Home > Online Magazine > Online Magazine: Edition 24 - August/September 2008 > The Good the Bad and the Ugly
The Good the Bad and the Ugly
by Erica Green
The Good the Bad and the Ugly - Hoarding
As human beings we like to classify people into little boxes, or perhaps that is just me. The whole thing just seems more efficient. Once you have worked out who you are dealing with, you don't have to waste time second guessing where people are coming from. It also minimises misunderstandings and upsets at things that are just because of the different ways that people think and view things. We are encouraged in this activity by the disciplines of modern and pop psychology, which provide us with many sets of labels, depending upon which specialty you subscribe to or which day-time television 'guru' you pay attention to. (Eg: Extrovert/Introvert or Phlegmatic/Choleric.)
However, I would like to propose a slightly different classification, with far less scientific substance of course. Well, no scientific substance at all really, but why let that stand in the way of a good theory? I believe that a large section of western civilisation can be simply divided into two classifications of people, with Hoarders at one extreme and Minimalists at the other. Now, I think that I could safely bet, that at this moment, you are mentally moving yourself somewhere along this continuum and finding a comfortable spot to reside that you believe represents you. Check with someone else and you might find that they have a differing opinion of where you belong.
As I go on further in this article, I want to make it clear that I am in no way making any critical judgment of either of these classifications or of where you personally sit.
So let's take a little closer look at an example of a typical hoarder. My father would have to be classified as a full-on, deliberate or intentional hoarder. In fairness to my Dad, perhaps not in all parts of his life but specifically when it comes to the contents of his shed. His shed is his haven and it is chock-a-bloc with pieces of wood, bolts, nuts, screws, tools, paint, tiles, and greasy bits of this and that, which he has been collecting for more than 50 years. That is a bloke thing, right? Or is it an outcome of having been a child growing up on the edge of the depression? Who knows from whence it cometh, but it is what it is.
Dad will take great delight in letting you know when he has been able to put to good use something that he had been saving in the shed for "just such an occasion". With a suitably smug expression and a complete sense of exoneration in his hoardage, he will state, " I told you it would come in handy one day".
I am sure that there is something quite peculiarly special about Dad's shed. Over the years I would suggest that far more has gone into the shed, than has ever come out of it. I think it must be made from the same stuff as Snoopy's doghouse or Doctor Who's TARDIS. It seems to be much bigger on the inside than it is on the outside. I am told that the correct term to use here is 'inversely proportional'.
Mind you, I can't scoff too much, as I have benefited personally from this trait, as Dad presented me with a beautiful large rolling pin, turned by him on his lathe. It was made from wood that came from some of the trees that were grown on Grandma and Grandpa's old farm. When you think that grandpa died just after I was born, you can get an idea of how long he may have kept this special piece of wood. You just can't buy rolling pins like mine in the shops and the source of the wood and the fact that it was made especially for me by Dad, means that it has sentimental value for me.
As for me, where do I fit on the continuum? Not as extreme as my Dad and his shed, but I must admit to some hoarding tendencies. However, I would classify myself more as an unintentional or cyclical hoarder rather than a full-on hard-core hoarder. (Perhaps I should consult on this with someone else. They might have a different opinion.) I cannot believe how quickly stuff accumulates and sneaks up on one. Things are going along fine until one day you realise that there is no room in the cupboard in the kitchen and the closet in the spare room is bursting at the hinges, or the wardrobe is 50% filled with clothes that you know you are never going to fit into again and even if you could you would not wear in a pink fit. It is then that you realise that it is time for a good spring clean, (any season will do) which you invariably put off until you finally can't stand it any more.
You know how cathartic the process of hurling junk out is once you start. Well, perhaps it is not so much the process itself that is cathartic but the finished results that are pretty good. Moving house every few years is an excellent catalyst for getting stuck into de-clutter mode. As an aside, you do know of course that books are always exempt from this clean up, as it is a well known fact that throwing out books is a mortal sin and you will go straight to hell. (Please don't send letters to the editor on the biblical basis for this statement. I do not really believe that you will go to hell. It is only an expression in jest to illustrate my own personal proclivities with regard to books.)
I am not so sure that I particularly like the label "hoarder" being applied to me personally either, but there you are. I guess I have used work, church duties and study as an excuse to have a less than perfect domestic environment. Well that is my excuse; if you think that it would be useful for yourself, you are welcome to borrow it. Feel free, and there is no need to acknowledge the source of the excuse either.
Now at the extreme other end of the spectrum, I have a friend who is the ultimate minimalist. She has a total fixation with clear surfaces. I can guarantee that you would never find the presence of a nick-knack, let alone one that had been allowed to collect dust, in her house. Open a cupboard in the kitchen and there is everything in its place with clear defined space, surrounding delineated locations for various items. If her kids stood still for too long, I swear that she would throw them out too!
