StuffHow often has a lousy bag of popcorn motivated you to do something worthwhile? Like never. Well, except for this once. Let’s just say my one and only once was inspired by my husband’s dry comment that perhaps the popcorn was lousy because the best-used-by date was 2009. Yikes! Time to clean out the pantry. By early  Saturday afternoon, the four deep shelves of our double door pantry were well organized with logically grouped items and alphabetized spice jars, the trash and recycle barrels were feeling well loved, and we were both cavalierly reluctant to cook anything lest this impressive orderliness be disturbed. Too much stuff and bother. Dinner out was delicious.

But the motivation didn’t end there. Teilhard de Chardin, a French philosopher and Jesuit priest trained in paleontology and geology, once said that we don’t dust to brighten things up; we dust to keep from being buried alive. Thus worried, I periodically thin out our stuff to keep from being buried alive by possessions that are no longer useful, meaningful, or, sadly, in vogue. So over the last few days I’ve moved from sun-room to studio to office to hall cupboards thinning stuff out. The archaeological layers of my interests and passions have been uncovered in this most recent excavation of stuff as I’ve decided what stays and what goes. Certain books that were must-haves because of where I was in my creative and spiritual journey – gone. Dishes and décor that represent a bygone fashion – gone. Never-gonna-make-that-no-matter-how-long-I-live projects – gone. I’ve exercised a gracious ruthlessness in letting go; the letting go of the possibility and potential that stuff inherently has that will bury me alive if I’m not careful.

On another level my cleaning out was motivated by a friend on Facebook who posted that she had gotten rid of one hundred things, and then mused it probably should have been one hundred things per room. I began to look in every room wondering what I could/would/should part with – decidedly different questions to ask oneself. I did something similar with my clothes a few years ago when a high school teacher friend had his students count all their items of clothing, including shoes, underwear, and accessories. He compared their average of over 400 items with the well below 100 items of most Third World countries. Curious, I counted my stuff and was convicted of a need to thin “the herd.” Other creative mentors have encouraged getting rid of 10% of one’s studio stash after coming home from a retreat in order to make room for new creativity. Both are don’t-bury-me-alive disciplines I try to cultivate. Let’s just say this time my ruthless unstuffing is gaining momentum as I begin my third one hundred.

If you were to be graciously ruthless, what stuff could/would/should you get rid of? If you were to count all the items of your clothing, how many would you have? How many might you part with? If you were to make room for new creativity, what stuff would you let go of? If you have some strategies to keep from being buried alive, what are they?

Hey, I’m looking to be encouraged by y’all. Anxious to hear what you have to share.


8 comments to Stuff

  • Sadly, I’ve been thinking about the books that are piling up in my bedroom and office. IT’s time to thin the herd of author/mentors and keep what really matters. Hard to give up but us I’ll soon by buried under a pile of good things so that the best things for life right now will get lost in the dust.

    Today? Tomorrow? I think I’ll need to grieve first and then get excited to share the wealth with others. OK, ready, set…

  • oh dear, this is what i need to do too
    but it is all in my mind and almost never happens
    i am drowning – yet again – under a mountain of stuff
    what i really need is a mentor who will from time to time
    encourage me gently to tackle one or other aspect of my life
    as i am a chronic hoarder

    moving house sometimes helps and often not
    i just move all of it over
    i have clothing from 1957 when i left home
    much of it remodelled and quite often worn
    clothes are my playthings
    i have books that my mother who was born in 1912
    received as school prizes
    treasures in my estimation
    but the truth is that i have far too much
    and have trouble letting go
    help me someone!

  • Deanna Bowling

    Having a former roommate come this weekend and clear out the stuff he has left with us over the last few years, has awakened my need to clean out some of my own stuff. I will be making a couple of trips to the Salvation Army collection center after I do some “weeding of my own garden”.

  • I often tell young leaders they can have any book in my library.
    When I am trying to reduce my zillions of books, I ask myself,
    “Would my future grandchildren find this book helpful in knowing God?”
    If not, then it’s days are numbered.

    A dear friend from New Zealand, cleaned out my pantry as a gift to me.
    It was a marvelous gift.

    Sometimes I need to un-clutter my inner pantry as well.

  • I am a regular purger. It is a spiritual practice for me. Okay… I admit that my house is small and the potential for being buried alive is a very real threat. However, whenever I bring home something new, I find at least on old one of the same to get rid of, whether it be a book, a pair of jeans, or a pair of shoes.
    In our neighborhood we have this beautiful practice of setting out kindly worn items on the parking strip. Anyone can claim what you no longer care for. I find this practice very interesting in that very often nearly all of what I set out is taken and cherished by someone else. It reminds me that my cast offs have value and that reminds me that I need to spend my money wisely.Why am I buying things that I am not wearing out? Do I buy them just to have them? If so, what a horrible waste of my resources. Back to spiritual practice. We live in a society that shops for recreation… is this defensible?

  • melinda kornder

    I find it very helpful to move every year or so, to less space , and give everything I haven’t used or worn in the last year to the nearest thrift shop. Traveling makes me realize how little I really need, and I try to always remember an old feminist bumper-sticker:


  • Dana Thompson

    After Christmas shopping in my jewelry drawers for gifts for my daughters-in-law and grand daughter and finding even more jewelry to give away, I decided that this was the year that I would finally weed out my closet as well as my fabric collection. With more room in the closet and finding fabric I forgot I had, I will be more inspired to sew a new wardrobe.

    After living in the same home for nearly 50 years, I also have the feeling that I have entered the age of “downsizing”. It seems to be a popular sport for many people I know.

  • I absolutely need to do this. That said – I just went to a wonderful art show called “RePurpose” and then I heard that word a few other places and it is the new term for using up things in ways you wouldn’t have used them. Now I feel justified to keep all my junk. As someone who has made quilts and other art out of old credit and gift cards, I have a hard time throwing anything away. I have thousands of tiny vaccine bottles I have made my veterinarian husband save for me because I know someday I will make something very cool out of them. My kids keep telling me to purge, but they just might have to do it after I’m gone.

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