The 7 Experiment – Possessions

“Do not lay up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy and where thieves break in and steal, but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust destroys and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” Matthew 6: 19-21

Saturday wrapped another week of mine and Oatmeal’s pledge to complete The 7 Experiment.

Last week was a fast from our possessions.  (The week before that was a fast from clothing, which you can read about here.  And no, we didn’t just hang out naked all week.)  The 7 Experiment recommended we purge our possessions by donating 7 items to a needy cause each day for a week.  The author challenged us to really make it count and donate items from every area of our home.  I think that many people, women in particular, could probably clean out 7 items a day from their closet and bedroom alone and not even feel a difference.  (I would have fallen into that category with my t-shirt drawer alone… I probably could have donated 30 tshirts before noticing a dent.  But since the whole point of the fast is to push yourself a little and make yourself feel a little bit out of your element, I did my best to follow instructions.

Overall this little project was more difficult than I imagined.  There were a few reasons for that.  First of all, I literally just cleaned out my house so that we could rent it out for game weekends.  I wish I could say that I did it in an organized fashion and donated a lot of things, but that would not be the truth.  So I certainly didn’t have as much clutter as I would have a few months ago.  Second of all, honestly since we went all Dave Ramsey style with our budget this time last year, I really stopped shopping for the most part.  And last, well, Oatmeal has yet to participate in this chapter because he was out of town for work last week.  He’s been sort of distracted with work.  I’m trying to remind him to do his part this week without being a nag about it.  (At the time of this blog post he did go into his closet and start throwing sweatshirts in a pile on the ground.

I decided to start by calling a local nonprofit and simply asking what they needed.  I ended up on the phone with a women’s shelter that provided temporary room and board to battered women and children.  They told me that their biggest needs were jackets, warm clothing, blankets, pillow cases, personal toiletries, feminine products, and hand towels.  I decided to begin in my bathroom and work my way through the house.  There was actually zero in my bathroom that was worthy of a donation other than a box of feminine products that were leftover from having Poppyseed.  I pretty much only buy cosmetics and beauty products that I will use to the last drop, and again, I really did just purge my house for rentals.  My closet was another story.  I decided I could certainly part with several jackets, long sleeved cardigans, and sweatshirts.  I found several pairs of shoes that I haven’t worn in a really long time, and I also was able to dig through my scarf drawer and come up with 7 scarves.  I hate to admit that the scarf part was difficult for me because I have always loved buying and wearing scarves!  I kept finding myself thinking, “But this one is really cute, and I know I haven’t ever worn it but it would be perfect with just the right shirt…”  (To be honest I had some of the same thoughts when purging some of my jackets.)  I kept asking myself, “How long has it been since I wore this?  How often do I think I will realistically wear it if it were to stay with me?  What if I donated this item and it actually became someone’s staple in their wardrobe?  Wouldn’t that be better?”  Thinking like that, and reminding myself that I have FAR more than I deserve, made me realize that I needed to let go of the stuff.   It was easy to get together about 20 items for my first donation, but unfortunately I didn’t have any of the things that they said they could really use – personal toiletries, hand towels, and blankets.

As I walked downstairs I noticed a blanket on my couch that I just bought a few months ago.  We didn’t really need it, it was just another purchase that I made because we were renting our house out to a family of strangers, and I wasn’t sure if someone would be sleeping on the couch and need something to cover themselves with.  Of course for a moment I hesitated and was reluctant to donate something that was brand new.  But I was hit with a pang of (well deserved) guilt and meaning, so off it went with us.

I decided to stop at Walmart on the way to the shelter and buy some of the things I didn’t have.  I walked to the travel section and eyed all of the toiletries – shampoo, conditioner, toothpaste, deodorant, etc.  I tried to put myself in the place of a woman who was forced to leave her home on a moment’s notice and move into a shelter.  Which items would I need the most?  I decided to buy several packs of the little toothbrush/toothpaste kits, deodorant, and soap.  Then I found a pack of 12 hand towels that cost just about nothing and a set of pillowcases for five bucks.  All in all I spent less than 20 dollars, but I left with a lot of loot that I hope is useful.

