Friday, October 1, 2010

On Clutter

There's a new television show on called "Hoarders" that I've refused to watch. Apparently, something goes wrong in someone's head and the "stuff" in their life begins to take on significance to such a degree that they end up lost in a labyrinth of their own making. I cannot imagine being in that particular scenario since the biggest messes I have to tackle involve a bedroom that has some disorganization and a closet that is somewhat overflowing due to the generosity of friends. My attic is empty except for Christmas decorations and two boxes that belong to my sister from cleaning out my grandmother's house six years ago.

But I think that everyone has "stuff" in their life that constitutes some kind of clutter. I know people who can't just establish a permanent residence for certain items, so they end up buying them over and over just to be sure that they have them when they need them. Occasionally, they will get on a tear and clean out drawers and find that they have six pairs of kitchen scisssors and 63 rolls of Scotch tape. You'll go to the pantry and see that they have bought enough green beans to get them through the apocolypse and have a lifetime supply of toilet paper. What they don't have, however, is space.

Over the past twenty years, our homes have grown bigger and yet we've stretched out into climate controlled storage facilities, or just the old fashioned kind. I had a family member who had family furniture in storage for nearly 40 years before some of the items were taken out and distributed. The remnants were finally consolidated with another storage facility belonging to another family member. We've been swearing that we'll get that one cleaned out...and we will as soon as we can find a free weekend without temperatures in the triple digits or football games that we want to see.

Sometimes we find it difficult to let go and we want the reminders of days gone by all around us. Other times, we just don't have the time or the will to deal with everything that needs to be sorted and parted with effectively. But by not doing it, we are actually letting our "stuff" have dominion over us...instead of the other way around.

I am probably guilty of hanging onto some things longer than seems reasonable. I still have a couple of items that I received as wedding gifts but have never really used. We've been married for twenty-five years, by the way. I keep them because someone thought enough of me to give them to me in the first place. But I'm learning that by holding on to some things, my fist is tightly clenched...which makes it impossible for God to put blessings into an outstretched hand. So, with that visual in mind...I'm trying to peel my fingers away and use them to dial Goodwill.

I think that most people look at their "stuff" as either a reflection of themselves. I know I see some of my clutter when I look into a mirror...literally. Being overweight is actually clutter of a different nature. I've been cleaning that house this year, but I definitely still have some additional renovations to make. The concept of "body clutter" is not original, by the way...I stole that from somewhere and it has stuck with me. Like these extra pounds.

Sometimes the clutter occurs in our relationships. We exhaust ourselves trying to take care of other people that really need to be taking care of themselves. I've had to pick up my ball and go home on a number of occasions in my life. Not because I didn't love the person or their friendship...but because I couldn't keep being the person that they wanted me to be or I was somehow hindering their growth into what God intended. I miss some of them and will always be happy that our paths crossed, but I do not miss the drama or their expectations at all.

I'd encourage you to find a pile of "stuff" today sitting forlornly on your dining room table or in the trunk of your car and deal with it, but I doubt it would help. I have to be "in the mood" to clean and I have to have sufficient time to think about what I am doing. During football season, that is all but impossible. And I'm okay just shifting the piles around as company comes or as I am so inclined to work through one. I suppose as long as I'm not naming's okay.

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