Ash Wednesday was a week ago and today I triple dog dare myself to one more Lenten challenge. Giving up ice cream and worry wasn’t hard enough, I guess.
This one involves my favorite black Hefty bags and a major clean out of all the superfluous stuff that has invaded our house. I’m jumping on the 40 bags in 40 days challenge and I’m getting rid of as much stuff as I can. You can read about some specifics over here at Clover Lane. While I don’t think I will be as good as Sarah about cleaning as I go, I certainly hope to make some major progress and at least do a good job cleaning out. In all honesty, I am pretty certain that I could come up with more than 40 bags before Easter. Which is kind of disturbing.
The challenge is a good one for me. Besides the fact that I have an unnatural affinity for black Hefty bags and an unrelenting bend towards liking things picked up and tidy (something no one else in this house seems saddled with), I often find myself feeling swallowed by all the stuff that is just plain around.
You know what I am talking about. The random pink striped glove or the white sock, which along with a collection of other random singles, waits for its mate to magically appear after a fresh load comes out of the dryer. Or the headless Barbie, who, with her pants that are too tight and her shoes that are mismatched, has been long forgotten. I know how she must feel some days, and I hate to tell her that her condition is not likely to improve. Or how about the billowing tub of dollhouse furniture and accessories? Even the Fisher-Price Loving Family that resides in the playroom has too much stuff.
And it’s not just kid stuff that is overtaking the house. I have a cabinet full of mismatched plastic cups from college that have seen better days (or decades). And what about the three tubes of mascara that clutter my make up drawer? Was one not enough? Or how about the entire bag of cleats that is hanging on a hook in the garage, sagging with the weight of numerous kids in field sports at different ages and stages. I could fill an entire shelf in a shoe store with the contents of that mesh bag of cleats that I insist we hold on to. And I don’t know if that’s good or bad.
We I have every excuse imaginable for having all this stuff. Trying to stretch a household budget often means hanging on to stuff like single gloves and cleats that don’t fit anyone at the moment in anticipation of needing it in the future, thus saving myself from having to repurchase it down the road. And being a sap sentimental means holding onto things that might need to go, yet I hate parting with real-life reminders of sweet memories. But at some point all this stuff – the good, the bad, the broken, the multiple, the sentimental – just becomes too much. It’s hard for me to see past all of it or through any of it. Sometimes it leaves me with the overwhelming feeling that there is very little value in any of it.
And then, sadly, I realize that I am not grateful for much of it.
Stuff that has no meaning and no purpose is just in my way. It’s in the way of other things that are more important, like gratitude for starters. Getting rid of stuff that clouds my way and clutters my space makes me realize how much we do have and it is a great reminder to care for it purposefully. Jason once told me that “if you can’t take care of it, you shouldn’t have it.” While I can’t recall what I was whining about at the time he threw these wise words my way, they ring in my ears more often than I’d ever admit to him. He is right. There is joy in taking care of what you have, and when too much stuff gets in the way of that, it’s time for
some of it lots of it to go.
Considering we are a week into Lent already, I’d better get on it. I’ve got my list of areas to tackle and my black bags are ready to go. The first bag of items I collect might include the headless Barbie (lets put her out of her misery, shall we?) and a tube or two of my mascara (really? three open tubes?!). And the second bag might be made miniature for the dollhouse mom so I can share my love of black Hefty bags with her. No one in the Loving Family house will ever have to know what disappears.
And, like the loving family that lives in my house, very few things will even be missed.