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Handy vs. Hoarding?

If you have been in my home, you may be surprised to hear clutter is a struggle for me.  Most people who visit our home notice clean surfaces, neat cabinets, and tidy closets.  Our house generally fits the description, “A place for everything and everything in its place.”

God has been gracious to me.  He has filled our home so full of kids, it is simply not possible to hang on to everything I might otherwise keep.

We are fairly minimalistic in furnishings, clothing, toys, kitchen tools, household cleaners… everything except people, we seem to have an abundance of those! lol.

And yet, I like things to be handy.  So, in the name of efficiency, I often keep duplicates of things.

The idea of decluttering leads us to believe less is more.  And in many ways it is.  The less you keep, the less there is to clean and the more likely you are to be able to put things away.

But living cluttered or decluttered really comes down to a state-of-heart.

Last week I wrote a post addressing the potential sin element of clutter.  That sense of clutter tied to holding on to thing “just in case I need them” which implies a state of heart of trusting my own provision over trusting God’s provision.  If I don’t trust God to meet my needs, I will hold on to too much in an attempt to provide for myself.  You can read more about that here.

But there’s a flip side to the clutter coin.  Sometimes it isn’t clutter to have multiples of the same item.  See, there is also a state of heart which chooses to be intentional and disciplined.  Clutter-free homes have a high incidence of intentionality and discipline.

One way clutter builds up in my house, and I suspect yours as well, is when there are barriers to completing tasks.  Say you’ve decided to fix the broken handle on the screen door. The broken piece has to live somewhere until you can fix it, right?  Even if you are on your game and buy the needed parts on the next shopping trip, how quickly will you get to this “minor” repair if you have to go to the garage, clear a path to the storage closet, dig out the tool chest, find the WD-40, re-charge the drill battery, locate the tools missing from the tool chest, AND find time to do all of this?  Not very quickly, I’d guess.  Even a quick job can take a long time to accomplish if you spend a lot of time getting tools together to complete the job.  And it takes me even longer to start work that I know will meet with many barriers.  I have a mental block to even putting it on any particular list.

Sure, there are efficiencies to grouping like tasks when possible, but usually I’m looking for excuses if I’m waiting until I have several tasks requiring a metric socket wrench…

A while back I made the decision to keep duplicates of some things if it adds to our efficiency or removes barriers to getting things done.

It can be little things like, in our house, every kid has their own tube of toothpaste .  This keeps quarrels at high stress times to a minimum, and we don’t share germs when there’s a bug going through the house.  This may seem like a lot of duplication (eight tubes of toothpaste in use at any given moment…), which is one of the side effects of clutter, but in our case it enhances efficiency.  It was an intentional choice.  And really, we’re going to use the same amount of toothpaste eventually, it’s just whether I buy the tubes sequentially or in tandem.  I chose tandem.

It also takes the form of bigger things.  I have multiple tool bags (more on tools in an upcoming post).

It is important to be careful about duplicates.  Sometimes keeping something means something else has to go.  I don’t have room in my linen closet for the number of hand towels we keep AND multiple sets of bath towels.  I chose to use my space for enough hand towels to change them daily while only washing once per week over keeping two bath towels per person.  Other people might prioritize their space differently.  The point isn’t really isn’t about how much stuff you have, it’s about being a good steward of the stuff, the space, and the time you have.

This is how I can live with the apparent contradiction “less is more” and “have essentials on hand before I can count to ten.”

So when is duplication handy and when is it hoarding?

I think it comes back to the discussion last week – it all depends upon what is going on in my heart.  I may keep dozens of hand towels, but we actually use all of them, I have space for them, and it would be easy for me to pick the best ones to give to a friend if they had a house fire and had to replace everything.  The hand towels don’t hold my heart – they help life with seven kids work for us.

Those dishes on my counter, on the other hand, aren’t getting used, I don’t have space for them, and the only reason I still have them is because I’m afraid I’ll give them away and the recipient will sell them for a lot of money and since I live on a pretty tight budget, that notion is hard to swallow.  Perhaps I’m still trying to provide for myself instead of trusting God’s provision.  I think perhaps that’s hoarding.