Bigger Barns

My second grade Sunday school teacher used to reward our class for memorizing scripture. Few things excite me as much as competition for prizes, so I learned verses like crazy and amassed a stack of Arch Book Bible stories. My favorite was the parable of the rich man in Luke 12 who scores a successful harvest and tears down his small barns and builds bigger ones so he can store his grain and enjoy his riches. But then God tells him, “Fool, tonight your life will be required of you. Then who will get what you have prepared for yourself?” (NIV)

My house isn’t huge by modern suburban standards, but it’s big enough for our family. What it isn’t large enough for is my stuff – which has expanded to fill every drawer, closet, and shelf. Does anyone else have to wade through menus, small appliance warranties, and coupons in order to find a rubber band in the kitchen junk drawer?

In January I was bored enough to watch a documentary on minimalism which challenged viewers to pare down their possessions over a thirty day period. The instruction was to get rid of one item on day one, two items on day two, and so on for thirty days. That’s a whopping 465 items altogether.

Days one through fifteen were pretty easy: clothes I didn’t wear, books I wouldn’t read again, cookbooks which I had never read at all, and craft supplies. When will I learn that, no, I will never make anything from Pinterest?

Days sixteen through twenty-four were a bit harder: duplicate clothing (nine grey v neck t-shirts), linens, more books, and travel souvenirs that I didn’t like or need but just “had to have” because gift shops are Siren songs to me.

Days twenty-five through thirty were challenging: items that belonged to my parents, wedding presents I’ve never used, and my Grandma Kuhlmann’s Jewel Tea dishes collected during the Depression.

I spent hours agonizing over what to keep and what to let go, but as soon as I boxed up the discarded items, put them in the garage, and scheduled a donation pickup, I forgot about them. These things that I had spent time and money acquiring weren’t important after all. What remains are memories of the people I loved – stuff has nothing to do with what was special between us. When God requires my soul and takes me home where moth and rust don’t destroy and where thieves don’t break in and steal, the people who remain here to clean up what is left over won’t have quite as large a task. And in the meantime, I don’t have to build a bigger “barn.” Win-Win.