It hits me every spring. The bug to clean out the stuff in my house and my life. I start reading minimalism blogs and lusting after the pictures of peaceful living spaces. Then I look around my house and see a whole lot of unnecessary junk. I don’t know how we accumulate so much.
One such blog post I read talked about their journey to minimalism by removing the same number of things from their house as the number of the current year. So in 2015, they will remove 2015 items from their house. I’m always intrigued by such audacious challenges.
I mentioned the challenge out loud and my kids got this nervous look in their eyes. They told me I was crazy, but I can see this being an extremely easy challenge to complete. They know me. I go on cleaning binges every few months. Sometimes they help and other times they hide. The verdict is still out on this one.
I cleaned out my closet and started weeding out my books. I probably have close to 500 items pulled out already. I figure if I can get my kids to go through their clothes and books, we can hit 2015 items in two days.
Having too much is overwhelming. There’s too much to clean, organize and store. It’s way to easy to make a mess and way too hard to pick it up. We don’t live extravagantly by any means but we really have more than we can adequately appreciate.
Yesterday, I made a quick run to the store to pick up a few grocery items we had run out of. Milk and cereal. Staples in our house. As an impulse buy, I picked up a large bag of M&Ms to share with the kids.
When we were leaving the parking lot, I saw a man with a cardboard sign standing at the traffic light. His hair was gray and long and it mingled with his long beard. I’ve never stopped to give money to beggars before, but I had $3 tucked in the door of my car. The change from the $25 I had just spent on chocolate marshmallow cereal and M&Ms.
I recently read in the Bible where God told his people to be generous to the poor. Not to deal harshly or be tightfisted with them. God promised a blessing to those who gave freely to people in need. (Deut. 15:7-11)
I rolled my window down as I pulled up next to the man. I held out the bills to him. He stepped off the curb to reach for the money and his eyes met mine. He didn’t say anything, but I could tell he was humbled and ashamed to be standing there. There was sadness and long stories in those eyes. All I could say was, “God bless you” before I drove through the intersection.
When I pulled up to the man at the traffic light, I had my blessing in mind. But as I drove away, my mind was frantically challenging me. What did this man think of me? Here I was, driving my paid for car, leaving a store where I had just impulsed on M&Ms, handing him $3 and driving off to visit a friend to laugh and complain about our hard lives.
Of course, he didn’t know what I bought or where I was going, but I did. He didn’t know that I had just been complaining about having too much, while everything he owned was in the knapsack at his feet. I had worried aloud about the cost of groceries, yet I had enough money to buy candy.
I feel like my cleaning binge has just become a crusade. I wish I had gotten that man’s name. I’d name it after him. I wish I had given him the M&Ms or bought him a meal. His simple existence made my abundance look vulgar. I wish I didn’t have so much useless stuff.
I’m getting rid of it. All the useless, boxed up accumulations of trivial, meaningless junk. I probably will never be a minimalist. I love books too much to let them go. But if I can empty out enough stuff from my life, maybe I’ll have more room in my heart. Maybe I’ll fill it up with things that matter like compassion and love in action.
What experiences have you had that drastically changed your perspective and put you on a crusade of love and compassion? Comment here.