Saturday, April 6, 2019
At last, winter is over, the Christmas decorations have long since been stashed in the attic, and the empty space in our living room and on mantels and hutches seems to invite more mementos, for nature truly does abhor a vacuum.
Time for spring cleaning! Sometimes when I go on a cleaning streak, I fool myself that I’m accomplishing something meaningful. Sometimes I organize and clean the things in my life to give myself the illusion of control, which is far more feasible over things than it is over circumstances or negative attitudes.
My husband often jokes that our house looks like a museum, not because its contents are of great material value, but because we tend to collect and display many things. I attribute such proclivities of mine to genetics. My aunt left me her collections – spoons, teacups, Hummel figurines; and my mother her collections of books and Russian Easter eggs. I guess I am just too sentimental not to display them. And of course, my husband and I had to add to this by collecting books and spoons of our own, and Christmas ornaments unique to every place we have visited.
The upfront cost of these trinkets was minimal, and they do bring smiles to our faces when they trigger the associated memories. But they take up wall space, and drawer space, and make dusting seem like an endless task. As you might imagine, I tend to put this off for special occasions or for when we are expecting company. No doubt our allergies would improve if we didn’t have so much to dust!
My husband got the bug for collecting from the beach, which at least has no additional monetary cost beyond the expense of traveling there. First it was shells, then sharks’ teeth, and now fossils that delight us as we marvel that petrified horse toes, ankle bones of a camel, and other rare finds wash up on the shore!
He has run out of space for these in the collector’s chests I bought him one Christmas. (Yes, one of the problems with having a lot of stuff is that you have to buy more stuff to organize and store it). So now the best of these treasures find temporary lodging there until they are relegated to the garage, replaced by newer and more interesting specimens.
Speaking of the garage, its musty corners have been the bane of my existence lately as I continue the never-ending chore of sorting through old stuff. Stuff that got dumped in boxes, moved to a paid storage facility, then from one closet and garage to the next. It followed us, binding us like the chains of Ebenezer Scrooge, as we moved from one home to another, as I closed my private practice, and as my mother closed her gift shop and moved from Pennsylvania to Florida.
When our son outgrew his childhood things, went to college, moved into his own place, and got married, guess who was left holding his unwanted stuff? When my mother and then my husband’s mother moved from their homes to an assisted living facility and then passed into eternity, we became curators of their remaining stuff.
At first I justified this by rationalizing that we are documenting our family history and preserving family heirlooms for future generations. And sometimes I do enjoy opening boxes for the thrill of perhaps discovering some lost treasure, or awakening a joyful memory that has slumbered through the years, or wondering about people I don’t recognize in old photos of family get-togethers.
Yet some memories are best left undisturbed, and the reminder can be as troubling as finding a silverfish scurrying across a dainty embroidered napkin. When I am being honest with myself, I realize that the costs of holding on to these unneeded things can be stifling and oppressive. The expense of a storage facility, in retrospect, was totally unjustified as I have recently opened cartons only to find that their contents are obsolete, damaged by time and the elements, or not worth saving in the first place.
Yet we are not alone in this folly. In 2014 alone, with rates on the rise ever since, there were approximately 52,000 self-storage facilities in the U.S., occupying a total roofed area three times the size of Manhattan, and generating more than $5,200,000,000 in revenue each year, renting to one of every ten U.S. families!
Not to mention the intangible costs: clutter, lack of access to space needed to maintain a home workshop or to protect vehicles, potential for injury and fatigue from repeated moving of heavy boxes, and exposure to allergens causing respiratory or skin issues. Or even tripping over a wayward box and falling. At first we may think we enjoy owning a lot of stuff, until we realize that the stuff owns us.
Too much clutter has invaded other areas of my life. The DVR is in constantly warning me “97% full,” even though I delete programs as soon as I watch them. As I only play these programs as background while exercising, sorting through mail, or cleaning, will I ever get through them all? On a more worrisome note, my Inbox is filling up so rapidly and I’ve accumulated so many downloads that now my computer is crawling at a turtle’s pace. It’s time to clear those out too, before it crashes altogether.
Dealing with all this junk reminds me of the need to release the spiritual burdens in our life. Jesus was the perfect, sinless sacrifice Who died on the cross to pay for all our sins (John 1:29; Romans 3:25; 1 John 2:2; 4:10). So why do we refuse to lay down our heavy burdens of guilt over past mistakes at the foot of His cross and just leave them there?
He is risen from the dead (Acts 17:3; Romans 8:34; 1 Corinthians 15:13-14, 20) so that all who trust Him as Lord and Savior will have eternal life with Him in Heaven (John 3:16), and even now are elevated to heavenly places with Him (Ephesians 1:3; 2:6).
So why do we needlessly carry around the weight of a bad attitude, unthankful spirit, unclean heart, or fear? He has liberated us from this spiritual clutter, cleansed us from our sins in His own precious blood (1 John 1:7), and robed us with the pristine garment of His righteousness (Job 29:14; Isaiah 61:10).
As we tackle spring cleaning, whether it be just vacuuming and yard work, or more vigorous measures like pressure washing the driveway, or finally parting with cumbersome baggage, may we not neglect the need for spiritual cleansing. Scripture tells us to cleanse daily by washing with the water of the Word (Ephesians 5:26).
If we neglect this, God, as our loving Father, may see fit to do some pressure washing, first using the Word as a two-edged sword to cleave apart joints from marrow and soul from spirit (Hebrews 4:12), and then applying physical pressure in the form of trials to chasten us (Hebrews 12:6).
God wants to bless us with His best gifts (Matthew 7:11), but as long as our arms and hearts are filled with the junk of our life before we were saved, He will not replace this with His abundant blessings (Philippians 4:19) His burden is easy and His yoke is light, so why do we stubbornly cling onto our old ways? He invites us to come to Him for respite from our burdens and to learn from His servant’s heart, and He promises us rest (Matthew 11:28-30).
Being yoked together with Jesus (Hebrews 13:5) ensures that He will help us, and that He will not only carry our burdens (1 Peter 5:7), but that He will carry us. Learning from Him to have a servant’s heart means that our priorities will be in the right place, on loving and serving Him and others (Luke 10:27), and not on hoarding excess things that weigh us down (Luke 12:15-34). Peace comes not from having earthly riches or provisions, but from storing up treasures in Heaven, where we can enjoy them throughout eternity (Matthew 6:19-20).
Suddenly I feel motivated to rummage through the remaining boxes in the garage, armed with a huge trash bag for most of the contents and cleaning supplies for those items that can be salvaged and given away. More importantly, I vow to cleanse myself daily in the Living Water (John 4:10) of His Word!
© 2019 Laurie Collett