I have a lot of stuff.
I knew that we had a lot of stuff going into the third month of the “7” Experiment: Possessions. (Wondering what the 7 experiment is? Read this post first.) I knew that I had plenty of things I could give away. But when I read the chapter of 7 about possessions, I just knew that it would be impossible to do what the author did. She and her family gave away 7 items a day– 210 items total! I didn’t think it would be possible for us to give that much away. I mean, we live in a one bedroom, 970 square foot apartment. I knew we had more than we needed, but I didn’t think I could possible give away that much in a month. So I set a different goal for myself, 100 items total. Surely we could give away 100 things.
But then I started assessing. I looked around our apartment and counted items. I already knew from the clothing month that I had 269 items of clothing, so I knew I could start there. And when I began to sort through my stuff, I realized just how much excess I had. And I was ashamed.
I had three coats and six jackets. I live in Georgia for crying out loud, why did I have so many coats and jackets? I realized that a homeless woman or a refugee woman could get far more use out of at least a couple of those warm weather items. To the give away pile they went.
I counted our plates. We had 13 plates. We could not fit 11 extra people in our apartment to entertain, so why did we have so many plates? I reluctantly (being transparent here, I really love our plates) put three in the pile. A newly arriving refugee family could really use those plates. They come to our country with nothing, three plates could make a huge impact in their new home.
I didn’t even try to count my books, but it was probably over 200 books. Why did I have so many books? Many of them were never opened after I read them one time, and there are so many organizations who could sell or use many of my books. 42 books went into the pile.
After I started, I feel like God started working on me with my excess. There are so many people who truly need the excess that I have. I started pulling items left and right to give away. Blankets, furniture, kitchen items, DVDs, clothes, shoes, books, decorative items, dog items, towels- the list kept growing. Before I knew it, we had given away 227 items. And I’m pretty sure that we really gave away closer to 250 items, but I stopped counting after awhile. Some of the things I gave away hurt a little bit. I really love our plates, it was hard parting with even a couple of them. I liked the chair that we gave away, it looked very nice in our sun room. And I love my books, I pride myself on my library of books. But guess what? Nearly a month later and I don’t miss those three plates, but I imagine that a Nepali or Burmese family is getting a lot of use out of them. I haven’t missed that chair at all. A Somali family of 9 probably uses it every day now. And my large wool coat that I haven’t worn in several years? There may be a lady in Atlanta who uses that coat to keep warm during cold nights now. And all those books? Some will go to Africa and others will be sold to provide education for young girls in India.
This month humbled me even more to the reality of the world’s needs. There are so many needs in my own community while I swim around in my excess of stuff. My stuff can be my treasure, which is wrong. My treasure should be in Christ and in serving and loving others. It shouldn’t be in my clothes, books, shoes, plates or furniture.
I feel like I could write a whole book on just this month, it was so rich and full of valuable lessons. I found my mind wandering to the needs of others far more frequently than normal, and it was a beautiful thing. I may never meet most of the people who got my ‘stuff’ this month, but I am so thankful for this experience. And don’t think for a second that I’m all self sacrificial and pious about this. I have struggled so much recently, especially in the area of clothing, to ‘replace’ much of what I gave away- which is pretty much missing the point. I am a work in progress but step by step I’m working towards a life that is much simpler, less bogged down with stuff, and more focused on what God is doing.
Here’s a list of some of the organizations I donated to this month (still have a few things left to drop off at some of these places)
Lutheran Services of Georgia- Refugee Services: Clothes, Kitchen Items, and furniture
Atlanta Mission – Coats
Covenant House of Georgia– Clothes
Books for Africa– Books
Wellspring Living Treasures Stores – Clothes
Goodwill – misc decor, DVDs