Thursday, November 18, 2010

Bigger Picture Moments: The stuff in my closet

Welcome to Bigger Picture Moments, a weekly writing meme intended to foster creativity and help busy moms actively seek every-day moments that show us a glimpse of the bigger picture.

Amid fast-paced lives, sometimes we lose sight of the grander scheme; won't you join us in consciously trying to embrace and remember these moments - however small or large?

Bigger Picture Moment

It looked like Noah's Ark threw up animals two by two all across the living room floor and down the hallway.

I resigned myself to picking them up for the third time, grateful that they would actually find rest there now that the boys were asleep.

I began filing away the books. And then I moved onto the laundry. And then the dishes and shoes and coats.

As I collapsed on the couch, another hour had slipped through my fingers while I was maintaing all of this stuff.

It's stealing my energy.

This stuff.

It's stealing my time.

I don't know about you, but servicing the house -- the every day sorting, cleaning and organizing of toys, clothes, shoes, books, socks, pans, papers -- is cutting into more and more of my time.

And some of it, admittedly, is necessary.

Like laundry.

We need clothes.

But does Baby E. need 10 pairs of overalls in size 18 months, half of which don't actually fit over his cloth-diapered butt?

Why am I putting energy and thought into maintaining -- cleaning, sorting and housing -- all of those overalls?

And, surely, you know, it's not just overalls, right?

I exhaled and sunk further into my thoughts about all.of.this.stuff, unable to write or carry on with my evening plans.

The next morning I was blessed to happen upon a post at Sorta Crunchy in which Megan asked her readers to get real.

She asked us to trust her with our deep holiday anxieties.

So I confessed.

I said I was feeling a bit like Scrooge this year at just the thought of the presents that likely will make their way through our door.

Already overwhelmed by the amount of things we have, I couldn't imagine the thought of more stuff without gettin a little anxious.

That's not like me.

I love giving presents.

I love putting thought and effort and time into picking out or making a gift someone will enjoy.

But I feel like we're bursting at the seems.

I don't want to be the grinch.

I don't want to be the one who asks our family to NOT give gifts when so many of our family members find the same joy I do in giving. After all, giving is a love language, and I don't want to stiffle any expressions of love.

But how do I get out from under these mounds of things?

Poor Megan. All this in her comments section.

Apparently my house wasn't the only thing bursting at the seams.

Do you know Jan Silvious?

Our Wednesday morning class had the pleasure of asking her some burning questions about mentoring relationships or just life in general yesterday morning.

I unloaded all of thse thoughts I'd been pondering about stuff right there.

And, simply, she gave me some perspective:

Don't stymie love languages and put restrictions on gifts -- it's part of the joy of our season of celebration.

But, she said, for every thing that comes in, something goes out.

Including toys.

Even if the boys still play with and enjoy those toys.

And clothes.

Even if I think I might wear that black sweater sometime this year, though I haven't worn it in about four years.

But, I stammered, aren't I being a good steward of our resources by saving all of this stuff so that if we need it in the future we don't have to buy it, thus saving us money that we could send to missionaries in Africa?

No, she'd said. You're being a good steward by giving those things to people who need them NOW.
I packed at least three boxes worth of stuff last night after G. and I had a conversation about Christmas and giving and sharing.

"So you know, bud," I'd said. "Our family loves us, and they like to show us how much they love us through giving us gifts we'll like."

"Like toys?" he asked.

"Like toys," I said. "But you know, we have a lot of toys, don't we?"

"Yes," he agreed.

"Wouldn't it be nice if we gave some of our toys to kids who would like to play with them when we get new toys?" I ventured.

He pondered it.

"Yes," he finally agreed. "If I get more toys, we should give some away."

I smiled.

"Some kids don't have toys, mom," he said.

I could tell some of our prior conversations had actually found a home in his brain.

"You're right," I said.

"So it'd be good to give some away," he replied. "We can always get new toys."

And with his simple words, the lights came on.

This stuff issue?

This is MY issue, my very own heart problem.

I've been trying to put restrictions on my generous family members when it comes to gift giving because if the stuff doesn't come in the house, I don't have to deal with it.

That's wrong.

I've been trying to put responsibility on shoulders it doesn't belong.

Their love language of giving is something to be embraced.

I need to get a hold of my own issue with stuff and why I keep it and why I let it sit in boxes in the basement.

I need to break free from this depression-era mentality of holding onto so many things because God is meeting our needs.

In fact, He not only provides the needs, He also provides the wants.

So, no, the issue isn't that others are being too generous {don't you love how I can turn my own heart issue around like that?}; it's that there's some sort of fear in my heart that we won't have what we need.

And I need to get a handle on that.

I thought a box of Matchbox cars weighed only a pound or two.

I was wrong.

It weighs tenfold.

It's not motherhood that's imprisioning me.

It's the matchbox cars.

The dozen overalls stacked in E.'s closet cubby.

The handfuls of magnets I find strewn across the wooden floors.

And it's my job, in this realization, to squash my heart issue here -- to make giving and recieving and donating all constant practices so that for me and for my boys a box of Matchbox cars weighs what it should -- a pound or two -- instead of the ton it's come to feel like on my shoulders.

Read more Bigger Picture Moments or link your own at Sarah's this week.


