I have a suggestion to Moses for the 11th Commandment. It is almost as important to our world today, and his, as “Thou shalt not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14) My suggestion is to add “Thou shalt throw things out”. Surely this was as important back then as it is now. There they were wandering the desert, having to carry everything they had with them. It would make sense to be detached from your belongings in case they were too heavy or useless to bring on the next leg of the journey to the Promised Land.
Of course, in this day and age, we are almost ordered to hold on to some of our belongings, such as our bank statements, Tax Returns and other useful documents. But we are also compelled to hold onto other things such as gifts given to us, sentimental items, and all those things we hold onto “just in case” we or someone else we know needs them. My house is full of them all.
I have moved a lot since first moving out of my parent’s home nearly 10 years ago. Twice I moved back in, only to depart again within 12 months. We are now contemplating and making motions to move again before the year is up. Hopefully this time in a more permanent house we can call our own. But all this potential moving business has gotten me thinking about all the things I own that I just don’t need, or I hold onto out of a sense of duty or kindness to the person who gave it to me. This leads me to think, am I feeling overwhelmed by the state of my house because I am overwhelmed by all the stuff that is in it? When we move, can I live more simply and throw out useless crap rather than drag it along to my new life?
I wonder what Jesus would have to say about our society’s obsession with stuff. Its not just an attachment to things though, its more than that. I am acutely aware of how wasteful we have all become – how wasteful I have become. Waste is not just about how much stuff we throw out, like food wrappers, disposable nappies, sponges, tissues, broken stuff etc etc. Waste is about what we buy. Ultimately, if we didn’t buy it, it wouldn’t need to be made in the first place. Because really, who needs a little plastic flute that breaks within a week of being bought. Was my life, or my child’s life, enriched so much by the purchase of such a clearly useless item intended for immediate, not long term, gratification? I don’t think so. Replace “little plastic flute” with half the stuff in my house, and you see where I am coming from. Suddenly, 3 bedrooms and a modest sized house seems just too small.
I know the mind of a hoarder, not because I am one, but because I can put myself in the shoes of several close to me. I know how hard it is to let go of the emotions attached to stuff, or to turn away from a clear “bargain” at Vinnies or the bargain bin at Target. I’ve done it myself. About every 6 months, I do a big cull of uselessness we have held onto for any of the reasons mentioned above. As my hand hovers over the bin with item in hand, I debate with myself the wisdom of throwing it out. 9 times out of 10, it goes in regardless of the inner dialogue, and my life has not been poorer for it. In fact, my life, and my house, is richer for the emotional and physical space throwing that item out has created. This is a spiritual weight that has been removed, and is reverberated in the commandment of “Thou shalt have no other God before me” (Exodus 20:3). Freeing myself from the spiritual burden created by useless crap gives me the space to put God first.