Dragging Detritus to the Driveway

A man in my neighborhood died. I didn’t know him. He was an older man who lived way down at the end of our subdivision. He had a wife, whom he left behind to deal with the detritus of his life. She put up signs and piled his life on tables in their driveway and sold it off in pieces. I stood in the middle of all that accumulation and thought about how profoundly sad it was that this was the indictment of his life. This was the story he left behind to explain who he was and what mattered to him. Fishing gear. Camo coveralls. Tools. I decided that I don’t want enough of anything left at the end of my life to drag to the driveway.

Now this is not one of those sell-everything-and-give-to-the-poor posts, but it is a quiet and ongoing personal assessment. Every summer I go through the exercise of purging, as my husband calls it. I switch out the seasons’ clothes, putting some away and taking some to the resale store. I clear out the linen closets, garage, attic, kitchen cabinets, book shelves, pantry and those mysterious boxes that have been shoved under beds. I do this every year. This year I took three van loads and donated it all. Three. Van loads. And I do this…Every. Year.

Even my penny-pinching husband would agree that I am not your typical shopper. I love the Goodwill and a garage sale, and most of what I wear on my back came from one of those places. I am not a woman who fusses over my home. (Please! Who has time for that?! I’m doing good to keep it clean!) So, I’m a bit fanatical about my books, but I own a Kindle! I love to cook, but one set of everything is enough if you wash as you go. In short, I’m not an accumulator of stuff. I don’t like stuff. And yet I seem to have it multiplying in closets and corners when I’m not watching. I do not know where it all comes from. Or why I have it. Or what to do with it. Or how to stop the accumulation from growing. But that is what I’m determined to do.

I’ve begun to ask myself what I really need. Not what makes me feel secure. Not what makes me feel current or confident or cool. I’m asking myself what’s enough? What’s good enough? How much is enough? And I’m finding that I’m really not as good at enough as I thought I was. Suave shampoo is enough. But how many bottles do I need squirreled away in the cabinet, just in case? (In case of what, I ask you?! The end of Walmart as we know it? The apocalypse? This is the mania of my head.) Garage sale jeans suit me just fine. But why do I need 42 pairs, just in case?  (In case of what, for heaven’s sake? In case all the water of the planet dries up and I can’t do wash three times a week?!)  Groceries from Aldi are just fine. But why do I feel the need to have one box open and one on stand-by, just in case? (Well, that one is actually legit. I have a hoard of hungry teenage boys in my home at least once a week. There is no enough for them!)  You get the idea. It’s as plain as the font on the page…I find my peace and security in my stuff. Even though it also makes me crazy, I am more comfortable knowing that at any given moment of perceived need, I have on standby just what is perceived to be needed…just in case. I don’t know how to stop living there and borrowing the possibility of want, and start living here in this very moment of God’s abundant, sufficient provision of daily bread. 

Your issue with enough may be different from mine, but I think most of us would benefit from the exercise of purging. In fact, maybe dragging the detritus to the driveway would be a good way to start. What story would your stuff tell if you piled it up and walked among it? Would it be the truth about your life or would it be misleading? I didn’t know the man down the street but I do know that he had a life beyond his stuff and I’m sure (hopeful) it was a good one. But the stuff tells its own tale. Mine would tell a story of fear, of weak faith, of self-sufficiency, of pride and greed, of things accumulated but not used, of books unread and clothes unworn. My things would be the evidence of the pursuits of my life and how I invested my moments and my money. It would be my treasure in a heap of condemnation. It would not be the story I want to tell about me, my heart, my God. So I’m rewriting the story. With every sale I don’t stop for, with every coupon I let go, I’m determined to divest of the detritus for fear that one day it will be dragged to the driveway.