Well, it’s post-Christmas and it’s time to find new homes for all those new Christmas presents that our kids received. Try as we might, it is impossible not to accumulate stuff. I really do try to live a more spartan existence than most Americans simply because I don’t want to repack all my junk after a few years. Moving a lot keeps you clean. I hate clutter.
I’ve noticed in talking to other missionaries that our experience is not unique. When the Lord was leading us into missions, the first indication that some kind of change was on the horizon was this strange “Urge to Purge”. We suddenly started feeling like our possessions were bogging us down. It was like having rocks in your pocket when you’re trying to fly. Stuff was holding us down.
So I started giving stuff away… and it felt really good. The more I gave my things away, the lighter I felt. I was disconnecting myself from the things of this world. I have always been a pretty practical girl, but now I became militant about practicality. If something did not have a purpose, it had to go.
We had a big garage sale. Turning your house inside out is a useful activity. It forces you to confront the back of your closets. For example, I didn’t think I had very many baskets but in emptying the closet I counted 20 baskets that had collected there- relics of gifts that people had given us. TWENTY!! Clearly I had lost track of my possessions a long time ago and didn’t even realize it.
This Urge to Purge is a common experience for soon-to-be missionaries. I think it’s a survival mechanism that the Lord activates in us as He prepares us to be stripped of everything, starting with our possessions. But the crazy thing is that it’s an amazing feeling! Being freed from your STUFF is an experience that I would like to GIFT to everyone. But it’s hard to convince people to let go. Just because you have stuff doesn’t mean you are the owner of stuff- stuff can own YOU!
So now the work begins of finding space for the new Barbies and books that came home with us. It’s a good chance to clean out the old things that the kids haven’t played much with this year. I will be looking for a few sweet kids who would like to receive some gently used toys, and we will make our joy complete through giving.
Do you ever watch the show “Hoarders”? I’m not sure I’ve ever made it through an entire episode without standing up to organize my living room and go wash my hands a dozen times. That show gives me the heebee-jeebies. I hate clutter.
But in my personality I have conflicting “likes”. I like things to be within reach and I don’t want to have to dig for anything. And yet I hate clutter. Baskets and plastic organizers are my solution to this dilemma. Just BUYING organizers makes me feel good. I can lift a drooping attitude quicker than anything with a gander down a RubberMaid aisle. Organization makes me happy.
In my life long battle against clutter I have also discovered the value of moving often. I now believe that everyone should change houses at least every 5 years because moving forces you to physically confront the back of your closets. You must put your hand on each and every item that you own.
When we went into missions 8 years ago we sold our house and most of our belongings. That meant having the garage sale of the century! I felt certain that we didn’t actually have so much stuff, but when I had to drag it all out and put it on tables in my garage I was embarrassed at how much JUNK I had accumulated in 10 years of marriage. For example, I thought I had maybe 3 or 4 baskets around the house. But when I collected them all and put them together I counted 20. I was shocked and horrified! That day I faced my basket-habit. They say the first step in recovery is admitting you have a problem.
In the ensuing years I have made 5 international moves and countless smaller moves from house to house. Those people who say, “A move across town is harder than anything” are ignorant. Try reducing your entire household to 15 suitcases under 40 lbs. each and then tell me which kind of move is harder.
Because of this global nomad lifestyle, I can make two observations related to clutter. First, I give careful thought before buying anything. When I stand in the store and debate on whether or not I should buy something, I ask myself, “Do I want to move or sell this in 4 years?” If not, I don’t buy it. Second, I have left a trail of abandoned clutter that flows from Minnesota to Mexico to Costa Rica. At some point you just give up and beg people to just come take whatever they want. Making that many “cut or keep” decisions just burns out your brain cells after a while. But I don’t know how many times I have said, “I used to have a [fill in the item] once upon a time. What did I do with that?” It was abandoned along the side of the road a long time ago.
For Christmas this year Josh’s family did a $3 secret Santa exchange. We protested. Josh told everyone, “I don’t want CRAP!” They thought he was being funny. We were serious. Don’t give me any crap because I hate clutter. Most of the gifts did not make it from Minnesota to Costa Rica. Global Nomads must by necessity live a clutter free, crap free, life. And it’s a good thing.