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Less Is More, More or Less

9 Sep

“Wait, don’t throw that away!” I yelled. “I’ve got an idea!”

I love Pinterest, except for one thing. It makes me not want to throw anything away. I mean, I Hoarding_LOLwithGod_ToiletPaperRolls_Pixabaymight need that toilet paper roll or bottle cap or empty Styrofoam tray later to make something wonderfully creative!

I have to confess: I used to pin ideas on how to organize my house. But I never got around to actually organizing my house, and it was pretty impossible anyway. When you run out of places for stuff, it sort of spills out all over your home. 

People hoard everything from yarn to stuffed animals to hammers to makeup. (I know, because I saw all that on a Pinterest board about hoarding!)

I also saw a greeting card the other day with a room full of hoarded things on the cover. It read, “Congratulations. You’ve made a huge mess for me to clean up after you die.”

I’d laugh, except it’s not really funny. We are a nation obsessed with stuff, spending our abundance on things we don’t really need, and leaving it all for the next generation to deal with.

It’s no surprise, one of the hot topics on the Internet is the “less is more” craze. From authors to TED talks, from organization specialists to fashion consultants—everyone seems to be talking about eliminating excess and owning a richer life with less stuff. 

In some cases, the less is more crowd is advocating the opposite extreme of hoarding!

One lady I read about proposes we keep only 10 items in our wardrobe. Another decided to live in a mini-house and pared down all her belongings to practically nothing. Then she went out to buy some of the things she got rid of in her haste!

My philosophy is:  less is more, more or less.

And here’s what I mean.

First I tackle my stuff by asking tough questions:

1. Have I used it in the last year?

Why not? Why store stuff I’ll never use? (A few things, I wasn’t sure about, I put in a box to evaluate again later. A FEW things.)

2. Do I truly love it?

Does it make me smile or leave me sighing in frustration? Am I keeping it because someone gave it to me? Am I just struggling with how to let it go?

(Yes, I kept some special “just because” treasures—only OK because I have room for them.)

3. Do I have a reasonable location to keep it in my home?

Are things just piling up? Would I have to buy a storage unit to store these things? Why? Is that wise?

If I really love it, is there something that can go to make room for this?

4. What are the memories associated with it?

Are there good memory reasons to keep it (possibly for legacy purposes, or for the next generation)? Does it have any bad memories associated with it—and am I ready now to deal with those memories and move on?

(For some people, everything they touch has an associated “memory”—good and bad memories—and that can lead to hoarding. I’m not talking about that issue here. That may require counseling.)

5. Do I have more than one of this item?

Why? Is that realistic? (I counted more than a dozen pair of scissors in my home, and I’m not talking about those fancy craft scissors.)  I’m learning life does not consist in an abundance of possessions (Luke 12:15).

6. Could someone else use this more than me?

Especially if I’m not using it and don’t need it, I need to think missions, the homeless, Goodwill or Amvets, a needy neighbor, etc. (1 John 3:17)

Maybe you have some other questions that help you.

I recently decided to take all my boxes of stuff stored in the garage and place similar items on a white cloth on my dining room table. I took pictures of the similar items in groups. Then I sent those pictures to family members. 

“If you want it, let me know,” I said. “Otherwise it’s going in a garage sale and to Amvets.”

It’s amazing how little they wanted. Why did I think they would?

I’ll admit, it was hard to decide to let some things go. The six questions helped me.

But it’s not just “stuff” that concerns me.

Sometimes our biggest stressors are excesses in the stuff life is made of.

Life is made of Time. Schedules. Activities. Relationships. Things like that.

Less of some things is good. 

But then again, more of some things is good too.

 It depends on what we’re talking about.

For example, being busy is good; it means we are engaged and occupied in a (hopefully) worthwhile activity, but being too busy means our priorities may be out of whack. And busywork is seldom good.

A full calendar can reflect a good life, but too many things on our calendar is not good. It eventually can lead to burn-out. We have to learn to balance work and rest. We can’t go through life like tightly-wound springs. 

This is even true in our spiritual life. While ministry and service are good, if we constantly give out and never take in, that won’t work.

We need to refuel. We need to sit at the Master’s feet and learn of Him. We need to be still and take time to meditate on scripture. We need to rest (Matthew 11:28).

To be honest, I didn’t even see all of this until the Lord set me apart for a while. I couldn’t be busy. I couldn’t keep up with my calendar. I couldn’t even do ministry.

I could barely breathe.

I came apart because I failed to “come apart” with the Lord to evaluate my life and my priorities.

My loving Father God showed me all the excesses in my life, and where my life had become too lean. 

Now I am learning not just to “pace” myself, but to give myself more grace.

And I am oh, so thankful for God’s grace, lifting me up when I stumble in this new walk with Him.

These days, it’s not simply a matter of less is more, but rather, “What do YOU want me to do today, Lord?” I’m following the example of Christ. Jesus only did what the Father wanted Him to do (John 5:19) and I want to do the Father’s will too (Matthew 12:50).

Some days it’s less; other days it’s more—but every day, it’s just right when I lean on Him for direction.

Where are you struggling with too much? In your home? In your schedule? Something else? Will you bring that to the Lord and ask Him for direction? And will you obey Him?

– Dawn

Graphic, courtesy of Pixabay

A Heart Choice: Moving from Hoarder to Helper

3 Jan

I have a collection of Cherish Teddies in a couple of boxes in my garage. They have become the family joke, because no one wants to inherit them, and I can’t even sell them in a garage sale! Do you have a “what do I do with it now?” collection?

Some time ago, I studied with fascination some of the world’s largest collections.

