kept going. Hubby and I are both bibliophiles. We had a room lined with shelves filled with our books. We joke that practically all our furniture is given to us or found on the curb except our bookshelves. We’ve bought lots of bookshelves, and filled them with books. We even had many of our old college textbooks from over 2 decades ago. When was the last time we read any of the books? The dust on them told that tale. It had been quite a while.

I decided that anything that hadn’t been used recently was going. If we were moving (we’re not, but if we were.. ) and I wouldn’t move it across the country and then unpack it right away, I got rid of it.

Hats I used to wear? Gone. Textbooks for subjects the kids are beyond? Gone. Office supplies not used in forever? Gone.

It’s a strange phenomenon that by definition the stuff you don’t use up hangs around. Whiteboard markers that we have no whiteboard for would be around forever if I didn’t get rid of them. I mean, it’s not like they’re going to get used up; they’re not getting used at all ever.

In all this, the Lord started dealing with me about my reliance on stuff. My affection for the THINGS in my life. I don’t consider myself someone who needs a lot of stuff. I’m not a big shopper. I don’t buy things impulsively. I am not a clothes-hound. But I have held on to things. Things beyond their time. Things beyond their use. Things…just extra things.

We see examples in the Bible where God deals with people about this kind of thing. Oh, there’s not a blanket commandment to be stuff-less like there is to not have other gods. But if we’re not careful, our stuff can become a god, something that distracts us, that interferes with our focus on keeping the main thing the main thing, a weight that so easily besets us.

I think of the Rich Young Ruler, the early church who sold their possessions, the disciples who Jesus sent out without provisions.

Perhaps it’s just me that needed and still needs to be changed. After all, I still have a few closets to go through. I have a few closets already gone through that need a second combing-through, because I’m finding the process is a progressive one. As the readily-apparent things are cut away, I am able to see the less obvious ones, and as I have less and less, more and more focus happens.

Do I need extra decorations for the 90’s that I thought I might hang someday? No. Do I need shoes that my feet no longer let me wear in hopes that someday I will be able to? No. Do I need all the books by an author I really like that are also at the library? No.

As I need less, I am finding that I want less. As I want less I have less. As I have less, and want less and need less, I have more time and energy and focus to put into the people, the relationships, and the God of my life.

The worst part is getting started. Our sewer forced us to do it. Then we blocked out time on our calendar. The whole family pitched in and helped haul, sort, and catalogue our tax deductible donations, and haul some more.

We have gotten rid of over 4300 items. That’s 4300 items that someone else can be enjoying or gaining profit from. 4300 items I no longer have to dust, store, and provide space for. That’s not counting old paperwork and files that I no longer needed. And I’m not done.

Maybe you aren’t in such a bad state. We had 7 people in this house working on accumulating it, after all. Whatever the case, consider blocking some time, getting rid of some stuff, clearing your house, and by doing that, clearing your mind.

Then, don’t replace the stuff with new stuff. Keep your space. Keep your peace.

1 thought on “A Captive of Stuff

  1. I surely need this. I am starting to work on it, but it seems unending. It’s going so slowly.

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