Never was I more aware of my enormous penchant for acquiring than during the two-and-a-half years my husband and I and our two girls lived in a converted, two-car garage.
We had purged thousands of square-feet of prior accumulations in order to squeeze into our four hundred square-foot cottage. Despite the small amount of things we had left, we had everything we needed. Truthfully, we still had more than we needed, but at least I could fit it all into our various cubbies; and once I’d achieved that level of “fitting”, I felt no need to purge more—excess or not.
As life went along, I realized that it was more of an effort to keep things out than it was to bring things in. Items of every kind loomed outside my doors, and threatened to come in and clutter what precious little space was left.
These weren’t gluttonous invasions that I shook my fist at. These were basic, innocent, redundant groceries, hand-me-down clothing bags, and school projects. Gifts were even a problem—we tried to keep gifts at bay, asking that our Christmas and birthday presents be something we could drink, listen to, or go experience, and nothing that we’d have to store. We got rid of the knife-holding wood block on the counter, the coffee maker, desk-top picture frames, and never ever had seasonal décor, because when there are only eight total square-feet of counter surface space in a house, the contents of a child’s backpack (just from that day) is daunting. Ominous and depressing, even.
The girls were no different, being agents of collection. Throughout the school day, they acquired books, education, friends, germs and new potty words, and brought it all home to share with the family.
Finally, I couldn’t keep on top of it. The influx beat me into submission more often than I beat it. I was ashamed. It was becoming quite vogue to be a minimalist, and especially in my poor state, how shameful that I couldn’t manage to wriggle free of piles of old crafts, three-too-many cans of refried beans (why didn’t I take inventory before going shopping?), and a cute top from a super-sale at Anthropologie (so indulgent!). I was a stay-at-home mom—what else was there to do all day except master my tiny home? I had no excuse.
I gave myself quite a bit of grief over my inability to manage my intake.
It’s true, there is a time and place to take stock of the integrity of what is consumed, and it is good to contemplate and identify what might be excess. But for me, somewhere amidst all that effort and attempts at control, and failing, and the ensuing guilt, was the offer to accept that I am a born-acquisitionist. It’s an unchanging fact—I am hard-wired to receive. Because of this, I’m able to eat my daily bread, collect experiential wisdom, take in breath and beauty, and accept the love of God, and be filled by all of these.
I read a line from somewhere in one of my books of devotions. I’ve looked for it ever since I read it years ago, and haven’t been able to find it. In it, one of the saints mentioned something like “…even our Lord needed to wash His feet as he entered a new town”.
It’s as if it would be unnatural to remain in a state of constant cleanness.
So this is what prayer has become for me lately: a place to let the dust that naturally collects—simply by walking through the day—be washed off.
Prayer is a chance to offload the unnecessary burdens I’ve gathered without even realizing it.
It’s a time to examine the ideas and expectations I’ve adopted just by living alongside every other acquisitionist.
It’s a chance to relinquish the weighty responsibilities I’ve wrongfully assumed simply by getting from yesterday to today.
It’s a way for the seeds of discontentment to be swept away before they flourish and occupy me completely.
It’s a time to acknowledge without condemnation that I am sticky and life is messy, and I’d like to have the gunk I’ve gathered along the way be removed please; so that, amongst other things, I might enter the new day with a clearer perspective and with less weighing me down.
I saw a person once who was so clothed, so augmented and so adorned that they came off as identity-less. A lifetime never-purger, they moved, exhausted, stiff and with excessive care, afraid of losing an embellishment or perhaps conditioned by their layers’ restriction. I thought “That’s what one of my paragraphs look like when I over-think!” And I also saw that as a result of accruing layer upon layer in attempt to increase or affirm the good in us, we actually hide it.
In prayer, I can sit without the confinement of this world’s heavy yoke, and come out from under my suffocating mound of collectibles
And guess what’s down there with all that simplicity? Freedom. Peace. Hope. Rest.
(If only I prayed more often.)
But for today, which comes with more than enough responsibility on its own, as for me and my current and still-smallish house, we shall be about a cleansing, self-emptying prayer.
“Acquisitionist: …A person whose bandwidth, storage space, and desire to acquire intellectual property greatly exceeds their ability or availability to enjoy even a small percentage of it.”