My name is a Christy. I am a Hoarder.
I might be a closet hoarder. Both literally and figuratively. Not the kind with clothes and purses stacked to the ceiling and trash all over the floor. But the sneaky kind.
I would not have said this about myself a few weeks ago. But then I picked up a copy of, “The Life Changing Magic of Tidying Up; The Japanese Art of Decluttering” by Marie Kondo. It actually perked my interest as possible research for my next bible study (yes, I am that kind of a freak who is preparing to write her next study when her first hasn’t even been released). The concept of de-cluttering to uncover what’s legitimately significant seemed like it might fit within my desired theme.
I read it because it might help “other people” and because, of course, I don’t actually need any help with “that kind of stuff.”
I was wrong. Dead wrong.
I have come to redefine what the word “hoard” means and so therefore I must confess, with some amount of shame, that the title of “hoarder” does indeed belong in conjunction with my name. Yikes.
“Claustrophobic,” that’s the word that sums how my home had been making me feel. According to Marie, your home should be a place of relaxation and serenity, one that welcomes you with open arms after a tired and long day of work. Of course, my workplace is my home which means I was feeling confined and cramped and generally like a large elephants was sitting directly on top of me ninety percent of the time. As if the sheer amount of items in my surroundings were acting like flood water, inch by inch rising until I was drowning in a sea of my own (and five other people’s) seemingly necessary junk. I felt trapped, and wasn’t really sure how to get out.
And then I reached an undeniable and undoubtedly true actuation; I was a slave to my stuff.
When I first began using that kind of terminology I immediately attempted to revolt, throwing as many justifications as I could against it.
“I’m not really a slave. I mean that term is not only harsh it’s actually laughable resting next to something as harmless as the word ”stuff.” I reasoned out.
“Compared to other people, I don’t have that much.” I added.
Finally concluding, “Slave, that’s a label for people who have no control over their own lives, that’s not me.”
Or so I thought. Then it hit me like a ton of bricks. In an ironic and very shocking turn of events the items that I had purchased to serve me in some capacity, I had begun to serve. Somehow that clock, and that book in the corner, and that dress hanging had personified and were speaking to me. Not just quietly and calmly but with loud and shrill voices. They were bossing me around. And the worst thing? I was actually listening.
They sounded something like this;
Clock: “You can’t get rid of me. I was a gift and kicking me to the curb is inherently offensive.”
Old book from college: “Someday you will want to read me again. You know you will. What are you going to do if I’m forever lost in some Goodwill?”
Dress: “Yes, yes. I know I am outdated but you wore me on your first wedding anniversary. Doesn’t your marriage matter to you?”
Ouch that one hurt.
I wish I could tell you I was joking about all of this. But I’m not. And I guarantee if you begin to purge your home of items you think you “need” said items will begin talking to you too. And be warned, they are not always nice.
Because, if we’re honest, something happened after you purchased those pants, that pillow, that toy. It became yours and then it began to collect memories. Moments only shared between you, family members, friends, and that item. Those pants, that were just one of thousands, maybe even millions produced, became the pants you managed to squeeze back into after your first baby, and that is a big deal. Right girls?
If you follow Marie’s plan of attack then you sort and discard by category. Clothes, and then books, and then papers etc. I am on books right now. I pulled every single book we owned and pooled them in one central location. A practice she urges is of critical importance because how else will we ever know just how many of one type of item that we have? Then I began to sort. The key question, the litmus test that all possessions must pass through is this, “Does this item (whatever it is) spark joy? If it does, it’s a keeper. If it doesn’t, let it go. She promises you won’t miss it.
So I held each item in my hand, let the memories rush forth, and then determined; joy or no joy? Everything was going great. Having gotten rid of nearly 15 bags of clothes (don’t just me they weren’t all mine) I was gaining confidence in my decision-making abilities. Then there was that book. The one about the sweet little bunnies that make all kind of noise and refuse to go to bed. A familiar scenario in our home and so all the more meaningful.
And then as I grasped the book in my hands, in an instance, I was back sitting next to my Nona (grandmother) as she read this story to my then sweet one and and two year old Wes and Oliver.
Boy, did she know how to read books.
“Back to bed little bunnies. No more tracks on the floor. See you in the morning. Good night. Good night. Sleep Tight.”
I hear the words roll of her tongue with the just the right combination of dramatic emphasis and emotion. In a room full of people she was, without a shadow of a doubt, the one you wanted reading or telling the story.
I’m snapped back to reality by name echoed from one of my littles and I realize that there are tears wetting the tired and well worn front cover.
She passed just over a year ago. I miss her. This morning I was reminded she won’t read to my kids ever again. And that hurts and it’s hard.
And what was just a book, thousands of copies sold, transcends into something much more personal and profound. It represents a cherished moment in time, one I will never get back.
And I want her to be here in my living room in the middle of the muddle like she always was telling stories and living an even better one. I want her. But what I have is a book. And so for that reason I can’t let it go.
These are the kinds of stories our stuff tell. And it’s why we sometimes find ourselves buried under a mountain of books or rushed away by a river of clothes unable to catch our breath in the closet that “must be too small.” Sometimes it’s easier to move and take on more debt than it is to stay put and wade through memories. My husband and I had this conversation prior to me reading this book. “Are we outgrowing this house?” we asked ourselves and each other, “Because it feels like it.” “Should we move?” we posed aloud. But the answer came quickly and in the form of a green paper, “We don’t have the money to move into a larger home, with a bigger air conditioning bill (a big deal in Phoenix) and home owner’s association fees.
What I am realizing through this whole process, apart from the fact I am thankful for the genius who came up with Goodwill, is that we long for the tangibles in a world so full of intangibles. I want to hold onto what it felt like to be married for just a year, no kids, our lives simple and carefree, so much more than we realized at the time. But that moment has passed and so I leave on a hanger the dress I wore that my dad bought me for our first anniversary unable to let it go.
Marie says, if you stumble across an item that sparks no joy but feels nearly impossible to release look at it, hold it in your hands, and say thank you. Thank you for the the way it felt wearing you, the rush it gave me to buy you, the things I learned from you, the conversations I had sitting on your comfy pillows. Say thank you, and then let it go.
The truth is life is like a vapor. James literally wrote, “You are just a vapor that appears for a little while and then vanishes away.” (James 4:14 NASB) Here one day and gone the next. All we really have are the moments right in front of us. Perhaps there’s some wisdom in letting go of the past. Maybe it’s good to thank it for what it gave to us, for what it taught us, and then to release it. It might even free us to be more present and committed to what we have right now. I got rid of nearly 2/3 of my wardrobe and yet strangely I feel like I have more clothes. Maybe this works in life too. Perhaps by releasing pieces and fragments of our past we can experience more of the kind of fullness Jesus speaks of today. It’s possible that less really might be more.
And also, on a side note, I have extra space in nearly all of my closets right now, and that feels really good.