  1. It's a sickness, and I have it too. I've blogged about it and it still haunts me. The stuff. I need to let go of the stuff, the memories will always be in my heart and my heart will feel better with less clutter. Thank you for the reminder.

  2. What a great post! So honest. My husband and I just had this conversation last week about clearing out toys to donate before Christmas and when we presented the idea to the girls, they were surprisingly on board! That's when it hit me too, that it wasn't my kids' problem, but my own! Ouch. Thanks for posting this!

  3. AMEN! Our girls have become so joyful and willing to give away. Every few months we go through their toys, clothes, etc so that they can bless other kids. If I forget, they remind me that it's time. It changes your perspective on it to see your children so willing to give away.

  4. I hear you Hyacinth! This is something I have struggled with too.

    I am truly sick of stuff!

    A few weeks ago I read,Organized Simplicity, by Tsh Oxenrider (Simple Mom). It is SO good. I immediately began declutterung like crazy.

    What makes me angry with myself is when dealing with "stuff" consumes so much of my energy and time. This energy and time could be going to more useful places!

    There is more to life than you well know :)

    I loved your post and appreciate your honest heart that shares so openly. Thank you :)

  5. What a lovely idea to give the extra stuff away, to donate to those in need! Especially since there are SO MANY who need, especially now. Imagine how they can turn your old items into brand new gifts of love to pass on in ways they might not have been able to afford otherwise.

    And imagine how much freer you'll feel without all that stuff weighing you down.

    I saw on a blog called Memories on Clover Lane, what the writer said she did in her own home (of 5 kids, I believe) is she allowed each of her kids a bin (or two). They could keep whatever they could fit in the bin. Anything beyond that had to be donated. One bin might be a bit stringent, but I think it's a wonderful concept. It ensures the stuff you do keep are things you actually do treasure - and keeps the junk to a minimum.

  6. I was just talking about this with my mom as I was finding another place for yet another thing after my son's birthday party...I told her I just wanted to pack it all up and get back to basics! But like you I always hold on to it, you know we might use it next year and I too start to get annoyed by all the gifts I forsee coming in. but you are right, Gift giving is a love lanuage and why tell them to quite or hold back when I can fix the problem myself. Plus, I think I remember before I had kids wanting to implement the idea of one thing one thing out, thanks for reminding me of that! I've got to start writing these notes to self down! Sorry for the super long comment, Its been awhile since I visited your blog and forgot how much I have in common with you! It's like we are going through it all at the same time, a refreshing feeling!

  7. Well said, Hyacynth! I have very similar issues and thus have very similar practices. In fact, it was just today that I was thinking it was high time for another round. Yes, I often say that I spend over half my life trying to manage all the stuff in our house! And wow, I love what you said about not having to hold on to things in case we'll need them because God is providing everything we need...goosebumps!

  8. Oh, I couldnt agree more. I so need to get rid of STUFF. I have been craving space. Clean, simple space. Now, I just need to find a way to bring it to pass!!

  9. We'll be purging toys next weekend, B's already setting toys aside. She's so wonderful!

    God is so good!

  10. We have the something-in-something-out rule. I make the kids sort through what they must keep and what they'll share with others. I love letting them do it as it keeps me from forcing sentimentality where none exists and it teaches them that it's just stuff.

    We still have more crap than we need. It's an ongoing process!

  11. Great site. A lot of useful information here. I’m sending it to some friends!

  12. I loved this post and am now following your blog. Sometimes I feel as though my house is taken over by toys!

  13. Ugh, I hate stuff and the constant clutter it creates. I love the idea of when something comes in, something goes out. I need to do that this year with my son's toys. They are getting out of control.

  14. this post spoke right to my heart and all my own stuff.
    I need to sort through some of the stuff in the middle of my living room as well as the clutter in my own heart.

  15. I have always been an organizer by nature. My parents love to tell the story of how growing up I would purge my closest at least once a month. I am finding now that as I have my own home, and a child, more and more stuff is coming into my life. Therefore, I once again finding myself sorting, organizing, and getting ready of the things that I do not need. And I can not tell you how much peace the entire process brings me.

  16. "Their love language of giving is something to be embraced."

    I felt the same way last year at Christmas. Especially since we knew we were going to put our house on the market. I didn't want any more "stuff"

    But you are so right. It is their love language and it should be embraced.

  17. This is an awesome post! I kind of hit this place about a year ago, when I got so fed up with all the stuff I was trying to maintain that I just packed up 4 garbage bags of stuff I NEVER used anymore and sent it to Goodwill. I never even missed it. Let me warn you though, it takes persistance! Every time I have slacked off and told myself "well, I might use it someday" or "someone gave that to us, I really should keep it" the stuff piles up faster than you'd believe. I just sorted through our clothes and got rid of 4 bags! It makes laundry so much easier. I'm hoping to go through the toys before christmas, I'm always shocked by how many toys I've kept that are broken, missing parts, or just not interesting to the girls anymore! Sorry this got so long! :)

  18. I love this.

    I grew up in a very cluttered house, it still is. Piles of stuff, everything to precious to be parted with. Hubs routinely has to talk me out of throwing true mementos in my need to not have clutter. Despite my constant purging, the impeding holidays and baby have made me feel like the walls are caving in with so much stuff....

  19. YES this is me. This weekend, I am making a BIG purge. I have to, for my sanity :)


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