They Do Exist.

In 2011, I Learned That I Have Too Much Stuff

Editor’s Note: Do you have too much stuff? This year, I sold everything I owned. Everything I kept fits in my little car. I was shocked, no seriously – shocked, by how many clothes I had. Shocked that I didn’t need two bin-fulls of makeup. Shocked that I didn’t need every single pair of shoes. That two bags/purses was enough. It would rock my world to see all of you getting rid of stuff in 2012. And talking about it. (Who wants to blog that!? Free idea!) And now, on to Whitney Munn’s awesome post. – Lauren

I’ve come to the conclusion that I have too many belongings. Actually, if I’m being honest, I figured that out years ago. I just haven’t done anything about it.

I was just a child when it first occurred to me that I might have too much. I remember hearing the lyrics to the song “What If I Give All” by Ray Boltz, “What if I give all I have? What will that gift do? My child, a gift like that could change the world, it could feed a multitude.” At the time, I considered quite literally giving all I had. I didn’t do it, though. And the more time that went by, the less appealing it sounded. After all, I really liked my stuff.

I’ve had opportunities to travel, see, and even live in places where a lot of people don’t have very much. I’ve bathed a child with a bloated, hungry belly. I’ve bought candies from a poverty-stricken child on a street corner. I’ve seen the yellowed hair of a brown baby who hasn’t had enough nutrition. I’ve helped teach a once starving child that he didn’t have to steal in order to have another meal.

And I still haven’t given all. I still like my stuff. Disgusting, isn’t it?

However, the Lord didn’t let me off the hook that easily. Year after year, experience after experience, I had that sick feeling in my stomach that something wasn’t right. And one year at a time, one experience at a time, I became an expert at ignoring that feeling. But it’s never gone away completely.

Now, before I go any further, let me clarify that this is what I’ve been learning in 2011. Please, don’t hear me accusing anyone else of selfishness or materialism. It’s a heart issue, and God told my heart no more.

NO MORE.

No matter how I may try to justify it, my love of stuff is materialism, and that materialism is an outward representation of a selfish heart. Poverty in the U.S. is the highest it’s been since 1993 (U.S. Census Bureau). Around the world, there are 29,000 children under the age of five who die every day, many from preventable causes (UNICEF). After having heard statistics like these for years, it has grown so easy to dismiss them before I actually acknowledge their staggering implications. But poverty, and the tragedy it often brings, is oh. so. real. And I have oh. so. much.

When I allow myself to think about the effect my hoarding has on the well-being of others, then I cannot rightly carry on with my constant, often meaningless, purchasing. I cannot keep justifying my hundreds (if not thousands) of belongings. Yes, I do have fewer clothes than a lot of my peers. No, I don’t drive a brand new car. But I still have way more stuff than I need. How can I choose to spend $20 for a pair of jeans I don’t need because it’s just “such a good deal” when there are children going to bed hungry? Why would I buy $4 coffee drinks on a regular basis when millions of people have no clean water? Not cool. Not okay.

NO MORE.

So I made a plan: from Thanksgiving to Christmas, I decided to get rid of five things a day and not buy anything to add to my stuff collection. I’ll donate the things that are in good condition, and other things I probably just need to throw away (I’m entirely too sentimental and therefore have a plethora of what is essentially trash in my closet). And I’ll be honest, I was super excited about this for the few days leading up to Thanksgiving, but I was surprised at how hard it was to just take some books of the shelf and put them in the giveaway pile. And these are books I’ve only read once… and owned for years. Ridiculous, I know. And that’s why they just have to go.

Yeah, stuff promises to make me feel better. I want to be more beautiful, so I buy new clothes and makeup. I’ve had a long day, so I buy myself the book I’ve been wanting to read. I’ve worked really hard, so I must deserve a new smartphone. But the thing is, as hard as it can be to get rid of it after the fact, all of this stuff hasn’t ever brought me true satisfaction or joy. And I’m realizing that perhaps if joy is not found in an ever-increasing collection of stuff, it exists in a lack thereof. Maybe relinquishing the death grip I’ve had on my money, car, house, and everything that fills it will actually offer me a new found freedom and a truer sense of happiness. I’m not there yet, but I hope and pray that I’m headed in the right direction.

