My house is getting cleaner. It looks less full. There is a couch on my front porch waiting to be discarded because I stopped sentimentally holding onto that one piece of ragged furniture that I didn't want to give up because I reupholstered it myself. What has happened to me?
A couple months ago we agreed to host a few Ugandan girls from the African Children's Choir. What started out as a way to bless someone else quickly turned into an amazing blessing for us and our kids. The girls had such beautiful personalities and resilient attitudes. My kids watched as the girls sang out sweet worship songs for God in our home- you could see the joy in their dance, feel their passion in their clapping and words.
And their gratitude was stunning- they called me "Auntie" and every time I did ANYTHING for them they said thank you. "Thank you, Auntie, for the towel." "Thank you, Auntie, for driving us." "Thank you, Auntie, for the food."
I saw in them this strange lack of entitlement, a habit of gratitude, an infectious joy...all things I desperately want for my own children. But these Ugandan girls also had nothing. They each had a small duffle bag with only essentials for their one year choir tour across the US, Canada and the UK. And they moved from home to home, with no say over what kind of food would be served them. They simply accepted it with thanks.
In contrast, my kids have more toys, clothes than they know what to do with. They have food choices galore right at their fingertips. But they are not very quick to say thank you. They are easily disappointed by what they can't have and don't get. So am I, very often. I realized that I buy my children things because I enjoy that- because I want to make them happy and give them a fun childhood. But things don't seem to give them lasting happiness.
And I began to wonder if all the American dream materialism that I buy into is actually stunting the greater goals I have for my kids of gratitude, contentment, and generosity.
So when those sweet girls from Uganda left, I resolved to change. I bagged up at least 6 trash bags full of all kinds of clothes and toys that the kids don't need and I gave them away. Crazy thing...within the next two weeks I bagged up many more bags to give away. It got to be like a drug. The more I gave away, the more space we had in the house. The more I cleared out places full of junk, the more storage space I'm finding for things that actually need a home.
And my heart is feeling a little bit lighter. Instead of feeling sad by the loss of things that I was holding onto because they were a little sentimental or because I "might need it one day" I actually find I'm feeling freedom. And my kids? Well aside from my 4 year old randomly missing his McDonald's chattering teeth toy (??!!), they haven't noticed a single thing I've given away.
But maintaining the attitude of declutter is hard. Hard in America. Hard for me. We just had a town-wide tag sale and you have no idea how difficult it was for me to NOT stop at one. And the other day I went to Target and even though I bought a bath mat, something we "needed", I let the sale price and the thrill of a purchase blind me to the impracticality of my buy.
See, I got a white bath mat. Maybe you didn't read that well. WHITE. I got a WHITE bath mat. I have three kids. Its summer time. We own a sandbox. What the heck was I thinking? Even the guy at the checkout counter made a comment about the white mat...how it was getting dirty and it wasn't even wet yet. If that wasn't a glaring warning sign, I don't know what is. It has been in our house 2 days and it has already been peed on by my baby. I think God and the store clerk are still laughing.
So I guess I still have a ways to go, learning to buy EXACTLY what I need, only when I really need it. But baby steps to progress are something- and I'll enjoy the freedom my soul is beginning to feel.