Last summer an unfortunate woman was found dead in the basement of her Connecticut home. The first floor of her house had collapsed on her under the weight of all the stuff she had accumulated over the years. Her possessions, stacked to the ceiling with only a narrow, labyrinth-like pathway through it all, quite literally smothered her.
This is a dramatic example, of course, but accumulating those things that fall outside the realm of the necessary, will take your life just as certainly. Jesus said it like this: “Don’t store up treasures here on earth, but store your treasures in heaven. Seek the Kingdom of God above all else.” These words are directed at every packrat, collector, hoarder, attic squirrel, and garage-gatherer among us. If you aren’t using it, you don’t need it. Hang on to it, and it will take your life from you.
I’ve often said that the most deeply spiritual thing that some of us could do is have a garage sale; or sell a property, or dump a portfolio; because our spiritual lethargy is the direct result of carrying too much baggage, trying to manage too much stuff. We have too many possessions, too many obligations, and it’s a recipe for misery. When we simplify, we are doing much more than getting rid of the weight of physical possessions. We are making space to breathe, to thrive, to live.
By giving up some of the things we hoard, we aren’t losing, we are gaining; gaining freedom to pursue life. This was Henry David Thoreau’s motivation when he retreated to the woods of Walden Pond. He lived there for two years wrestling with the question, “How much is enough?” and more importantly, “How much does it actually cost a person to obtain his or her possessions?” He rightly concluded that the cost of a thing is not the financial price tag attached to it. It is the amount of one’s life it takes to get it.
Thoreau said, “Very little is actually needed to live well and to be free. Simplify, and once you have secured the necessaries, then you can confront the true problems of life with freedom.” And there Thoreau brings us to the universal human ambition: We all just want to be free and happy. But getting more won’t get it done, because more and more of what is not good for you will only smother you.
Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, blogger, pastor, and author of multiple books. Visit his website at www.ronniemcbrayer.net.