Well, it’s time to get back to this series again.
Hebrews 12:1 Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight, and the sin which doth so easily beset us, and let us run with patience the race that is set before us,
I suppose we all have weights to deal with that are not really ours. Sometimes it’s the things that belong to someone else that are cluttering our lives for one reason or another. Maybe it’s our spouse, our kids, parents, or other family members, or even friends that have shifted their weights into what we feel is our space. This can be hard to deal with.
Not Your Stuff
My great-grandparents lived in a travel trailer and moved at least once a year. Every time they moved, they threw away all Grandma’s toys except one china doll (pictured above). This was very sad, and it affected my grandmother in later years when she became attached to things more than to people and even showed tendencies toward being a real hoarder.
Those of you who are parents do have the right to decide what your kids really need, but I suggest that you make them part of that decision when possible. Teach your kids how to part with unneeded stuff now, and it will be so much easier later on!
As far as clearing out the clutter of your husband or other family members, it’s important to remember to keep love and grace as the focus of you reasons, rather than annoyance and frustration. I know this can be hard from personal experience as my family had to clear out my grandparents’ house of useless clutter – not once, but twice. Frustration was hard to avoid. But, it will help your relationships in the long run if you maintain compassion.
My grandpa used to throw away excess candy that my grandma bought because she had diabetes and shouldn’t have had it in the house because she had a strong sweet tooth. If she knew, she never complained. We also discarded a number of her books with doubtful content after she started hallucinating about things that could easily have been from those books. She never even asked what happened to them. In both of these case, if she suspected what happened, she knew that we all did these things out of love for her and she was able to accept that.
Encourage, rearrange and organize if possible, and only discard things that are really trash if you simply must for safety and cleanliness, but try not to nag nor to respond in anger. Harshness will not help them see their problem. They will only feel threatened and that will probably make them cling to the things more. Sometimes bluntness is in order when the problem is serious, but forcing someone to clear clutter may have unhappy repercussions if they are not willing! Be thoughtful and prayerful in your approach.
There is another aspect in which some weights we carry are not ours. You may have had some item bestowed upon you that someone (usually a family member) held dear, yet it really isn’t something you wanted. The giver may still be living or they may not, but the “responsibility” to keep the item out of “respect” (read “guilt”) can keep you lugging dead weight around that is totally unnecessary.
Remember that doll that belonged to my grandma? Well, as the oldest granddaughter, that doll was given to me. I have it yet. I am not really interested in antique dolls. She has no trademark and the name of the maker is not apparently on her. She has one detached arm and one broken hand. Bugs have eaten some of her (real) hair. As far as I can tell, she probably doesn’t have very much value. And, to me those unhappy memories of my grandmother’s childhood make her a sad souvenir of the past. Since my grandmother is with the Lord now, I feel no more obligation to keep that doll. I’m sure that now Grandma would agree with me on that. I am hoping to sell the doll or give her to someone who I know would enjoy restoring her. But, I don’t want to feel obligated to carry a memorial to sadness through life.
As I mentioned in a previous post in this series, one of the questions I’ve been thinking about recently is “Am I keeping it because I like it or from a sense of guilt, either because it ‘might be useful some day’ or because it was important to someone I love?” Another is, “If it is a memento – does it have good memories associated with it, or are there some bad memories mixed in that I’d rather not recall?” In the book which I was discussing, the author of Throw Out Fifty Things touched on the idea of bad memory associations, and it’s something that I’ve been working on. If the memories are bad, as with the doll, or if there is some singular bad memory connected with an item, why keep it?
Of course, there are those “wonderful heirlooms” that get passed on which we are “positively obligated” to keep which we hate or have no feeling for whatsoever. You know what it is if you have one. :-) But, really, should we allow others to push, nag, and “guilt-ify” us into keeping something that we don’t like, or maybe even hate for whatever reason? Something that is elegant, sentimental or beautiful to one person may be utterly ugly or useless to another. Friend, you are allowed to have your own likes and dislikes about such things without being made to feel guilty. If you don’t want the family kewpie doll collection, you Do Not Have To Have It! Refuse to accept it graciously if at all possible, and if not, refuse it bluntly or give it to someone else in the family. If someone doesn’t like that, hopefully they will get over it. Extended family members who are so childish that they would let the family peace and fellowship be destroyed over something like that probably are a pain in the neck in other ways as well. I’m just saying…
I see two kinds of “clutter guilt” in play with the questions I mentioned above. One is the guilt of the future—“What if we need this someday? We’ll feel so bad we got rid of it.” Or, “What about when so-and-so dies? I’ll really wish I’d saved this.” (This, even when one sometimes has numerous other things from said person.)
