Another snow day! BIG snow day! As in, Spud is forced to pee on the front porch (gross, I know, but at least it is covered in snow so he thinks he is in the yard. Poor little guy would drown out there!). I am struggling to keep a 2 year old and a 1 year old occupied. I am trying to limit Mickey Mouse and Sesame Street. However, it has just come to my attention that maybe I’m not doing a great job at this. In the past hour, Mason has 1) sang the “Nationwide” song and 2) asked me if I knew Jake from State Farm. Yeah, I’m doing a bad job.
Time to branch out. I’m not creative, as you know from my last post (I mean, I can identify with Susie.). So I decided to be busy and productive. The house really needs cleaning, and we desperately need to sort through things and get rid of unused items. It just so happens that my women’s bible study group is having a yard sale in a few weeks to raise money for local missionaries. Great opportunity.
While the boys have spent the majority of their time dumping, discovering, and demolishing, I have tried to work around them to clean and sort. I don’t mean the kind of cleaning that I normally do: brush the surface and shove things under the beds so that the parts that will be seen by the average visitor are at least decent looking. I mean I moved furniture to get to the dust rabbits (bunnies makes them sound little and cute), scrubbed the showers, sorted through the medicine cabinet and threw away 15 bottles that had expired in 2012, and went through the piles in the closets.
The ironic thing is we will be stuck inside for at least another 3 days and by the end of that time, each room will have lost its sparkle and no visitor will be able to appreciate my hard work.
Oh well. I did it for me anyway.
It feels good to have a total clean out. To get rid of all the crap we accumulated in the past year. Not that it’s been an entire year since I cleaned like this. Maybe. You know, since my first child was born, my sense of time has gone out the window.
So now I’m sitting here enjoying my sparkling room and the 4 new pictures on the walls thanks to the man of the house who is flexing his husband muscles since there is currently nothing in season to hunt. I am thoroughly enjoying the boys’ nap time with a cup of hot tea (Sorry you fellow southerners, this is the only kind of tea I like. Don’t judge.). I keep obsessively glancing at the baby monitor to see if either boy is squirming. A complete waste of time, I know. I love them dearly, but I am desperate for what little time I will get to myself.
As refreshing as the house cleaning rampage has been, it has left me feeling a little bit blah. I enjoy the results, but the experience highlighted something that I am ashamed of. As much as I want to brush this under the rug with the rest of my dirt, I can’t ignore it. It’s something I’ve struggled with for many years and probably always will. I have a love-hate relationship with it.
I am drowning in stuff. I am nowhere close to being a hoarder like you see on TLC. Then again, maybe I’m just more skilled at placing it in totes and hanging it on hangers. No matter how often I clean and sort and make give away piles, I never seem to get to the bottom.
How in the world did I accumulate all of this?
8 different vases? Well, I might want to use that color for that occasion, that one was from someone special, that one looks great with hydrangeas….
12 pairs of flip flops? Well, those look good with that one dress, those are extra comfy, those I have never worn but have kept them every time I’ve cleaned out the closet in hopes that the perfect outfit will come along…
14 different colors of nail polish even though I only use maybe 4? Well you never know when I’ll need that shade of blue, a friend who comes to stay might need one of those other colors…
16 different candles?
You get the point.
This isn’t meant to be a guilt-producing post. It’s simply my reflection on a personal conviction. Dare I say a cultural conviction also? I’m not blaming my choices on the American way, but I can’t deny the context in which I was brought up. If I drive 2 miles from my house, I will find 6 chain restaurants, 3 gas stations and a car lot that has 50+ cars that have less than 100 miles on them. I have access to thousands (maybe millions?) of online websites where I can choose from 10 colors and 6 sizes of the exact same shirt. And then there are the holidays. I won’t even go there.
Do I think all of these things are bad? Well considering I frequently visit these places, drive an almost new car, and am constantly tempted with online clothing deals (of which I occasionally give in), obviously not. Most every November, I tell close family and friends that I really don’t want or need any presents, but we continue to give each other stuff or gift cards that we use to go buy more stuff. Again, giving is not bad, and I’m not saying I will hate you forever if you buy me a Christmas gift, I’m just saying I feel crazy accepting more stuff and buying myself more stuff when I’m busting at the seams with the stuff I already have. Shew! My mind is spinning just thinking about it.
Something in my gut tells me it’s too much. Why do I let myself get bogged down in stuff? It only makes more I have to clean, more I have to organize, more that I am worried about protecting with insurance and a house alarm. It takes away from time I could be doing things that matter, things that have more significance than how my flowers are displayed or what color my toenails are. AGAIN I’m not advocating that we get rid of our vases and nail polish; these are just examples of MY excess.
When I actually take time to cut down and drop off five trash bags full to a donation site, I feel relieved. Notice I didn’t say “I feel good for giving to someone else”, although that is definitely a plus; the truth is, I feel relieved to get it out of my small space more than anything.
I have gotten better since the boys were born. I don’t have nearly the time to online shop. I never go to a mall unless it’s to ride the train with the boys. But even though I have cut down on my personal purchases, the boys come with MORE STUFF! And that’s ok; they need clothes, shoes, coats, toys, etc.. But looking around their room, do they need 4 riding toys and 20 Hot Wheels? They honestly seem to play better when everything is put up and they have cardboard boxes and plastic spatulas.
I gotta say, a big part of me is disgusted. While I am so grateful for our blessings and the option to live like we do, I feel like I have given over a big chunk of my life to the worldly blessings. Are these things taking up space that could be occupied by something greater?
While I could write 300 pages analyzing the economics, politics, and psychology behind why we’ve let ourselves be comfortable with this, I don’t think that’s necessary. You don’t have to look very deep to understand why we are a society full of unhealthy, unhappy, unsatisfied people who continue to seek purpose in material things. We indulge because we can, and because we are convinced that more is better. We are driven by a desire to get more and create more. I don’t even want to think about what we are doing to the environment in the process. It makes me want to puke.
I crave the bare necessities. I can breathe easier when life is less cluttered.
I can’t get the Jungle Book song out of my head. Hopefully, when the boys are finished cleaning up their pile of 500 blocks, I can turn on the movie and replace the insurance marketing tunes with these lyrics:
And don’t spend your time lookin’ around
For something you want that can’t be found
When you find out you can live without it
And go along not thinkin’ about it
I’ll tell you something true
The bare necessities of life will come to you.