a garage full of stuff

Do you remember Spring Cleaning Days? I grew up with Pittsburgh Germans. Spring cleaning was part of the yearly rhythm. We both loved and dreaded those days, emptying closets dusty with cobwebs, pitching the broken things and giving away what we never used. We kept most of the stuff, cleaned it, folded it, hung it and closed the door.  We made everything fresh and new. Fresh for what?

Of course, sanitizing those stale spaces gave us a sense of order, but we were really heaping up stuff.

Getting rid of stuff

I haven’t “spring cleaned” for decades.

This year, I turned 60 and began the process of getting rid of stuff. Standing in the garage, I wondered, HOW did I accumulate so much? Bins of stuff line the walls with things “I may need one day.”

My Dad used to say to me, “You’re drowning in materialism!”

I used to get so mad at him and protest, but now staring at the overloaded garage I realize in many ways – he was right.

It’s not easy

Yet it’s not easy to clear stuff out. I find myself attached to it by the long tentacles of emotion. I look at an item and remember a moment or a feeling. How can I part with this? It’s a treasure! I store it away in the bin.

I realize over the years I’ve moved this stuff around. Attending to it. Reorganizing, sorting, labeling — cleaning it compels me to care for it. Yet, stuff weighs us down. More stuff needs more space.

Bigger isn’t always better

Jesus told us that story in Luke 12. The rich farmer built bigger and bigger barns to fit his extra stuff! It didn’t work out well for him.

Stuff steals my time and attention. The more things I have to care for, the more time and energy I give away to it.

Oh Lord – teach me to number my days.

David, it’s a bit depressing!

This morning, I read PSALM 39. King David reminds us we pass quickly, our lives are but vapors and yet we live loudly, attached to things as we HEAP UP STUFF.

Everyone goes about as a mere phantom.
Surely they are making an uproar in vain,
heaping up stuff –
yet not knowing who will gather it.7
Psalm 39:7
Tree of Life Version

David’s words describe the futility of living a life loving stuff. NONE of it is lasting. We fade away. Who will gather up the heap?

My Mother’s Treasures

I remember my mother’s house stuffed full of collectibles, dolls, and figurines. Certificates of authenticity were numbered confirming their value. Mom displayed her new treasures while she stored the old things she picked up at antique stores in boxes. These would be “worth something someday.”

Mom’s house was clean and tidy but stuffed with treasures. When I lived at home, I dusted these valuable things careful not to break them as they stood proudly on display. As a child, I could only look, not touch!

When my mother died, it was like a cyclone hit. The Pronouncement – Pancreatic Cancer and she was gone in 8 weeks. I cared for her in her home since she wanted to die at home. I thought it was because she was comforted by her treasures. Yet it turned out, she didn’t even remember any of it by the end.

 A man’s life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.
– Jesus –

My paraphrase – Luke 12:15

Clearing the Heap

After mom died, I spent weeks and months clearing out her stored-up stuff.

The first Yard Sale was such a shock, as we laid bed sheets in the grass and lined them with Mom’s precious collectibles and important things. People bought mom’s treasure for pennies.yard sale

I drove 5 vans full of leftovers to thrift stores to donate. All those delicate treasures were thrown in boxes one on top of the other. The fear of breaking them or damaging them or losing their certificates of authenticity had left me.

Jesus Clears the Air

The treasures we store up in our lifetime are of no lasting value. Meaningless, we leave them behind.

Now standing in my garage, assessing my own heap of stuff, I sense an eerie similarity to my mother as a question rises in my heart. If our heaps of treasure turn out to be meaningless in the end, then what is meaning-FULL?

“Do not store up for yourselves treasure on earth,
where moth and rust destroy
and where thieves break in and steal.19
But store up for yourselves treasure in heaven,
where neither moth nor rust destroys
and where thieves do not break in and steal.20
For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.21
Matthew 6:19-21
Tree of Life Version – Jesus speaking.
Emphasis mine.

We have a choice

gold coins equals treasureAs always, Jesus gives us a choice. How do I use the time I have left on this earth? Either I can store up materials things and “treasure” here, taking care of it, loving it and yet it all stays behind when I die.

Or I can put my life’s attention and energy into following Jesus and doing the Word of God. This treasure I store up in heaven. I can’t touch or organize it, but it will be “worth something one day!”

I look at the garage and realize I need a new plan.


Spring cleaning with a twist

My New Spring Cleaning List:

1) Consider the days I have left and number them with value. David reminds us life is short. Days come one by one, so each day I make the choice where I will invest my heart. For what or for Who will I live?

2) Throw away musty STUFF. – This includes the physical stuff in my garage and the random stuff in my heart.

I’m not going to lie — I get a build-up. Self-importance, offense, the need to be “right,” unbelief, unforgiveness, etc. build up in me like the bins along the wall. They demand my energy and attention. Regular heart emptying and cleaning without fear is necessary for a fresh start.

3) Break any habit of accumulating things. God wants us to find our pleasure and treasure in Him. In Psalm 39:11 David tells us God even sends the moth to destroy the things we find pleasure in. He wants to wake us up and free us from stuff. God calls us to be attached to Him not things.

4) Create empty spaces. Spring cleaning is not only emptying storage spaces so we can fill them up again. We can empty our spaces to live lightly, not carrying the weight of stuff. The less stuff I have to care for the more free time and energy I save for my walk with Jesus.

5) What will I leave behind? I want to live my life free from attachment to stuff. A thing doesn’t hold my love or my memory, my family and friends do. I don’t want my children to have to clean out a heap of stuff, weeping and wondering why their mother lived trying to find value in it. I want them to remember my walk with Jesus and what spilled out of my heart for His kingdom.

It’s time for Spring Cleaning. It’s time for a fresh start.

Lori Assadi Ramsey

Lori Assadi Ramsey is an author, musician, and kid’s illustrator who loves communicating the love of Jesus through words, music, and pictures. Called to encourage others, she has spent 30 years leading and participating in praise and worship ministry. A founding member of Manna of Life Foundation and the Chicken Coop Children’s Library in Ghana, Lori lives in Northern Virginia with her husband Mr. Ed, and her rescue pup Missi. You can connect with Lori @lightyourlamps, or Auntylulav.com

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  1. Great reminder. I’ve been going through my Dad’s estate over the past year, and have found that, just like you said, most of it doesn’t have then value we were once told it would. It’s hard to donate some things, but I have learned to remind myself that we are to be generous, and it’s a waste, even a sin, to hang on to things that others might need.

    Doing the spiritual clean out is a harder process, I think.

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