She got so wound up on a cleaning binge of her wardrobe one day, that it was not until she had taken the load of clothes to the St. Vinnie's bin, at the shopping centre, that she realised that she did not even have enough work clothes left in the wardrobe to cover the gap between regular laundry days. She never does anything by halves, this one, and if I were to let her loose in our house she would have a field day, working herself into an absolute de-clutter frenzy.
So far, we have talked mainly about physical hoarding and clutter but there are other areas where we can also demonstrate these tendencies, like in the area of our spiritual lives. As with the physical, so with the spiritual, there are up sides and down sides of each extreme. There is the good, the bad, and the ugly.
On the Bad Side, Guilt.
We can carry around great bags of guilt from the past, that clutters up the place and weigh us down. The more guilt we stuff into our closet, the less room there is for the positive stuff. Our spiritual health will suffer, until we can get around to a good spring clean.
I cannot imagine anyone saying, "I have been saving this big slab of guilt up for just such an occasion as this. I knew that it would come in handy one day". You know that is never going to happen, so why hang onto it. It has neither intrinsic nor sentimental value.
God has a giant skip and will be happy to cart off your guilt clutter any time. All you need to do is ask. The bible gives us a couple of pieces of advice here.
- "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness". (1 John 1:9, NIV). Seems pretty simple to me, so you would wonder why we do not do it more often, wouldn't you?
- This next section of the bible is from Micah, when in incredulity mode, he talks about what God is like. "Who is a God like you, who pardons sin and forgives the transgression of the remnant of his inheritance? … You will again have compassion on us; you will tread our sins underfoot and hurl all our iniquities into the depths of the sea." (Micah 7:18-19, NIV). And, no fair setting up a salvage team to dive in and dredge them up again. Who do you think you are anyway? If 'The' Big Guy, you know, God, The Creator and Ruler of the Universe, has gone to the effort of personally stomping on your pathetic sins and hurling them into the ocean, then you had jolly well better leave them there and accept his forgiveness.
On the Ugly side, Resentment.
We can carry around bad experiences from the past, harbouring resentment, until it eats away at our ability to enjoy life here and now. We cling onto these things, even when they serve no useful purpose and even when we know that they stop us from living up to the potential that God has designed for us.
I guess this is the flip side of God forgiving us. The bible gives us some hints here also.
- "For if you forgive men when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you." (Matthew 6:14, NIV). If God is willing to do it for us surely we should be able to pass it on to others.
- There is the story told in the Bible of the disciples, who were obviously hacked off with someone at the time. They sent Peter to ask Jesus this question. "…'Lord, how many times shall I forgive my brother when he sins against me? Up to seven times?' Jesus answered, 'I tell you, not seven times, but seventy times seven' ". (Matthew 18:21, NIV). Ouch! Pretty hard to do. If a 'brother' is hurting me so continually, it does not sound to me like they are seeking forgiveness, there is no repentance here, and I will be totally disinclined to offer it. It would be like casting pearls before swine. But perhaps this forgiveness thing is more for the needs of the forgiver than for the needs of the forgivee. It is all about ceasing to feel resentment and/or ceasing to seek or wish for revenge. It is not about giving them permission to hurt you again. It is about not hoarding or nurturing poisonous feelings that have the potential to harm you even more. Isn't that bizarre, turning forgiveness around into almost a selfish thing? (I can do selfish.) But sometimes it gets to that stage, where forgiveness of others is something that you need to do for yourself.
On the Good side, Experiential Trust.
We can store up memories of the times that God has been with us in the past, those little moments when you have seen God at work in your life. Ask my Dad any day and he will be happy to regale you with a raft of stories of God's blessing, protection and providence in his life and invariably he will end his story with this quote. "The only thing that we have to fear for the future is that we forget the way that God has led us in the past". You have probably heard that a hundred times too, but you know that he is right and you would never want to throw that stuff out.
Whether you tend to hoarding or minimalism, I think the knack here is in knowing what to hang on to and what to throw out. It is all to do with recognising the things that will be uplifting and the things that you should give to God to take away, because they will only drag you down. So I would encourage you today, to think about having a bit of a spiritual spring-clean of the 'bad' and the 'ugly' stuff but remember to hang onto the 'good' stuff. You don't even have to do it all yourself. You can call in the expert heavenly cleaning team and even better still, the bill has already been paid.
Lord, give us:-
- The trust to throw out the bad things in our lives that are holding us back,
- The insight to let go of the ugly things that are eating away at us and,
- The wisdom to hang on tight to those good things that are encouraging and uplifting.
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