Week Five – Fasting Possessions
by Stephanie Capps
Growing up, there were paths through my house.
We had a path through the living room to the couch, a path leading us to the cabinets in the kitchen, and paths down the hallway to our bedrooms. Sometimes I had to shove things out of the way to make room, while other times I just stepped over a pile. What were the things stacked up throughout the house? None of it seemed important to me, just junk. There were boxes of old clothes, bins filled with unmatched lids, decorations that were meant to sit upon a mantle…all these items just piled up.
These were my mom’s possessions. You see, throughout my childhood, my sister and I would go through all of the stuff, purge all the stuff and organize all the stuff…but somehow, the next week, there would just be more stuff. And it wasn’t until after the TV show “Hoarders” came out that I realized what was going on. For my mom, all of the stuff filled up an empty space inside of her. On one instance, I remember asking her if I could throw away a glove that didn’t have a match. She told me “No, I want to keep that glove because you and your sister gave me that set when you were little”. That was the story for about every item in the house. There was an emotional attachment to the stuff. To her, if you get rid of the stuff, the house would be empty, and she would be empty.
Those are my memories from about 20 years ago. I wish I could say that things have changed, but they haven’t. Of course, this is an extreme circumstance of an unhealthy person valuing one’s possessions…or is it?
How many of us buy stuff that we don’t need? Insert that hand raising emoji here. Why do we do that? It is because it feels good! Attaining new stuff (or even new-to-you stuff) gives us a dopamine boost. It compensates for the sadness or the emptiness that we feel inside of us. But then what happens? The excitement of the stuff fades and it gets put into a corner somewhere. As we look at all of our stuff in our house, we then feel like our homes are cluttered and decide that we could use some more space to hold our stuff.
So we put a storage building in our back yard
… or rent storage units
… or add on to our homes
… or just buy a bigger home with more space to store all of our stuff.
Most of us live in excess. We are products of a consumeristic society. We value our stuff, protect our stuff, and have believe that we have earned our stuff.
This is contrary to the way that Jesus lived.
So my challenge for us this week is to examine why we like having stuff. Do I feel an emptiness inside? Do I feel like my stuff is proof of my success in life? Am I a slave to consumerism?
Then think about the resources that you use to maintain your stuff? How much money does your stuff cost? Are you constantly searching for a way to store your stuff? Does your stuff cause you stress? Could your stuff be donated to someone else who actually needs it?
Then, DO SOMETHING about it. You can #konmari your whole house or just do a simple purge. But really, why do you need 17 sets of bed sheets? What benefit are those college jeans doing in your closet? (other than making you depressed). If your stuff doesn’t bring you joy, get rid of it. If you haven’t used that stuff in a year, give it to someone who can use it. And if your house is overflowing with stuff, you don’t need a bigger house, you just need less stuff.
Stephanie Capps is a birth doula and photographer in Raleigh. In her spare time she likes perusing local thrift stores with a cold-brew coffee in hand, or hanging out in the backyard with her family and chickens.
Video: Ted Talk #1
How to Buy Happiness (hint: don’t spend on yourself)
Michael Norton | TEDxCambridge
Video: Ted Talk #2
Less Stuff More Happiness
Graham Hill | TED 2011
Tidying Up with Marie Kondo
Available on Netflix
Articles & Resources
- Consumerism is Making Us Depressed and Anti-social — Business Insider
- Consumerism and its Anti-social Effects can be Turned On or Off — Association for Psychological Services
- A Society Beyond Consumerism — Resillience
- The Irresistible Revolution – Living as an Ordinary Radical — by Shane Claiborne
- The Divine Commodity – Discovering a Faith Beyond Consumer Christianity — by Skye Jethani
- 7 Experiment: Staging Your Own Mutiny Against Excess — by Jen Hatmaker