Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Too Much Stuff

If your family is like anything like mine, or anything like most Americans, you have too much stuff. We try to clean it out with annual basement and attic purges and by trying to convince the kids to get rid of infrequently-played-with toys, and we do regularly drop off boxes at local charities. But it never seems to end.  More comes in all the time. Birthday parties with their bags of little plastic trinkets, deals too good to pass up at the dollar store, that piece of clothing that only needs a hem or two, that turns into a pile of unworn clothes.  In America this has gotten so out of control that we have stores that are solely dedicated to selling stuff to hold all of our stuff. We have tvs and books about hoarding and have made it a clinical diagnosis. 
Our attic

An overflowing toy bin. One of many.
This is my public confession- I have too much stuff. We live in a big old Victorian home with an unfinished basement and an attic and I have a tendency to keep everything, just throwing it in the attic and saying "well, I might use it someday."  I even admit to having a mild obssesion with jars and boxes and rags- you never know when you might need the perfect size box to ship a package or a jar to hold something small or lots of rags for a project.  It would just make me crazy to pay for boxes or jars or rags! (BTW-I fully blame this one of my farm-raised mother who really did grow up saving and using jars and boxes and rags. My problem is that I have too many and I don't really use them all that often.)

My jar and tin collection.
Tomorrow in the first day of Lent. A time a quiet and refection and self-denial.  We aren't a particularly religious family, but we were raised Christian and are, at a minimum, culturally Christian. We observe major holidays and enjoy both the celebratory and reflective nature of the festivals.  I like the idea of giving up something for lent but always thought it strange that it is so often food, or at least vice, related. I could give up chocolate, but then could just substitute caramels. I could give up wine but could substitute gin and tonics. These never really changed me in any sort of meaningful way. This year I am taking a new approach. Instead of depriving myself of something that is easy substituted, I am going to find items in my home that I don't use, or that could be better used by someone else and I'm going to give them to someone who could really use them.  I have placed a great, big, empty box in my guest room and every single day during lent I am going to place one item in that box. As I choose my item and place it in the box I am going to reflect on all the people in the world whose basic needs are not met. Mothers who don't have the means to feed their children.  Families that are torn apart by war. Children who have to scrounge for food to eat and rags to wear. I am going to say a prayer of thanksgiving for the fact that I and my family are so blessed that not only do we have all of our needs met, we have more than we can manage.  On Fridays I will take that box to a local charity and pass it along so that someone else can share in the bounty. It's a little gesture, but one that I hope will stay with me long beyond lent.  Forty days isn't so very long, but long enough that I imagine I it will get harder to part with items as we approach Easter. I'm sure the first week or two won't be that difficult; collecting all those items that I keep meaning to get rid of anyway, but then I will have to start making harder cuts.  Purging items that have sentimental value or that were purchased with a goal in mine (I'm particularly thinking of all my crafting supplies here) but items I don't really need or use.  It will be an interesting process to watch. 
I am encouraging my family to join my on this journey.  What about you?  What do you do for lent?

1 comment:

  1. I love this idea! I also try to do something positive during lent, rather than giving up something. I remember being baffled as a child that on Fridays in lent I couldn't eat meat (which I didn't really like), but could have lobster or shrimp (not that we did).