The other is the guilt of the past—“But, this was my great-grandparents’ wedding gift, grandma’s best (read “least used”) dishes, etc. We can’t get rid of that. It’s been in the family for years.” Either way, if we succumb to it, we can allow our lives to be inundated with junk (yes, I said junk), that serves no useful purpose in the big scheme of things—meaning God’s scheme of things! Seriously, if it’s not something you want and you have no room for it (and presuming that no one else in the family will take it off your hands) sell it and use the money for something you really need, to pay down debts, or to give to the needs of the saints. Or if selling isn’t an option for you, give it away or donate it. Yes! You Can!
Some of us seem to be a lot more effected by this than others, I think. Whether we have a strong guilt mechanism, are more prone to sentiment over useless stuff, or are just “wired that way” I don’t entirely know. But, from my own experience, I encourage you to think about the whole guilt factor that compels us to clutter our lives with things that are really and truly not our responsibility. Let’s lay down those weights that others have laid upon us along with the load of false guilt to try to make us feel it is “necessary” to keep carrying it.
In some cases I can’t help wondering, “If that thing was so great, why didn’t they keep it themselves?” In all honesty, in some cases I suspect that there are those who really don’t want and/or like the item themselves, but they can’t stand to see it “leave the family” so they saddle some unsuspecting “collector” with it who doesn’t have the courage to say “No, thank you!” and mean it. If you are either the giver or the receiver in this scenario, you need to review your motives and weakness before the Lord.
Hebrews 10:24 And let us consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works: [Emphasis added.]
The Wrong Crosses
I also can’t help thinking of Matthew 16:24, Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any man will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me. The Lord said “his cross”, not “his neighbor’s cross”, and not “his brother’s cross” (and not “the cross of world suffering”, by the way). Jesus Christ Himself bore the cross for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2), He only requires us to bear our own cross, and that must be the one that He gives us if it would not be a weight too heavy to bear.
There are so many ways that we take heavy burdens upon ourselves that are not our weight to carry. It is not just things. We can be overcome with helping others and doing for others till we do not tend the responsibilities that are truly ours. How many mothers are volunteering for some community service and not caring properly for their own? How many mothers are running their kids to all kind of activities while neglecting their own personal health – spiritually and physically? How many wives are working outside the home, not because it is really needful, but because their families can’t live in the income bracket they desire without them working, or because they imagine it’s more “fulfilling”? How many women are serving the pastor—yes, I said that correctly because they are not doing what the Lord, or maybe their husbands, would have them to do, but what the pastor would have them to do—how many, I say, are serving the pastor instead of serving their husband or family in the role God gave them? How many are convinced that some “ministry” would collapse or never get done without their special talents, yet they are not using those talents to minister to the needs and responsibilities that God has given them at home or in their local church? With the internet it is possible to be “necessary” in so many other places than where we are most responsible and needed! It is a sobering thought.
For my own part, I find that I tend to enjoy sewing things for others more than I do for myself and for my own home. While sewing for others can be a good means to give of my skills, our own house - and even the wardrobes of my mom, sister-in-law and myself - could be improved by more attention to the needs there. I have been trying to work on this myself.
Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.
If we would have the easy yoke and the light burdens, we must, must, must go in the yoke with Jesus, and with Him alone! We must take up the cross He gives. No other burdens or weights will be light enough for us to run with patience the race that is set before us!
By the way, please do yourself a favor and check out those items that Grandma or Uncle George think are so valuable because they are so old, unusual, etc. You may find out that they are worth very little. I know this because there were things that my Grandma seemed to think were valuable which, with some online research, turned out to be pretty worthless. Some of her “precious treasures” had also been purchased as “seconds” and consequently have little value.
These plates, which I don’t ever remember Grandma using, were “seconds” that she got in Britain (they were imperfect and so were sold cheap at outlets of some sort). I’m not sure why she didn’t use them, but even if they weren’t “seconds”, their value is quite low from what I can tell. My husband and I now enjoy them as every day dishes. We might as well; Jesus is coming, so why leave them in perfect condition to be burned up and destroyed in the last day? :-)
2 Peter 3:10-12 But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night; in the which the heavens shall pass away with a great noise, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat, the earth also and the works that are therein shall be burned up. Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness, Looking for and hasting unto the coming of the day of God, wherein the heavens being on fire shall be dissolved, and the elements shall melt with fervent heat?