1 Timothy 6:6-7 “But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.”

Luke 12:33-34 “Sell your possessions and give to the poor. Provide purses for yourselves that will not wear out, a treasure in heaven that will not be exhausted, where no thief comes near and no moth destroys. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”


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8 Responses

  1. Brittany

    I'm amazed no one has had anything to say here. I have felt this same thing ever since I read Lauren's personal post (http://laurennicolelove.blogspot.com/2010/12/losing-everything.html) about giving things away on her blog. I've been ignoring it, but I don't think I can anymore. Thanks so much for this.

    -Brittany

    December 22, 2011 at 1:40 pm

  2. Having lived on three continents in the last four years, i've had to face my relationship with possessions head on. I live in a lovely little cottage that came furnished so when i leave, i'll leave with little more than the suitcases i arrived with. I resole my shoes as much because they are comfortable and i don't want the hassle of trying to find ones that fit well and wear them in. I've tried to learn how to hold "things" lightly but at the same recognise that there are a small number of things that are important to me (and that's okay too, that's part of how I, being fully human, make home wherever I am). I face another move (to another continent) next year and I'm already thinking about what I will sell, or pass onto others as i prepare to leave. this is a thoughtful post, however, I'd really want to make sure that we don't replace a contentment in all circumstances (that Paul speaks) o and a desire to live simply with Christ our sufficiency in all things with a false piety of ascetisicm. Blessings and merry Christmas!

    December 22, 2011 at 1:57 pm

  3. Amanda

    This was so convicting in all the right ways for me. I have traveled the world and seen hunger, poverty, and the look of hopelessness on people's faces, but have I changed how I live? No. 2012 is going to be different. And I may be the one to start a blog on giving it all away?! This was a good kick in the butt. Thank you.

    December 22, 2011 at 2:13 pm

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  5. I have had a lot of these same thoughts over the past few months as I've moved once already and am preparing to move again in a week. I've been trying to get it down so almost all of my possessions fit in my car because I can't afford to ship or rent a truck. The process of sorting through everything and making hard choices (due in large part to my sentimentality) has been difficult, but oh so very important. The next challenge is not eventually replacing and adding to everything I've gotten rid of.

    December 27, 2011 at 4:11 pm

  6. I've often thought how freeing it would be to not be bogged down by stuff. I learned this lesson during my college years, because having to move at least three times a year is a pain. I've considered the radical idea of buying just as much for others as I do for myself. For example, if I spend $40 on new boots, I would have to give $40 to a charity or buy shoes for needy children or whatever. If I spend $12 eating out, I would make myself give $12 to hungry people. I figured this idea would make me more hesitant about spending money, which is sad, that knowing I'd have to give just as much away would prevent me from buying. If anything, it should be easier for me to spend money on others and give away than it should be for me to spend $5 on a Chipotle burrito. I haven't done this matching idea yet; it really freaks me out. But maybe the new year would be a good time to start.

    December 29, 2011 at 7:41 pm

  7. "I’m realizing that perhaps if joy is not found in an ever-increasing collection of stuff, it exists in a lack thereof."

    Ouch! Sooo true and yet so convicting! I too find great solace in my stuff–especially my books and music. I tell myself I "deserve" to treat myself when I work hard or am stressed. Problem is, at the rate that happens, my house is overflowing! Well, not exactly.

    Anyway, I so understand what you are saying and admire your willingness to learn this lesson. God has been working on my heart for years on the topic of "Simplicity" in every area of my life. This year I began some sideline work as a professional organizer. I quickly learned that while it is easy for me to tell others what they should get rid of, I have a very very difficult time parting with my own stuff! God has since set me aside to learn that valuable lesson, and I'm stil in the midst of it.

    Thanks for sharing!

    March 2, 2012 at 10:56 am

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