I love to read, and used to read a lot. It’s slacked off at times and picked up pace at others. But I blame my love of reading for my poor spelling. I was ABSORBING words, not LOOKING at them. I never learned to spell by seeing the words. I didn’t develop that learning ability. So if I spell “stuff” wrong, don’t blame me – blame the books.
If you’ve read many of my posts you’ve probably heard me talk about Shane Claiborne. He’s this weird hippy who lives in a commune in Philly. Shane is also a radical. He’s the kinda guy I’d have dismissed not long ago – had I not read his book. And his book was the tool God chose to use to further my walk with Him, to drag me deeper into His web of seductive Grace and Love.
Shane’s book Irresistible Revolution set the stage for me to question my heart and my understanding of grace. Once I did that I decided to try and follow Jesus in more radical ways. But like anything, I started slowly. The pace picked up rather rapidly, but we started with sorting through clothes and donating to the homeless. The first harvest was slim –just clothes than no longer fit or were out of fashion, stuff I hadn’t worn in years and probably never would. Also in that first wave went all the trendy clothing I had. I took the opportunity to clean out all the clothing that was little more than fashion – even if it was still “IN”. The punk in me may have had a hand in some of that.
Much more difficult was the second wave. Then I had to part with clothing that had become keepsake – clothing that had sentimental meaning but would never be worn. (Don’t look at me like that; I know you have some too.) When I finished that culling, my wife, having greatly reduced her clothing selection, showed me her empty wardrobes. She was then kind enough to point out that despite the grand pile of clothing to be donated, I still had over 60 t-shirts. Yes, that is correct: 60. And that’s after two rounds of elimination!
Terrible cellphone camera pic....but not even half the stuff....
A kind of frenzy grabbed us. Jenifer and I went through books, DVD’s and old VHS tapes and took them all to a used book store near us that bought stuff at a decent exchange. Getting rid of books was hard. It required another series of elimination rounds. I’d find something she’d pulled out to get rid of and snatch it back for the shelf, and she’d do the same from my stack. We’re a both a bit of a bibliophile. We also went through our kitchen. Five people in our family, a few guests every now and then, why have 14 sets of silverware? Why have 30 coffee cups and mismatched plastic cups? Why not just have 10? If there’s none in the cupboard – WASH ONE!!!
On right, one of three bins we filled, on the left, a truck full of stuff
And simplicity became a drug. We were hooked. It left things tidy
. We threw things away. We cleaned out kitsch. Our house became homey
. It was nice, very, very nice.
Cellphone cameras.... One of three bookcases we emptied out!!
We were able to go shopping without having to buy meaningless trinkets to feel better about ourselves. We felt at peace, contended with what we had, and much more immune to the “gotta get it’s”. Our kids hear “NO” a lot more often, and for the most part I think they get it. Some things are harder to change than others…
We were able to cut back on our entertainment budget. Getting rid of the things has also led to us seeing the value of people. Without things in the way, the value of people jumped into focus for us. Our minds were clear to think about people, their feelings, needs, cares, and hurts. I could actually listen to the office bore and find myself interested in what he had to say – no lie!! We spent time with the homeless and found out that they’re actually people, not just downtown fixtures. What’s more is that despite the near incessant panhandling, they don’t care much about your money. There will also be some that are working an angle, but most would rather have a sincere handshake from someone who knew their name than a dollar to hold.
There’s more. There’s how we got rid of cable and started playing games together and how we rediscovered the art of conversation. But for now, let me leave it that cleaning out my closets was a very good investment for my family. It led to all kinds of great things. Maybe you’ll try it. Lemme know if you do, and what kinda things come from it.