For some time now, I have been cleaning out my garage, confirming the well-known adage “that stuff not only happens — it accumulates.”
You will note for the sake of transparency I said cleaning; my wife would perhaps more accurately describe my process as rearranging. In my own defense, my garage has been cleaned multiple times throughout the years, but most of the time it was cleaned out to move in more stuff.
I suppose I have the usual life excuses for the massive amounts of clutter: we have lived in our home for 25 years for a start. Children have come and gone to and from college, requiring stored stuff, became married had families stored stuff. Parents have passed away and yes as a result, we have stored stuff.
Since my retirement the cleaning has been a long and difficult task on several levels. First of all, the sheer volume of stuff, and since life is messy, it often means that things are not necessarily stored in logical order. This results in what some would consider haphazard stacking, which means one has to move things to get to other stuff so things can be properly categorized and assessed.
You can’t just wily nily throw stuff away. Everyone knows that when you throw something away, you need one the next week. It is some sort of cosmic law. There may be some reading this who might make a rush to judgment and say “this guy is a hoarder.” But who among us has not had to go out and replace something they thought they would never use again? I will cite baby cribs as one example.
Once the categorizing has been completed then the assessment process begins, which is by far the more complicated and time consuming. It begins with will I ever use this again — see cosmic law above. Then there is question of value, which also is not all that simple. Does it have real value, imagined value or sentimental value?
I have marveled at some of the stuff I have kept over the years before deciding it was time for it to go. For the sake of privacy or pride, I won’t give examples. I have seen enough Antique Road show and American Pickers episodes to know there may be value in my stuff. I have a spatula with a thumb lever that causes it to flip itself, which has to have value to someone somewhere.
The most difficult is the sentimental value, those connections to people and times that are gone but not forgotten. There was a bumper sticker years ago that said, “The one who dies with the most toys wins,” which precipitated another sticker that said, “The one who dies with the most toys still dies.”
Jesus had been talking with His followers about the fact there would be a cost to discipleship and He asked, “What good is it for a man to gain the whole world, yet forfeit his soul? Or what can a man give in exchange for his soul? (Mark 8: 36-37 NIV) Someone said that, “money is a wonderful servant but a terrible master.” The same thing could said about stuff. The only part of us that will last, the only thing eternal, is our soul and it requires appropriate assessment.
Bill Upton is chaplain of the Tooele City Police Department.