I don’t know if it’s getting the Christmas decorations out or the piles of mystery boxes in the basement, but I’ve been on a ruthless house purge lately. I don’t know where all of this stuff came from, but I want about 50% of it gone. Often times, I feel like a stuff-wrangler rather than a wife, mom, writer or church member. I don’t like that feeling.
Of course, if you’ve been on the home design part of the internet the past few years, you’ve probably heard of the KonMari method of cleaning: purging your possessions until you are only surrounded by those things which sparks joy. It promises more peace, more control over one’s life, and more joy. There’s nothing wrong with cleaning out your closets, especially when you can give things to people who can use them.
Searching for Peace in the Wrong Way
But the KonMari method is faulty thinking. It promises joy and peace through control, specifically control of one’s environment and possessions. The Gospel calls us into joy and peace through surrender.
Our culture has long told us that more is better. If we have more house, more stuff, a bigger car, we’ll be happy. No surprise, rampant materialism has proven a weak god.
Now we’re hearing the opposite: having less stuff will give you peace. You’ll be more joyful when you only own a small amount of carefully curated things. This is still seeking joy and fulfillment through possessions. But now there’s a different facade.
In other words, minimalism is still materialism. Same pendulum. Different direction.
Set our Hopes on God
Scripture charges us to examine our hearts concerning our possessions:
“As for the rich in this present age, charge them not to be haughty, nor to set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches, but on God, who richly provides us with everything to enjoy. They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life.” 1 Timothy 6:17-19
Paul, who is writing this letter to Timothy, focuses squarely on the eternal here. One may be rich in this present age, but poor in good works. Or one may be rich in the present age with their hopes set on God and their lives full of generosity. Money and personal possession only offer the facade of security. No amount of hoarding things will give us security, and no amount of curating our possessions will give the lasting peace we desire. That only comes from fixing our hopes on God.
He has blessed some of His people with abundant financial means. We are to delight in Him for these things. Part of delighting in Him is to share as He shares: abundantly. God is constantly inviting people into the joy he experiences. We are to be just as generous with our material possessions.
Generosity Over Self-Centeredness
It may seem that this can live in line with the KonMari method. It urges you to get rid of things and give them away does it not? However, the goal is KonMari is not generosity, but in owning things that only give you joy by eliminating the things that do not. The focus is squarely on you and your emotions, not on the people you’re donating your leftovers to. Scripture urges us to take the focus off of ourselves and our stuff and fix our eyes on the Lord.
Does this mean that wealthy people have to live on next to nothing and give away most of their money? No, the text doesn’t support that. But if we’re focused on our possessions, seeking joy from them in such a way that it is inhibiting us from doing good, being rich in good works, being generous and ready to share then our possessions have become our idol.
The pleasure we get from earthly things – whether it be an abundance of possessions or a minimalist curated collection – will inevitably end. It will fade or we will die, whichever comes first. However, joy in the Lord is eternal. It stands the test of time. In thanking Him for the gifts He has given, both material and eternal, we can find a deep, abiding joy.
A Heart Issue
So what does this mean for my house purging? It changes my goal. I started getting rid of things when I was frustrated by the constant clutter. I wanted fewer possessions to deal with because I thought that was the way to deal with my frustration. But as I’ve turned these thoughts over in my head while sorting boxes in the basement, I realized that I was seeking my own peace through reducing the clutter.
But clutter is not the problem. My heart is. I need to set my hope on God, not on a clean house. I need to set my mind on Christ and his work on the Cross, even while I sort piles of things to be given away.
To be sure, getting rid of some stuff will make it easier to find the things we actually use. And it will mean less time cleaning and organizing, which means more time for more important things. Plus, people could actually use some of these things.
But it will not bring me peace. It will not fix my heart problem. In some magical far off Neverland where I actually finish purging every last item that my family doesn’t need, I will still find things to be frustrated and discontent about. But Christ offers peace and the knowledge that we rest in the hands of an Eternal God who cares about our day-to-day even in the middle a pile of mystery boxes.