Donating the items was pretty straightforward after I found the hosting office.  I don’t know why it didn’t occur to me that the address of the shelter itself wouldn’t be on their website.  I spent a while looking for a phantom address and then finally called back again.  Of course they told me that the shelter is in an undisclosed location for the safety of the residents, but that I could bring the donated items to their office location.   That was something else that really made me realize how good I have it.

I spoke to a lady named Edith who described the state of most of the women in a matter-of-fact way.  Most show up unannounced with the clothes on their back.  They have pretty much nothing.  The shelter tries to let them leave with some basic things such as toiletries, pillows, and a blanket.  They gladly took my things and off we went.

For the 3rd and 4th day of the donation I collected baby items.  I heard about a girl who is 5 months pregnant with a little girl and supposedly has a really difficult life.  I was told that she barely enough money to feed herself, much less prepare for her baby’s birth.   I wasn’t surprised at how easy it was to collect a huge box full of baby items.  We were given so many baby things when Poppyseed was born that we never used.  Lovies, diapers, diaper rash creams, baby shampoo, towels, picture frames, pajamas, onesies, socks, the list goes on.  I even had a Baby Bjorn that I bought for a few bucks at a garage sale but never used.  We were given doubles of SO MANY awesome things that you really only need one of, such as bedtime books, nasal aspirators, etc.  All of them went into a box and I left them on my front porch to be picked up.  Honestly I will probably contact her again in a few months because I found another huge box of 0-3 month baby girl clothes a little bit later that week and regretted that I didn’t include some of those things for her, too.

Baby items

On days 5, 6, and 7 I collected some more clothes, shoes, and smaller household/kitchen goods to round up our week of donating.  I had called the Salvation Army and they had said that these things were very valuable to their clients at this time of the year.  I actually still need to drop off those things because they were closed last week when I knocked on their front door.  (I found out later that they were launching their Angel Tree at the mall.)

More than anything, this week made me realize that I have way more than I deserve.  It made me question so many things.  Some things were fairly open ended questions. Why was I born into a life of prosperity and comfort when others are born into families experiencing hunger and abuse?  Some other questions that filled my mind were more uncomfortable to think about.  Why have I never realized how close I am to the needy?  Why have I never felt personally responsible for helping them when it is so easy for me to do so? 

The biggest take home thought from last week’s fast was this:

Why do I allow myself to focus on the things I want and think I deserve (more/nicer clothes, trendier jewelry, square footage, acreage, vacations, date nights) more than I think of how fortunate I am?  Who do I owe all of this to anyway?  Do I really get to pat myself on the back for always having a good job and having good taste in a husband who works hard and earns well for our family?  Why do I assume that others always deserve what they have or don’t have, regardless of what I may or may not know about their life?

One way that God slapped me in the face was on Day 4.  I was cleaning out baby items for the anonymous expectant mother when I found myself thinking, “Geez this lady can’t even feed herself, she really needs to get it together fast for the sake of her baby.”  What is wrong with me?  Why I am automatically assuming she got herself into a pickle?  And even if she did, doesn’t she deserve some grace?  Haven’t I done things in my life that weren’t wise?

Going forward, my goal is to not make any more purchases for our house or closets between now and the new year.  If I have to wear a dress everyone’s already seen to a Christmas party, so be it.  If Poppyseed has to wear shoes that don’t perfectly accent her outfit, so be it.  If I pass on a really cute holiday throw pillow on the clearance rack at Target, so be it.  I hope that these little instances will remind me that I really need to step it up.  I need to be more giving to others and more appreciative of what I have.

Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, for he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.” Hebrews 13:5

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  1. Great post! I find myself having so many similar thoughts now a days. I used to not even thinking twice about buying a new outfit for something, and these days I’m more of the mindset I’m not going to buy something unless I have many, many, many different things I can wear it to. Who knew the same dress could work for a shower, church, family pictures, another shower, etc. etc. So, so, so guilty!!! EESH

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