mangled forest

What do you do when you’re drowning in stuff?

Is life getting too complicated?

As I was writing my recent post on pilgrimage and citizenship there were some things I wanted to say that have spilled over into this post. When we want to focus our lives we quickly find that they have gotten very complicated.  We own a lot of things.  We do a lot of things.  We care about a lot of things.  We have little margin for your reflection and focus.

How much of what we hold dear do we need?

The things that are immobilizing us maybe possessions, work, obligations, hobbies, or something else.   Our society provides many ways to consume all that we have- our time, our energy, our money.

My pilgrimage in time

Collette and I took a pilgrimage in 1980.  We didn’t call it that but that was what it turned out to be. We were between jobs and graduate school so we took three months to travel around Europe and the UK.

We often slept on the train.  All that we brought with us fit in a bag that we carried every day.

We left behind our house and just about all of our clothing, books, and other possessions.

For books on the trip, we purchased beat-up paperbacks at a used bookstore and left them where we finished them.  We brought old clothes and got rid of them as we finished the trip.

Our last stop was at Hay-on-Wye in Wales where we filled the bags with used books.

When we went through customs we had to explain how we spent three months in Europe and had no clothing with us.  The agents thought it was a curious story.

We found out that we really didn’t need most of the stuff that we owned.

My pilgrimage in stuff

Like many people I have purchased clothes I rarely wore before I gave them away and books I’ve never read.

Over the years I simplified my clothing to the point where I have a uniform for work, church, and most events. A student once wrote on my course evaluation that I was a good professor but had a seemingly limited wardrobe.

It didn’t start out that way but as it got simpler, it got easier.

Cleaning out the garage

Joshua Becker begins his book, Simplify, by describing how he spent four years cleaning out his garage and wasn’t finished.  He and his wife were successful people with two young children and an uncontrollable amount of stuff.  As he was working on the garage one day, he spoke with the neighbor who told him that her daughter was a minimalist and said that they didn’t need all the things they had.  Becker had never heard the term and began a journey that has changed his life.  His book, Simplify, tells the story of his pilgrimage.  In his second book, Inside-Out Simplicity, he discusses more general principles of life that he has discovered. 

The real issue

The real issue is not if you can get your wardrobe down to 37 items.  It is not a list of possessions that you can or cannot have.  The real issue is: do the things we accumulate help or hinder us on our pilgrimage.

C. S. Lewis referred to the present life as the Shadowlands. The real world is yet to come.

Questions for consideration:

Do you have some possessions that are really getting in the way.

(A question I often asked myself.) If we stop buying food today how many days could we eat without running out?  In the Lords Prayer we’re told to pray for our daily bread.  Most of us have enough food in the house to last many days.

2 thoughts on “What do you do when you’re drowning in stuff?”

  1. Hi Bob…YES, the stuff we accumulate and many of our possessions get in the way. Anything that takes our focus off of Jesus gets in the way. We live so well in this country compared to the rest of the world that it’s easy to get distracted and lose focus. Simplifying feels good and as I get older, becomes more important. Thank you for your work.

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