A couple months ago, my friend Nikki spoke to a group of women about creating peace in our lives, and she shared that one way she does that is by simplifying her time and her things.
We are responsible for maintaining the things in our possession, for taking good care of them. And so I began to realize that every time I swiped my credit card at Target, I was entering into a contract with Target that I was going to take these things that they had been taking care of, and I was now committing to be responsible for them.
I mean, wow! That’s stewardship. Being entrusted to care for something, and not just having the responsibility, but acting responsible – taking good care of what has been entrusted to you.
That makes buying things at the store more than a financial question of can I afford this or not. It means taking ownership of possessions more seriously because I have been entrusted with their proper care. In fact, I’ve committed to it, whether I truly realize it or not.
Enter the Great Clean Out of 2010.
I called my mom several weeks ago, requesting that she come help me while I cleaned out the entire house at one time. I had started the process many times before, but by the time I got about three rooms in, the first room had gone back to chaos. I could never quite get everything finished.
And so she came for an entire week – last Sunday to Saturday – and let me work (and play!). As more and more of our stuff moved to the garage (the holding area for all things leaving the house), I realized just how much stuff we still had despite the fact that I have regularly cleaned things out.
We finished the playroom first, with every toy or activity organized into its own place. I had finally cleaned out enough of my daughter’s toys that they could each have their own space, rather than the large, more general bins we’d used before.
And you know what I realized? She played more, despite fewer toys, because she could see and find her things. She also kept everything neater because it was easy to pick up and put things away. And I didn’t have toys strewn all over the house.
Then it hit me: Simplicity isn’t necessary for the sake of simplicity. It’s necessary for the sake of stewardship.
If I struggle with keeping my house picked up, if the piles of laundry and things to be put away is constantly overwhelming me, if I can’t manage to keep relative order in my home . . . then I have too much. I have taken on responsibility for more than I can handle.
I am organized, but not necessarily a “neat-freak”. So yes, I understand that some people are naturally more bent toward having picked up homes. I have two young children. So yes, I understand that there are seasons of life where it is easier to be orderly. But given those tendencies and those seasons, then those might be times where we minimize the amount of extra stuff we have to manage. As we have more time or more capacity to deal with them, then we can take on more.
I’m not necessarily chanting “cleanliness is next to godliness,” but what I am saying is that we must consider our responsibility as stewards of what we’ve been entrusted. We’re not taking very good care of our clothing if that shirt constantly remains at the bottom of a pile of dirty clothes. Our children are not learning to take care of their toys if they are being trampled in the floorboard of the car because that’s where they live. We claim certain items to be useful or necessary (one day . . .), but if we can’t find them, they serve no purpose other than to take up space.
So when your stuff is overwhelming you – whether it’s in piles of laundry, sinks overflowing with dishes, toy mountains in your living room – consider the root of stewardship.
Perhaps it’s time to simplify.
PS – HUGE thanks to my mom for all of her help – couldn’t have done it without you. AND to my amazing husband who puts up with the chaos, as well as rolls up his sleeves to help.
(Top photo: We switched the playroom with our front room. This is the beginning of the insanity. It always gets worse first. Middle photo: This is what the playroom looked like as we took out the last remaining items. Bottom photo: The updated playroom. A few more things have actually come out of there as I’ve cleared space in other closets!)