Rebecca Frech is the author of Teaching in Your Tiara: A Homeschooling Book for the Rest of Us, co-host of the popular radio show/podcast The Visitation Project, Catholic speaker, and writes the award-winning blog Shoved to Them. She and her husband live just outside Dallas with their seven children and an ever-multiplying family of dust-bunnies. Follow her on Facebook and on Twitter at @shovedtothem.
For the past couple of months, I’ve complained to my family that we’re drowning in stuff. I don’t know where it all comes from. We moved three years ago, and I threw away or gave away most of the things we owned, but now I turn around and there are piles upon piles of things all around us.
I wish that I could blame it all on my husband, who really is a pack-rat, or on his small pack-rat minion children, but I think at least half of it is my fault. I’m the one who buys things. While it’s true that I’m also the one who drags things out of the house, the fact remains that I’m mostly the one who carried them in in the first place.
I’ve been just needing a little bit of motivation to get me into a full on throw-all-the-things-away mood. I found it this weekend in the Place of All Wisdom!…otherwise known as Facebook. (Don’t give me that look, I’ve seen enough of those inspirational memes to know that I’m not the only one getting advice from the people-who-weren’t-my-friends-in-high school.)
Sunday morning I saw this quote from St. Basil the Great:
The bread which you do not eat is the bread of the hungry. The garment hanging in your wardrobe is the garment of him who is naked. The shoes you do not wear are the shoes of him who is barefoot. The money that you keep locked away is the money of the poor. The acts of charity that you do not perform are so many injustices that you commit.
The garment hanging in your wardrobe….is an injustice against him who is naked. It was the truth that I have suspected all along. We are not just pack-rat/hoarders/drowning in excess. We have crossed the line into sinful. We have too much stuff. My children own so many clothes that their laundry sits folded in piles on the table waiting to be put away. Each child has piles of clothes. There are a few of them who can go weeks without repeating a single article of clothing. That’s more than any one person needs.
The more I thought about it, the guiltier I felt. I have created an occasion of sin for them. By satisfying their whims for stuff, I have taught them that these things have no value, and they live that way. The torn pants that are met with a shrug, the broken toys which are thoughtlessly tossed aside, the effluvium of excess which is strewn about my house in carelessly discarded pieces. (I’ve seen the stuff that’s hidden under my teenage sons’ beds. It’s not pretty.) This is gluttony, plain and simple. I have led them to this place, and it’s my job as their mom to lead them back out again.
Starting this week, we’re weeding out the excess from our house. We began with our wardrobes, and made three carload full trips to the donation center. We’re still in the midst of laundry and expect to take at least that much again in the next couple of days. I’ve gone through the pantry and pulled out anything I know won’t be eaten. The people at the food bank were thrilled to get the foodstuffs that my family will balk at eating. Then came the painful part as I went through my kitchen with a critical eye. I may love to cook, but I can’t think of a single justification for owning four springform pans.
This is how I’m planning to spend the rest of this week, and well into the next one. I’m getting us out from under the pile I’ve helped to build, both spiritually and physically. Sometimes stuff is just too much stuff, and the piles of it block the way that God would have us go.