Cluttered Homes, Minds, and Societal Expectations

Cluttered Homes, Minds, and Societal Expectations

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Clutter! Warning! This post may offend some!

Clutter seems to be a hot topic right now across various social media channels I follow. It is one of those things that can build up quickly and seemingly out of nowhere! I know this first-hand because I spent many years living in a small apartment with two kids. We didn’t have a storage locker, and very little storage areas in the actual apartment itself, nor the basement suite we were in for 8 years. This meant periodically going through the place and making a run or two to the local thrift store, because we’d either a) outgrown something, b) didn’t use it anymore, c) forgot we had it and didn’t see a use for it, etcetera. This kept and still keeps the clutter caused by “stuff” at bay, for the most part.

But then there is clutter caused by daily living. The laundry may not get folded for a few days. The deep freeze becomes a catch-all countertop (if you keep it indoors like we did for years). We develop “corners” as I like to call them. My daughter has two “corners” in our bedroom, and sometimes they stretch into “walking space” causing me to trip over them in the dark. My son has a big “corner” in his bedroom that gets cleaned up or moved when when situations demand it, and for a number of years, his bike had to sit in there too. From time to time over the years, I have taken over a corner of the couch as an extension of my home office and the one place where I put my work bag, purse, choir binder, sheets that need to be filed, magazines, etc.

We just went through a forced de-cluttering when the threat of potentially moving slammed us the same week COVID-19 measures hit my province of Canada. We made a trip to the dump, the recycling depot, and the thrift store. My own desk requires de-cluttering periodically as well. It has been noted that when a home is free of clutter, a person can think better, experiences less stress and anxiety, and finds it easier to rest. Some employers when they consider remote-worker applications, actually ask for a picture of your workspace. This is akin to handwriting as they can tell how scattered your mind tends to be, or how organized you are based on how your desk looks.

materialismIn today’s materialistic society, even people in the Church still think they need the latest and greatest, the biggest and best, and to even hint at suggesting their standard of living is too high is enough to get gasped and huffed at.

My kids and I have found that living simply has positively impacted our health and outlook on life. For us however, it hasn’t been a case of needing to downsize how we live, quite the opposite in fact, as we have not had the money to splurge very often or on very much. The financial demographic I raised them in, is known as “the working poor”. We were “low-income” and learned many things about how to make a dollar stretch farther than most people think it can go! We haven’t been able to afford pop and chips whenever we felt like it. We haven’t been able to throw chocolate bars and cookies into the grocery cart for use in lunches and break-time snacks. We haven’t had the money to pay for monthly cable television or stay current with the gaming and phone gadgets out there. But far from feeling gipped or left out, my kids grew up not comprehending why people need all that stuff! From time to time over the years, I’d hear them talk about their dismayed amazement at the lifestyles people choose to live who then complain about how expensive everything is.

Empty pocketsI’ve run into this myself with people who try to identify with us, who have mortgage payments, go on vacations twice a year, eat out once a month and pay for cable television. I shake my head because their issues are due to having chosen a higher standard of living than they can afford, which really isn’t necessary to their personal survival or that of their family. If they had the same level of income, but lived within their means, they just might have more money available than they know what to do with. But their chosen standard of living sucks it out of them and they think they’re living broke.

The North American lifestyle unfortunately promotes that kind of living however. I’ve actually had family members accuse me of living third-world, precisely because we aren’t living up to the North American standard of living. To be bluntly honest dear reader, the North American lifestyle is overrated, overpriced, and the very reason many of our people are stressed out, suffer anxiety attacks, succumb to cancer and a whole myriad of illnesses, suffer mental and emotional breakdowns, snap, and more! When Scripture talks about abundance, material abundance is rarely intimated. Rather it’s abundance of life in Christ, abundance of life among family in and out of the church, abundance of treasure in Heaven, etcetera. This isn’t to say God frowns on material abundance, but the examples of healthy material abundance given in Scripture shows us men and women God gifted to earn the funds that would be used to advance His Kingdom here on earth! So many who teach the North American prosperity gospel forget that God’s idea of abundance works anywhere in the world, while the western concept of abundance only works in the western world and in so-called highly civilized societies. Material abundance in the prosperity gospel, is used as a measure of God’s blessing and anointing on a person’s life. This is wrong on every count possible! God blesses those with material abundance who will be wise and generous.

Scripture tells us that to whom much is given, much is required. Scripture also says that if we are faithful in few things, we will be made faithful in much. Therefore, God knows how much a person can handle, and sadly, whether due to lack of self-control or lack of teaching against the modern consumer culture, most people can’t handle their wealth very well. They squander it on debt payments, maintenance budgets, and on things that can’t be passed on either to those extending the Kingdom of God, or the next generation for whom an inheritance used to be set aside. It honestly isn’t necessary to live the way most North Americans do, in order to be healthy, happy and productive in today’s society. However this does go against popular thinking and modern cultural perspectives.

The observation is made every time a person comes home from a short-term missions trip, or even sometimes by long-term missionaries coming home on furlough, “They have so little and yet they are so happy!” No one seems to connect the dots! Why are they so happy with so little? They don’t have the stress of maintaining expensive possessions. They don’t have the anxiety created by needless accumulation of goods and clutter. Their health is not threatened by the convenience of processed instant foods. They don’t need things to be happy. They don’t need things to be restful. They don’t need things to feel secure.

What about you? Are you willing to buck the North American lifestyle?

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