This past weekend, in the midst of 80-degree January heat, I did some “false spring” cleaning. I went through the stuff I had tucked away in my closet, threw a lot of things away, and found some new homes for a bit of my more useful clutter. I delivered a paper bag full of audio cables to my friend Matt on Monday, and he asked my why I was getting rid of stuff. “Are you preparing to move?” he asked. “No,” I answered intuitively, “I’m just cleaning out some stuff,” but then as I walked back to my office from Matt’s, I began to consider why, really, I was giving those cables away.
I’ve been intentionally trying to get rid of things for about a year. I realized that the things I owned were taking up space – physical, mental, emotional, and therefore, spiritual “space” – in my life. There was very little room in my life for new experiences and relationships and understanding and aspects of God. I set about trying to clear things out, to raze the land and leave it vacant so that something new could grow.
The biggest hurdle in this quest was my cd collection. Over the previous nine years I had built up quite a collection of music. Very few people would be interested in most of the artists I collected. I specialized in a specific group of independent, Christian, folk artists with very loyal fans, and I refused to buy their albums from their websites, opting instead to patiently search through bins of cds in used book stores hoping to come across an ultra rare copy of one of these artists’ first albums that they only printed like 300 copies of back in 1996 in south central Florida when they were performing at vacation Bible schools and summer camps. Suffice it to say, this was a slow process, but I was persistent. I owned complete discographies of most of these artists.
And boy did they take up a lot of space and represent a lot of time and cost a lot of money. So I decided to give them away to anyone who wanted any of them. A bunch of friends came over one night and mercifully freed me of a bunch of these cds. As they left my apartment with their hands full of my painstakingly collected albums, something inside me hurt. It was like my friends had ripped off part of me, like part of my identity was walking out my front door.
Whether I like it or not, I have emotional attachments to my stuff, and I feel loss even when I willingly give some of my stuff away. The night I gave away so many of my favorite cds was particularly good because the pain I felt awakened me to this reality. Since then, I have not ventured to give away so much at one time again. It’s too painful. I have tried to make it a habit though to continually divest myself of possessions. Little bits at a time are much easier to deal with than stripping myself of so much emotional attachment at once.
Giving that bag of audio cables to Matt was just part of the continuing process of emptying myself of the things taking up space in my life and making room for something new, of being beholden not to stuff but to God and God alone.