The Perils Of Stuff

Posted by Jeff Lucas  ·  2 visitor comments

It is easy to accumulate more and more possessions. Even the smallest steps can help to change our attitude.

Copyright freephotouk (creative commons)

They say that it's one of the most stressful experiences available. Having just gone through the purgatory that is moving house, I'd say that they, whoever they are, are right.

Our loft was like the headquarters of Hoarders Anonymous. I stomped around it's humid, dusty half-light, and imagined myself sitting in a circle of forlorn looking people, their heads down, each one of them clutching black plastic bin liners stuffed with possessions. "Hi, my name is Jeff, and I like to keep stuff". "Hi Jeff", they replied in unison, folding their bin bags closer to their chests....

The loft held few delights or surprises. We found old lampshades that were never attractive at any point in human history, designed by warped individuals who were surely on a hellish mission to make the world a more ugly place. We unearthed broken toys that were way beyond healing, and ornaments that were cracked and chipped, but had been "too nice to throw away". There was a Christmas tree with a two-legged plastic stand; it would have taken a miracle for it to look merry again. An old suitcase with a zipper that had lost its' zip. Clothing that would look great on Abba. I turned too quickly in the twilight, and got a poke in the eye from an old television aeriel suspended from the cobwebbed rafters. Deep joy.

There was brief respite when we uncovered the family photographs, which signaled a torrent of ooh and ahhs. We shed a tear or ten over our long lost babies, all grown up now, and cringed at our awful 1970s hairstyles – and wondered if someone had dared us to have that haircut. Questions abounded. Were we deranged and drug crazed when we visited the hairdressers? And why did I buy that suit with the jacket lapels that looked like the wings of a Boeing? Did the whole world look that ridiculous in 1973? How come nobody noticed? Would we look back someday at 2002 photos and suffer a similar nausea?

And so we engaged in the difficult business of getting rid of things. We sent six trailer loads to the dump. And we were able to dispose of some perfectly good things – that were no longer of any use to us. The local charity shop restocked its shelves because the clear out, and our daughter raised a good chunk of change for missions by hauling the rest of the stuff to a car boot sale. But the process of shedding was not without pain.

We found out that stuff, even relatively useless stuff, is sticky. It doesn't want to part company with us without putting up a good fight. While sorting, we repeatedly heard the insane whisper: "You never know when we might need that". It was a seductive suggestion, momentarily blinding us to the obvious fact that, at that moment that we might need that item, we are unlikely to spend three hours unpacking crates in the loft in order to find it, even if we could remember where we had put it in the first place. The cold truth was simple – the stuff had to go.

It took even more serious willpower to discard some things, and we didn't always win; some items placed in the "get rid" pile launched a silent appeal, and were taken back to our bosom once more. We found out that stuff demands an irrational allegiance, an unreasonable faithfulness, even a mild form of worship.

But as the trailer went to the dump, and the boxes to the charity shop, we felt a strange exhilaration. We had successfully negotiated a clear out – and the somewhat minimalist house that was left seemed to be a reflection of cleared hearts and minds, just a little less cluttered and encumbered. 

picture of author Jeff Lucas
Jeff Lucas

Jeff Lucas - International author, speaker and broadcaster

And perhaps, in bidding so many things goodbye, we had found that we did not have to hoard, like a squirrel sitting on a mountain of nuts. In a tiny way, the power to possess had been challenged, if only a little. After all, we only really rejected the things that were not of value to us: this was no Mother Teresa triumph over materialism. But we took a faltering step, learning a small lesson, an education that the marketers and advertisers don't want us to learn:

Things are just things; stuff is only stuff. Or, to put it more eloquently, and indeed biblically, "Life doesn't consist in the abundance of possessions" (Luke 12:15).

Jeff Lucas is an international speaker, writer and broadcaster.  He divides his time between working from his home in the South of England and his job as Teaching Pastor at Timberline Church, Colorado.  His bestselling books include There Are No Strong PeopleSeriously Funny (co-written with Adrian Plass) and Up Close and Personal.

Use the code JEFFSEP2OFF on Eden.co.uk during September to Save £2 off There Are No Strong People.

Jeff's image courtesy of CWR 

13th September

September 13th, 2012 - Posted & Written by Jeff Lucas

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Penny Culliford

Penny Culliford

Posts: 8

Very apt, as I have spent this week decluttering! However, much as I love Jeff and his books, does anyone else detect a hint of irony at the end of the article about having too much stuff, where we are encouraged, with a money off coupon, to buy his book. Another book may well cause an avalanch in my house!

Thursday, 13th September 2012 at 7:05PM

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elizabeth Sadler

elizabeth Sadler

Posts: 1

I can really rapport with this ,although it has been a recent joy to get down and clean up may items saved for grandchildren.....a garage almost 40 yrs old and now played with again....Lego and dolls their house. Fiona Castle wrote a very good book called "Living Simply",and I am reminded of the catch phrase "Living simply so that others may simply live ". Scripture tells us that only "that which is unseen is eternal". When someone dies ,people ask "what did they leave?". The answer is "everything"!

Saturday, 15th September 2012 at 12:34PM

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