BarbieDollCollectionThere was a collection of:  Barbie dolls (15,000 dolls in 19 years); Santa items (25,189 toys, trinkets, dolls,and other Santa items); Dice (a reported 11,097 dice in 2003); Kitchen timers (1,300 different timers); Nativity scenes (2,150 nativities displayed in one church); License plates (11,345 different numbered plates from 133 countries); Teddy Bears (7,106 different bears); Rubber bands (700,000 rubber bands) …

Whether the collection is thermos bottles, shaving brushes, Snow White figurines or Hulk Hogan action figures, collections can take over our lives if we’re not careful, and feed into a larger problem ~ hoarding.

I visited a friend and there was nowhere to sit. She had to clear off a spot on the couch. As we sat chatting, some boxes stacked nearby fell over. I felt a claustrophobic. The dining room table and kitchen counter were all cluttered. “I wonder how she prepares a meal?” I thought. On the way to a bathroom break, I saw her bed, stacked high with clothes. “I wonder where she sleeps?” I wondered whether I should offer to help her clean. My heart grieved for my friend. She was trapped in a hoarding lifestyle.

It’s estimated that one in 20 people is a true hoarder. Medically, hoarding is a compulsive emotional, psychological disorder ~ and many of the hoarders highlighted on television shows do need intervention. Some of the symptoms of true hoarding are: (1) compulsive buying or acquiring of things (usually specific items); (2) the inability to release or get rid of anything, usually linked to anxiety or fear; (3) difficulty processing information properly in order to HoardingProblemmake decisions about possessions; (3) sometimes, a lack of organization skills; (4) a distorted sense of value – sometimes seeing value in something others consider trash or junk; (5) abnormal identification with things; (6) and emotions (like grief or anger) triggered when forced to part with things ~ feelings often rooted from past events, trauma, or tough circumstances.

It’s hard to get a true hoarder to recognize his or her disorder. Just getting rid of their things is not the answer. There must be a sense of trust.  What can we do to help? We certainly can pray for the hoarder, offer loving support and encouraging words, and assure them of God’s love. We can be patient and understanding, and we can ask questions to help the hoarder process. But in truth, a professional is often needed to help the hoarder get to the root of the problem. Hoarders who are Christians have the advantage of the power of God in their lives, and with education and biblical counsel, they can overcome their problem.

But that’s not the issue that bothers me today. I believe many of us who don’t have the medical disorder have Hoarder Hearts.

And there are a number of reasons for this… the symptoms of a Hoarder Heart:

(1) We’re basically selfish.

The Bible says that in the last days people will be selfish ~ self-centered, self-seeking, self-absorbed and self-serving.  (2 Tim. 3:1-5; Philippians 2:21; James 3:14). Sometimes we’re inclined to hoard things out of fear or self-preservation, forgetting that God knows our need and will take care of us (Matthew 6:8, 32; 1 Peter 5:7).

(2) We just love our things too much.

Why do we get so caught up in the “things” in this world when God tells us not to do this? The Bible says, “Do not love the world or the things in the world.” (1 John 2:15). What has helped me have better perspective is to realize that everything in this world (except people and the Word of God) will pass away (1 John 2:17; 1 Corinthians 7:31b; 2 Corinthians 4:18). Don’t get me wrong ~ it’s not wrong to have nice things, but it’s  foolish to pour all our love and attention (and money) into things that won’t last. God wants us to surrender our desires to Him.

(3) We substitute things for what we really need.

GodInOurHeartMany times, our lust for things comes from God-hunger. Some have called this the “God-shaped hole” or “God-shaped vacuum” in our lives. We’re trying to stuff things into our lives when what we really crave is a deeper relationship with our Creator. Our cravings should be  for Him, not the things He might want (or not want) to give us.

St. Augustine reportedly said, “You stir man to take pleasure in praising you, because you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until it rests in you.Perhaps our inner restlessness, this stirring for more, is for more of God? He has put eternity into our hearts (Ecclesiastes 3:11) to invite us to seek Him.

(4) We do not have a contented heart.

One of the most powerful ways to combat a hoarding, greedy heart is by developing a contented heart. The Bible has much to say about this (1 Timothy 6:6-7; Luke 12:15; Hebrews 13:5; Philippians 4:11-12). We need to guard our hearts against greed ~ life is more than an abundance of things. An antidote for a discontented heart is gratitude for all that God has already provided.

(5) We’re not making wise choices.

We just have too much stuff because we aren’t being wise about our purchases and things we bring into our homes and lives. We’re not living in discernment or obeying the promptings of God’s Spirit in our lives. He cares about our daily decisions about things. God wants us to be wise stewards of our possessions (Colossians 3:23; 1 Corinthians 4:2; Matthew 25:20-21; Luke 12:42-44), but also to know when enough is enough (1 Timothy 6:8-10).

(6) We don’t see the ministry power of our resources.

Because we are basically selfish, we either don’t see the needs of others, or we choose to ignore them. Maybe we think that others’ needs are so varied, we can’t InvestInAndLovePeoplepossibly meet them all. But we can help one person.

We can alleviate some bit of pain. We can better some person’s life. We can meet an immediate need.

Walk around your home, and you might be surprised to find many things you have that people are praying for every day… and you have two or three or four of more of them! Let love and service motivate your life (John 13:34-35; 1 Peter 4:10), rather than the drive for an endless collection of things.

Yes, you can move from being a hoarder to a helper! It begins with a change of heart and ends with open, giving hands.

[A Final Note: for help in organizing your stuff (before or after you get rid of things), check out Marcia Ramsland‘s wisdom and advice at organizingpro.com. She has several books to help you SIMPLIFY your life, time, space … and even the holidays. Get ready for next Christmas!]

– Dawn

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