40 Bags for 40 Days? Are You Kidding Me? A New Approach to Clutter

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"40 Bags for 40 Days? Are You Kidding Me? A New Approach to Clutter" by Tami Kiser (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

I will admit that when I saw this concept a few years ago, I thought it was great and jumped right in. Lent lasts for 40 days. The idea was to give away a bag of stuff for every day in Lent, signifying detachment, charitable giving, and at the same time, keeping your house clean. By day 4, though, I started cheating. And by the following week, I completely gave up. This isn’t because my home is so streamlined and uncluttered that I couldn’t find anything to stuff into a bag to give away, but rather, I got busy with life.

I just didn’t have the time or emotional energy that it took to find a whole bag of stuff to give away almost every day.

Besides, doesn’t anyone else struggle with a guilty feeling of being wasteful? I mean why am I throwing this stuff away that I paid good money for or someone was thoughtful enough to get for me?

Sure, we could think of donating our goods as a way to be charitable. We are giving our stuff to those in need. But let’s get real. Do you think that most of the shoppers at the Goodwill store really need our stuff? Sometimes I think we are just enabling people who are poor by American standards to live a cluttered, materialistic life. I’ve worked with poor families in our city. Their homes are not desolate and bare. They are usually loaded with stuff. More “things” are not what they need. In fact, their children wore better shoes than mine in most cases. I won’t try to address the problem of charity and the poor in this article. Let’s just do some self-searching and look at our own problems first–just in time for Lent.

Do you really think that when you donate your stuff to the Salvation Army, Goodwill, or some other organization that they will find a “worthy” home for it? Do you know how much stuff that these places dump into landfills on a daily basis? I am not against supporting these organizations even though the CEO of Goodwill makes over a 6-digit salary a year. I am just against thinking that we are being magnanimous because we part with our stuff to them. I just think that instead of emphasizing getting rid of stuff, we need to look at the other side of this problem–accumulating stuff.

Now don’t get me wrong. If any of you have been reading me for any length of time, you know that one of my mantras is to “unclutter” and “get rid of stuff.” However, lately I’ve been asking myself, “Is there a better method then just going about and grabbing stuff to get rid of?” Does this get to the core of the problem?

KonMari? Well, at least that would slow us down enough to look that toy squirt gun or better yet, beanie baby number 35 straight in the eyes and say, “Do you bring me pleasure?” At least that beats the grab and toss method. However, the KonMari method is flawed in many ways and won’t work for me because unlike Marie Kondo of this “Japanese Method of Tidying Up,” I live with 5 or 6 or often more people in my house. Most of the possessions in my home do NOT bring me joy in themselves–they are not supposed to. They bring me joy in a roundabout way. They are for others. Sometimes these possessions are for my husband, or kids, or grandkids, or neighbors, or church youth group, or sometimes, like my new Bujo markers, they are for me! I like some of the ways of the KonMari method–but overall, it doesn’t fit my philosophy of life. My home and everything in it are there for one reason–to bring me closer to Jesus. Period. This is how we should think about all of our possessions in our home.

But that doesn’t get to the root of our problem of accumulating stuff that we feel we just need to randomly toss into a bag and throw away. Our problem begins when we bring the stuff into our home. Perhaps this would be a better approach to follow during Lent. By all means, if you have a lot of stuff, clutter, etc., that you need to get rid of, do it. I am in the process of cleaning out our mudroom as I write (and I’d rather write than clean, but clean I must, so I need to finish this blog entry soon!)

"40 Bags for 40 Days? Are You Kidding Me? A New Approach to Clutter" by Tami Kiser (CatholicMom.com)

Copyright 2017 Tami Kiser. All rights reserved.

Finding a few things every day seems kind of random and not really thought out. It also seems like a shortcut to finding the proper place to store something. I know I only use our fondue pot once a year, and it takes up precious space on the top shelf in my pantry–but oh how our family loves our Christmas Eve fondue! Give that up? Never. Or worse, buy a fondue pot every year? And what about a few extra coats around? Some would say get rid of them. But honestly, I’ve been able to literally fulfill Jesus’ words: “If someone asks for a jacket, give them your coat as well.” Extra swimsuit so a friend can go swimming? Sure. We even have extra bikes so visitors can ride, too. Are these clutter?

​This is not a minimalist approach–but it feels more hospitable and Christlike. I’ve struggled with the minimalist approach versus keeping everything. Are you the mom who saves all of your clothes for the next child or don’t bother and wait for providence to dump more on your doorstep or just simply go out and buy more?

There is a fine line to walk. Here are some questions to ask yourself when you are cleaning out:

  • Is this possession just clutter?
  • Do I have room in my home for this without making my home feel crowded?
  • Are the chances good that someone might need this?
  • Does storing or possessing this bring me extra work?
  • Will this bring joy to me, a family member, or someone else in my life?
  • Can I find someone to donate it to who will use it. and it won’t just be clutter for them?

What we need this Lent is to bring 40 bags less into our house. Less clothes shopping. Less decor. And yes, even less food. We need to change our mindset when it comes to buying presents for our children and spouse. Most of us do need less stuff, so let’s look at what we bring into our homes in addition to what we are taking out of our homes.

This is the beginning of the conversation. How do you walk this line of having too few vs. too many possessions? Being good stewards of the gifts God has given you vs. getting rid of stuff not used so often? Constantly having to pick up things because you have toooooo much stuff vs. having enough stuff to keep everyone happy?

Copyright 2017 Tami Kiser

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About Author

Tami is the author Smart Martha’s Catholic Guide for Busy Moms and the founder of www.smartmartha.com. She lives in Greenville, SC with her husband of 29 years.  She has 10 children:  8 boys and 2 girls ranging in age from 27 to 4. She also has 5 grandchildren.   Tami runs the Smart Martha ministry, CatholicFamilyCelebrations.com, the CatholicMosaic.com, and teaches dance classes.  Thinking like a Smart Martha has helped her to constantly seek to “sit at Christ’s feet” even in the midst of piles of laundry and sinks of dirty dishes. Visit Tami at
www.smartmartha.com.

2 Comments

  1. Hi Tami! Loved your insights on this topic. As someone who loves to shop I came around to a similar conclusion and have given up shopping for the past two Lents. I will make a monetary donation asof the sacrifice. This year I’m leaning towards donating to The Word Among Us prison ministry.

    I also wanted to clarify something. Not only does the Goodwill CEO make a six figure salary, they actually do not donate any money to the needy. If you feel inclined to donate your gently used items I would most respectfully suggest you find someone other than Goodwill. Thanks!

  2. Thank you. Although I confess to shopping at the Goodwill, I also donate elsewhere like Salvation Army or we have a local charity that does resale. We all just need to get out of this consuming mentality. Lent is a great time to reset and reevaluate.

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