"Decluttering is the term that describes the ritual of removing from view the bulk of your personal items, leaving out only the stuff that will make buyers interested in your house, while helping them see that, 'Yes, there is room for my stuff here.'”
For the couple of people who happened to read my blog post, “What Do We Save? (Part 1),” the long-awaited sequel is here (soundtrack: thunderous applause). My intention had always been to do “Part 2,” since the first entry looked at the silliness of things I save (scrap pieces of wood, replaced electrical outlets, short lengths of wire, and odd screws – oh, so many odd screws).
There is another side that needs to be examined. Those things that we save because they have a value that can’t be measured in dollars. They will never be a Lightning Deal on Amazon or the Blue Light Special at Kmart.
A few days ago, I put my signature on a piece of paper that says that I will have a new address in May 2017. A new house, a move, and the sale of an existing house are all in my immediate future. The new house is incredibly exciting; the other two items, not so much.
While packing is not yet in full swing, we are “decluttering” in preparation for putting our present home on the market. Decluttering is the term that describes the ritual of removing from view the bulk of your personal items, leaving out only the stuff that will make buyers interested in your house, while helping them see that, “Yes, there is room for my stuff here.” My seminary never taught this anthropological life skill to me (they thought I would be living in parsonages all my days), but my wife has a natural talent for this particular ritual.
So in these decluttering days, I find myself having to decide, “leave out, pack now, give away, throw away” in regard to the stuff I’ve accumulated. How many of the old style iPod/iPhone cables do I really need? How many flash drives, glass-cleaning microfiber cloths, travel mugs, drink bottles, briefcases, t-shirts, baseball caps (and on and on), do I really need?
Eventually, though, I come to the treasures. I’m not talking about the kind of treasures they lock up in glass cases in a museum or behind a vault door at Fort Knox. I’m talking about treasures protected by the combination lock to the heart: the change dish made from a sea shell hand-painted by my son; a penknife and pocketwatch that belonged to my Dad; a letter written by my Mom who has been gone for 38 years; a baseball signed by a Yankee hero. They may all be “clutter,” but they will go in a special box–one that movers will never touch– that I will hand-carry to my new home.
William Cavanaugh wrote a fascinating book titled Being Consumed: Economics and Christian Desire. I recommend it to church leaders all the time as a great study for disciples. One of the observations Cavanaugh makes is that consumerism and greed are not similar, but actually opposites. Greed is a love and attachment to wealth and possessions, while consumerism is marked by detachment. In a consumerist culture, nothing we acquire satisfies for long, just until some new thing catches our attention. Cavanaugh proposes that consumerism happens because these days, we are detached from products, producers, and the production process. It all happens far away in factories overseas. We buy things that satisfy a relatively short-term need, but we have no attachment to them.
Case in point: my wife Bridget is a quilter. She loves to make quilts. She gives the quilts away to people she loves, because most people are not willing to pay what a quilt would cost if she added up materials and the time it takes to make one. If you want something to throw on the bed in the guest room, you go to Walmart and buy a comforter. When you get tired of the color, you will get rid of the comforter – take it to Goodwill, or throw it away. If you are lucky enough to get a quilt from your friend Bridget, you will keep it forever (and probably think about who you want to have it when you die). You are attached to that quilt (product) because you know the producer and that the production was by her hand and sewing machine.
Maybe that is what Jesus was talking about when he said these words:
19 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also” (Matthew 6:19-21, NRSV).