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Thursday, February 16, 2012

Laying Aside Weights - So, Where to Begin?

More posts in this Challenge.

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,

So, how do you actually knuckle down and really get started with laying aside the physical weights that are besetting you?  In the first place, it would be good to select an area of specific need if you haven’t yet, and since my most pressing need at the moment is to get rid of clutter and unfinished projects, that’s where I have started.  I suspect that most of you can use this too since there are many of us that are so “fabulously wealthy” that we have to fill the garage (ouch) or spare room, or a storage unit or backyard shed with our excess stuff.

The first thing that probably started me down the road of reconsidering  possessions and clutter was a little book my dad loaned me called Simplify Your Life by Elaine St. James.  While I don’t agree with everything she had to say (she is not a Christian writer), I found some things in her book that were challenging and helpful.  However, I really didn’t implement a lot of it.

The next thing that gave me pause to consider was last spring (2011) when we evacuated our house and headed south when a powerful storm was going to brush us from the north.  The feeling of leaving almost everything you own (I took a few things in a couple bags) not knowing if anything will be there when you get back is weird to say the least. (Note: We live in Central Texas – this is tornado country!  Praise the Lord we didn’t even have hail damage here from that storm!)

Then in September that year the wildfires started.  With high winds at the beginning of the month and extremely high fire risk due to prolonged drought, things were pretty scary for awhile!  We gathered up our “to go” pile in a few boxes and bags, and put several day’s worth of clothing and essentials in a back pack.  We were living with the constant possibility of evacuation because fires were popping up all over Texas and spreading, sometimes rapidly.  Some were positively huge. 

It’s a strange feeling to go through your house and pick out the few things that you’d really like to keep and can load quickly into the car in case you have to leave suddenly because of a wildfire.  It made me stop and think about some of the things that I own.  Really, if I never use them, what is the point?  Why are they cluttering my life?  And, what is important here?

Matthew 6:25  Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

I didn’t think of this verse at the time, but I think it fits in a way.  Life is about so much more than stuff, even though things can bring us some temporary pleasure.  We also read in Luke 12:15,  And he said unto them, Take heed, and beware of covetousness: for a man's life consisteth not in the abundance of the things which he possesseth.

In my first post I also mentioned the inspiration I’d had from other sources, particularly some of the things that have been helping me more recently.  I’d like to pass on a few more ideas that might help you get started and make some headway if you haven’t already.

Again, please remember that I put a disclaimer on my sources.  Please use discernment with these things.

The first one I want to mention is the “fast 21 thing purge” which I saw on a lady’s vlog. Simply grab a bag or box and head through the house.  The goal is to quickly search and find 21 things around the house that you don’t use and either put them in the bag/box to donate, or throw them away.  Because you are going fast and only picking out 21 items it won’t take too long, unless you let yourself get bogged down with the decision making process. This I am all too familiar with.  The important thing is to keep moving, make the decision and then stick to it.  Get the things out to the car or buried in the trash as soon as you can.  (I haven’t yet used this method since I’ve been working on a slightly different type of purging challenge which I hope to explain later.)

I probably should mention the respect of personal property here. I feel pretty strongly that it isn’t wise or helpful to carelessly throw out other people’s stuff – especially things they are going to miss.  One friend’s sister-in-law decided to sort through her sister’s basement and threw out most or all of her brother-in-law’s school mementoes. Naturally, he was quite provoked! My great-grandparents moved often and they threw away all Grandma’s toys except one doll every time. This seemed to affect my grandmother in later years.  She was very attached to things and even showed some hoarder tendencies. So, try to be wise about this, even with your kids. Include them in the decision making process when possible. (Teaching them decluttering skills now can have lasting benefits!)  I know from personal experience that it can be hard in some situations, but it is good for your relationships to your family to respect their property.  Then if you do need to reduce things without their presence for some reason, they will know that you won’t be unkind about it.

The next quick method of getting rid of things is to “go shelf by shelf”.  Sometimes it is just too hard to think about doing a whole job at once, but if you do a little here and a little there you can make it.  Just go shelf by shelf as you have a few minutes.  Clean, declutter and organize just that one small section at a time.

For example, today I wanted to clear out the fridge of things that were old, tired or not getting used.  I knew that trying to clean the fridge itself at the same time would be overwhelming for me, so I stuck to the first job of just clearing out the junk.  This worked well, and my fridge looks a lot better even if it isn’t clean – yet! :-)  So try going “shelf by shelf” when you have a few minutes – talking on the phone, waiting for something to cook, waiting for someone, etc.  Even baby steps are steps!

Another great suggestion from the same lady is to “suffer for 15 minutes”.  The basic idea in this is that you can chip down an iceberg 15 minutes at a time. :-)  You can’t do it all at once, but if you do it for 15 minutes a day you can eventually get it done!  Her description of being overwhelmed by the enormity of a project fits me to a “T”.  I am one of those don’t-start-because-it’s-too-much-to-do people.  I also tend to be one that starts a project then pushes it aside if it’s taking more effort than I thought or if I run into a snag.  But, this “suffering for 15 minutes” is a good idea and I want to give it a try.  By limiting the “suffering” to that time frame I think even I could make some progress!

And speaking of those unfinished projects lurking around making me feel guilty and unaccomplished…. 

Here is one last good suggestion that I need to seriously put into practice: Abandon an unnecessary project.  Ok, I know that’s not what she titled it, but the fact is that some of our projects that never get done really aren’t “fun” projects.  We may have thought at some point that it would save us money or be useful or that it would be fun but, we found out that either we wouldn’t get it done, or it wasn’t fun after all.

Though I hadn’t heard this suggestion till today, I’m tickled that I’ve already been working on this. I have recently discarded three “fun” projects that were cluttering my life.  There was a scrapbooking blank calendar that was made unnecessary since I discovered it is easier to create my calendars online.  I also decided to discard my paper raffia which I had used to make baskets.  I don’t think I’ll ever do that again, so it might as well go.  These craft items will be offered to friends, and if they don’t want them, they’ll go in the donate pile!  Yes!

I also sorted through the stuff I collected for scrapbooking.  At one time I thought I would be a scrapbooker, but as it turns out I am a card maker. So, why fight it? :-) I might put together some photo album type books, but probably never any involved scrapbooks with journaling, mementoes, and lots of ornamentation.  It’s time to let it go.  So, some of the items were delegated to card making, some selected as worth keeping, and a number of things, which will go unmentioned in case any of my family reads this, were discarded. <grin> Some things will be sent to the appropriate family members and they can decide what to do with them.  Out of my space. :-)  Whew!  That feels good, actually!

So, were you inspired to put any of these ideas to use, and if so which ones?  Maybe you came up with your own method for working down the pile.  Want to tell us about it?  Leave a comment! :-)


  1. Mary, thanks for this post. In a sense I have been doing this every time we have moved. I remember thinking over the years that the Lord didn't let us stay in one place too long so that we wouldn't hang onto stuff we didn't need. There is still way too much stuff stored in boxes that I need to go through and get rid of. We simply have too much stuff from our years in Africa and a lot of it should be disposed of. I don't think the family will want most of it. Maybe this should be my project this spring! :-)

  2. Mom, thanks. I hate to think how much stuff I would've collected if we hadn't moved so often. And, I'll be happy to help you with the sorting any time you're ready. ;-)