Living with Open Hands, lest Stuff Outweigh Generous Hearts

I opened the hall closet only to be pelted with half-rolled sleeping bags, a broken princess tent, a pile of leftover fort building materials (blankets, pillows, sheets, old college duvet), and an unassembled mic stand which landed <WHACK>  right on my left foot. And I wondered as I have many times in the past: Where did all this STUFF come from?

Every spring, the end of summer, and usually sometime before Christmas, the kids and I go through this crazy cleaning routine. We sort through clothes, we look through old toys, we pilfer through drawers and closets and separate into massive classified piles: Keep, Donate, Trash, and In Question. But somehow, even though we do this several times a year, the stuff seems to multiply during the in-between times.

Is it sheer laziness on my part that allows the piles to grow? Or is it the emotional connection that beckons us as a family to hold on so tightly? For years I have taught my children that Jesus is the Ultimate Gift, while mentally justifying excessive shopping lists and gift buying beyond realistic limits during Christmas and birthdays. Without meaning to, I’ve aided in infusing an attitude of squirrel-like stockpiling (hold-on-to-all-the-stuff-for-dear-life-for-you-may-need-it-sometime-in-the-future), while demonstrating greed with my own Gimme Gimme attitudes (like the book The Berenstain Bears Get the Gimmies).

Is it possible that the problem is not the stuff at all, but rather the heart behind the hoarding? When I peer into the closet of my heart, what I see staring back is not so lovely, making me wish I could create organizational piles for my soul: Hold On To, Get Rid Of…Put Off, Put On…

“…put off your old self, which is being corrupted by its deceitful desires; to be made new in the attitude of your minds; and to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”    (Ephesians 4:22-24)

Why do we cling so desperately to the temporary? If we start looking at the heart motivation, what will we see? Sometimes, I think we surround ourselves with all the unnecessary simply to assure ourselves that “all is well.” Like Linus in the old Peanuts cartoon that always had his faithful shadow of security: The Blanket. Favorite things can have a deep emotional value (books, trophies, pictures, art, love letters, etc.) encouraging our souls to breathe in thankfulness.

Or maybe self-importance has gotten in the way with a desire to exude an air of prosperity for anyone looking on, soothing away fears and insecurities. Perhaps we feel the need to portray worth and project value, wanting others to think we’re doing well and living well, even if the mask we’re hiding behind is a big pile of stuff.

But when is too much, too much? And why are we holding on to all this stuff? For what? And for whom?

I recently listened to a podcast on Minimalism. The theory (at least what I picked up on) sounded so inviting. So freeing. Eliminating material distractions in favor of living fully. The guest speaker, Joshua Becker, explained that the more we have, the more we are connected to. And not only does it connect us, but all the stuff begins to hold us captive, zapping us of our time and energy. Our things begin to own us, versus us owning them.

This not a new concept. Jesus spoke on this very idea several thousand years ago in the Sermon on the Mount: laying up treasures in heaven rather than treasure on earth. Weighing the eternal with the temporary and asking which matters more.

“But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”   (Matthew 6:20-21)

But how do we realistically follow Jesus on this? And how do we instill this perspective into the hearts of our children? Maybe it’s simply asking the Lord as we sort and clean and live and walk each day, to guide us and give us generous hearts. If we can just loosen our grip on the stuff and pry our fingers open, it leaves our hands available to hold God’s promises and His plan, while allowing Him access to our hearts to sort, organize and eliminate. After all, the heart seems as good a place as any to start a clean-up project. For who really wants to be shackled to all stuff when we can live freely and unhindered through Christ and Christ alone?!


We would to hear your some of your thoughts and ideas on how to live a generous uncluttered life. Please feel free to comment below.


Anne-Renee Gumley

Anne-Renee is a full-time mom who works part-time at her family's party store. She has two children who keep her laughing, a husband who keeps her smiling, and an itch for writing that just won't go away.

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