A Keeper of Stuff

Opened cardboard box isolated on a white background

I’ve read all the books and all the blogs and all the “how-to-pack-your-house-efficiently” articles I can but alas, sometimes you just have to jump in a do it. I started packing our house for the big move that is scheduled to happen in about 20 days. Someone asked me  yesterday why I started so soon, which completely and totally took me by surprise as I feel behind already. I hear that local moves are the hardest because you tend to think you don’t have to pack everything and end up making a thousand unnecessary trips. I’m trying to head that warning and be a complete packer.

My goal has been to pack one room per day…mostly. We still have 20 days, after all, and we still have to live here for those days. I can’t pack my whole kitchen yet and I can’t pack our bathrooms in totality. If I want to not bake muffins or cupcakes in the next 20 days I can pack the muffin pans but I can not pack the forks. I can probably pack my hot rollers but I shouldn’t pack the blow dryer. So mostly. The dining room, with all the crystal and antiques is boxed up and sitting in a corner. I doubt I’ll need any of that soon.

I’ve been trying to weed out a lot of unneeded stuff as we pack. When you spend a long time in one place you tend to acquire stuff. I wish I had a more eloquent word for it but “stuff” seems to best describe the items in the back of my coat closet and the bottom shelf under my bathroom sink. We’ve been in this house for eleven years and I feel certain we brought stuff from our previous house that we should not have. When we moved to this house my daughter was just over a year old and I was 5 months pregnant with my boy. I didn’t have a lot of time or energy to sort stuff and we had gracious and loving friends who helped with the packing and the moving. They certainly didn’t sort my stuff. They boxed it and moved it and I was very thankful for their boxing and moving.

So the sorting and the ridding of stuff has been both daunting and cathartic at the same time. My general rule for discernment has been simple. I ask if I/we have used it in the past year. If we haven’t, I ask if I/we need it for a job or chore that is done every other year. If not, it goes. Where does it go? If it is broken it goes to the trash. (hy do we hold on to broken stuff? That’s a whole other question for a whole other day.) If it can be used by someone else it goes to a donation or sale pile. If I have used it or worn it  then I ask if it brings me joy. Do I love it? Does it make my life easier or happier? If not, it goes.

For instance, I have things on my walls that I don’t particularly love. Or like. I’m getting rid of those things. I have clothes in my closet that I only wear if I have no other option. I have gadgets in my kitchen that, while very cool, don’t get used on a regular basis. Some of them are more trouble or space taking than they’re worth. This is also true for the stuff that belongs to my husband and my kids. We’ve all been holding on to lots of stuff that we don’t love or want or need. Easy Bake Ovens, hundreds of stuffed animals…It’s time to purge.

In the process of purging, however, lots of feelings get stirred up. I run across pictures and artwork and journals and letter sweaters (okay, just one letter sweater) and toys and…..stuff. Lots of stuff that reminds me of good times and bad times and hard times and times. Lots of times. Feelings start swirling and whirling and occasionally, tears come. Sometimes they trickle by the one, two, three droplets down the cheek and sometimes they flood like a dam of memories just burst and they don’t stop easily. Sometimes I can whistle a happy tune while I sort through folders and piles but sometimes I whimper Michael W.Smith songs through my crying.

Mostly though, I’m finding the whole process good. Not good in a “I want to move every year” sort of way but more like “It’s  time to let go of things that hold me back” sort of way. Which frankly, is the whole thing God has been working in me for a while. I held on to way too much stuff for far too long. I  had hurts, habits, and hang ups in my life that had been there so long I didn’t even notice them any more. I got used to the clutter in my heart; used to ducking and bobbing to avoid certain circumstance; accustomed to sweeping particulars under the rug of life. Swinging open the doors of my heart, inviting God into the mess, and asking him to  help me purge has been the most life-giving gift I could have every given myself. Packing up and turning over the stuff helps to clear the way for growth and change I didn’t have room for before.

Unfortunately, just like my house, my heart needs to be cleared and de-cluttered more often than every eleven years. Just like a daily clean up and a weekly mopping, does my house good, a daily inventory of my heart  is how I’m working to keep my emotional and spiritual life in check. Oh, I skip days from time to time. I have days when I don’t feel like making a gratitude list. I have days when I don’t want to admit the ways I’ve been selfish or self-serving; the ways I’ve hurt the ones I love. But the more days I skip the messier my heart becomes. The more time I spend running from God’s Word, the bigger the mess grows.

I want to be a purger in all of life. In my home and in my heart. I don’t want to let stuff build up. I don’t want to let the piles become invisible to my every day seeing eyes. I don’t want to start stepping over reminders and ignoring clutter. I don’t want to be a keeper of stuff any more.