I’ve been thinking about Stuff.

We all have lots of Stuff, probably more than we need. Chances are it’s getting in our way: out of season clothes that clog the closet, fondue pots and mismatched Tupperware that get in our way in the kitchen cupboard, or unused electronics that line the steps to the garage or basement.

Stuff takes our energy many times over. First we want it, which takes energy. Then we must earn the money to buy it. We must spend our time shopping for it. We must maintain it or clean it or upgrade it. If we move, we must put it in boxes and haul it up steps or ship it.

Some Stuff is great. Sometimes it serves us and enhances our life. Our electronics put information at our fingertips. Our Tupperware makes it easy to pack a lunch. Our clothes make dressing a pleasure.

Sometimes Stuff even makes life more beautiful. A prized picture in a frame. A bowl for peaches. A really excellent hair care product.

What I have come to see is that Stuff can be helpful, or it can hinder, but it is never neutral. This is the key point.

Our possessions have a tendency to possess us. This is why they are called possessions.

Right now my daughter is packing up her things to move home after graduating from college. Just last fall I helped her pack up many of these same items as she moved from one student apartment to another.

That experience last fall was one of the things that got me thinking about Stuff differently.

My daughter lives in Boston, in an area where many college students live, in decrepit housing. Last fall when everyone moved at once, the streets overflowed with stuff, quite literally. Mattresses and kitchen items and clothing. Empty booze bottles and unused waffle irons and cheap aluminum pans.

Of course, we stepped over that Stuff to buy the Stuff we needed: canned goods and curtains and a shelf for the bathroom.

I was glad to have the time and energy to buy what was needed. I was not so glad to participate in the mass river of consumption and avoidable waste.

How can we handle our Stuff in a way that tips the balance toward helpfulness, rather than hindrance? How can we have a relationship with Stuff that causes ease rather than stumbling?

Because it will be one way or the other, won’t it?

Of course, I’m not saying anything new or particularly profound.

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.? ~ Matthew 6:19-21


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