November 08, 2009

I'd Rather Have Jesus Than Silver and Gold

Occasionally, I amuse myself and get home decorating ideas (sorry, there’s still no “Decorating Eye for the Straight Guy” Mitchell!) by watching HGTV. You may have watched some of the shows too. Some of them have solid, relatable advice and people. Other shows: I wonder what planet these people are on. The answer is, sometimes sadly, they live on our planet. They are humans like us. Prideful and stubborn. Very much in love with possessions, status and money.

You may have watched the house hunting/my first home shows. I have too but I can’t relate to them. Usually, there is a gripe and a pout about how the kitchen is “not gourmet”, the appliances are dated (read: more than 2 years old), there are not enough closets in the master bedroom, there is no spa tub in the bathroom. A rule of thumbs for cat owners, like me, is a litter box per each cat plus one. I have two cats so I have three litter boxes in the house. Somewhere along the line, humans adopted this rule to mean a bedroom for each child plus one. Oh, no, we have 3 kids! We need at least 5 bedrooms! (Don’t forget that big master bedroom!) Plus, everyone needs their own toilet! God, forbid we have to share or wait!

When I canvassed real estate this summer for my temp job, some of my properties were self-storage units. The prices to rent these units, a 5x5 or an 8x12 were so high; sometimes +$500/month that I, seriously, asked a property manager, how many people actually lived in their unit? It used to be these units were solely used for the motorcyle or the boat or the convertible-items that were seasonal and that required storage that you couldn’t provide on your property. Not so much anymore. Now they are full of stuff. Plastic tubs of stuff. Papers. Extra clothes. Knic-knacs. Scrapbooking materials. Extra dishes. Furniture you don’t have room for but don’t want to part with.

I wonder how my parents and grandparents survived? My Dad grew up in a home with no indoor plumbing or running water. He had to go to an outside pump every day and draw water for his Mom. In winter he had to pour hot water over it to prime it. The eight kids shared beds. Literally, sleeping crosswise on them. How did my family survive with no shower and no bathroom on the 2nd floor? How do monks and nuns survive in their tiny cells?

We not only survived, but we thrived. We survived on love, faith and each other. It was not our home, our funishings and our stuff that sustained us.

I worry about this present age.

We may think that the people on HGTV are not “us” but I hear, continually, from friends trying to sell their ‘aging’ homes that the first thing people mention is how “small” the kitchen is; the basement is not ‘finished’, there’s no room for the big TV. Clearly, either the programs have influenced us, or we have influenced the programming. In any event, it’s real.

Wealth is transitory. My Dad always says: “I can’t take it with me”. St. Teresa of Avila would hardly believe the Interior Castle or the mansions to be a literal McMansion in some exurb.

If we are only defining ourselves by our stuff, rather than our relation to Christ, we will be completely impovershed at our End. We can’t take our stuff with us. We will only have our love of Christ to enjoy forever. If we don’t even have that, then we will have nothing. Forever.


Anonymous Austringer said...


I too have noticed the increase in the number of self-storage businesses around town.

I'm going to cite the contraceptive mentality here as a factor When a couple has one or two children, tops (if they have children at all) the re-ordering of priorities that a large family necessitates probably never takes place. Mom and Dad both work (of course!), so there's just a helluva lot more stuff that we can move from the "want" category into the "need" category. Gotta have the big house...the extra bedrooms can be used for storing more stuff!

November 08, 2009 8:30 PM  
Blogger Terry Nelson said...

I couldn't agree more. The things I've collected are a huge weight and responsibility - and they never - ever - made me happy.

November 08, 2009 8:31 PM  
Blogger nazareth priest said...

Believe me, for religious (contemplative no less) the temptation to hoard is well...incredibly strong.
"We could use this one day; we CAN'T through THAT away; we have to keep whatever someone gives us..." The excuses get longer and longer.
We are in the midst of preparing to move to our permanent location and I know that we will have to deal with the clutter and amassed 'whatever' in the not too distant future...a real nightmare, but much needed.
The program "Clean House" gives me a chance to do some soul searching and examen...boy, do I need them to come here and help me sort through this stuff...the books stay...the holy pictures, statues, stay...but the rest???
Yeah, you get the picture!
Great post!

November 08, 2009 9:21 PM  
Blogger Shirley said...

Over the years and many times moving, I have gotten over my attachment to "stuff". One of those TV shows deals with helping people de-clutter their lives; it's called Clean Sweep. It is amazing how things take the place of faith.

November 09, 2009 8:42 AM  
Blogger swissmiss said...

We were trying to teach this lesson recently to my son. He wanted a particular toy. We asked him if in getting this toy, would that make him happy? Kind of a trick question for a "living in the moment" six year-old. Of course, he said this toy would be it, the ultimate in making him happy. We told him that we didn't think so and that shortly after receiving the toy he would want another, and then another and the toy would no longer the the "thing" that made him happy. The whole thing played out and he found what we told him was true...not that I expect he will never want a toy again for the rest of his life, but at least it taught him, or hopefully imparted in him, that things don't make you happy.

I'm still waiting for my red Alfa Romeo Spider Veloce, I KNOW that will make me happy :)

November 09, 2009 9:07 AM  
Blogger Cathy_of_Alex said...

Swissy: LOL!

Good comments here.

Shirley: I find it interesting that an entire industry (I may even call it a ministry in a way) has grown up around helping people declutter. First, we are encouraged to buy as much as possible. Then, we are encouraged to get rid of it. In both instances there is a cost in $. It costs money to buy and it costs money (sometimes hidden) to get rid of stuff (gas money, boxes, "consultants")

Father: My grandfather had that "just in case" mentality. When he died he had shelves and shelves of coffee cans that were filled with old parts and hardware-just in case. His garage was full of broken furniture, broken bath fixtures-just in case. He kept the junk, I think, because he grew up very poor and lived close to poverty most of his life. He'd rather have the "junk" than nothing-if it ever came to that. He forgot about the Lord.

What would it be like if we hoarded our love of the Lord? No evangelization? A good thing?

November 09, 2009 9:49 AM  
Blogger Stacey said...

Couldn't agree more. The more stuff you have, the more room you need. The more room you need, the more stuff you need to find a place for. Its a never ending battle that I doubt will find a resolution.

Great post.

Thanks and Regards

Stacey from NY Mobile


November 09, 2009 11:04 AM  

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