Last year I did a rather crazy thing. I ditched 40 kitchen trash bags (or the equivalent) of stuff out of our house. 40 – yes, really. It is amazing how much stuff was lurking in the backs of cupboards and closets and how many “extra” things I had. Too many towels, sheets, coats, shoes, books, small kitchen appliances… the list goes on and on.
This was started as a housekeeping exercise. Something I did because my home needed a good dejunking. It had been years since I had really decluttered and letting go was so liberating. By the end I starting thinking about the processes of letting go of “stuff” as a spiritual exercise. Sometime last summer Fr Kyle contacted me and asked about the idea of using the 40 trash bag challenge as a part of his Lenten program. This delighted me to no end and it got me thinking again about the whole project; what worked best and what didn’t.
40 bags. One thing I know caused some people pause was the picture of the big overstuffed black bag. “No way could I fill forty of those bags.” I don’t know that I could fill 40 lawn and yard bags. My home is under 3000 sq feet.
But then again I could. When I look at what others have, what my ancestors considered wealth, what the crazy woman with all her worldly possessions in a grocery cart have and then compare it to my well appointed 3000 sq feet I could fill up 40 huge bags. But if I was single and living in a dorm, no – I couldn’t. But the size of “bag” is really immaterial. It is the consistency of everyday shedding off some of our material goods. A grocery bag would be a better measure for some — I suppose if I was very wealthy and had multiple homes maybe something more on the lines of a truck bed full a day would work better. The point is not the size of the bag, box or bundle, it is the act of letting go of the “stuff” a bit each day.
It should hurt a little – not a lot, but a bit. There should be some small sense of having to sacrifice or maybe some small bit of contrition at how much we hold onto things when we could give that time and energy to God. If you struggle as I do with organization then I am sure you have read about the theories of hording and attachment to the “stuff”. Our environments began to posses us instead of serving us. If you don’t deal with that particular mental vice then there is still the beauty of the words of Christ ”
24 “No one can serve two masters. He will either hate one and love the other, or be devoted to one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.
25 “Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat (or drink), or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more than food and the body more than clothing?
26 Look at the birds in the sky; they do not sow or reap, they gather nothing into barns, yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are not you more important than they?
27 Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
28 Why are you anxious about clothes? Learn from the way the wild flowers grow. They do not work or spin.
29 But I tell you that not even Solomon in all his splendor was clothed like one of them.
30 If God so clothes the grass of the field, which grows today and is thrown into the oven tomorrow, will he not much more provide for you, O you of little faith?
31 So do not worry and say, ‘What are we to eat?’ or ‘What are we to drink?’ or ‘What are we to wear?’
32 All these things the pagans seek. Your heavenly Father knows that you need them all.
33 But seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.
34 Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself. Sufficient for a day is its own evil.
These words were said to people, many of whom could proabably put everything they personally owned in one of my closets.
Lent – This year I am going to be doing the trash bag challenge again, but a little differently as well. One thing I am going to do is involve the children more. I also want to tie the days into a scripture lessons for the children. Talking about service or giving – having a theme for our “decluttering” days.
Lent begins on February 25, two weeks from today. Next week I will put up the plan and maybe I will figure out the Mr Linky thing too 🙂
13 thoughts on “40 Bags of stuff”
How cool that Fr. Kyle is picking up on this!
I’ve done a similar “40” for purging and letting go for a few years. My goal is typically 40 things a day during Lent… and that could be something as small as 40 rubber bands that the mail came in that I hoarded (trash) or something bigger like 40 items of clothing or 40 dishes/flatware (treasure to be given) or any combination. It is kind of tedious to count the things, but I liked the counting, too. I don’t know how I’ll do it this year, but I look forward to the freedom from STUFF again.
Thanks for bringing this up!
I really like this idea! Personally, I would love to turn off the TV/VCR/DVD for all of Lent, but I’m not sure everybody would be on board for it. 40 Bags might be something we could agree on. Thanks!
Thank you for the post. You have inspired me to do the same.
P.S. It reminds me of when a friend from Europe came to visit me in the US. He took one look at my place and said “What do you do with all this stuff? You Americans just like to collect things.” I never forgot that, mainly because its kinda true.
I LOVE this idea! We say a Rosary every night during Lent, but I wanted to add something else this year. I think I just found it.
Been trying to do the same, but how do you narrow it down? How many coats is enough? 6 kids, 4 New England seasons.
I regularly go through our house and clear stuff out–as a military family who moved every 1-4 years, it’s a survival instinct–but I love making it a spiritual exercise as well.
Of course, I would not call collecting just an American idea. I’ve seen many a tiny Japanese home crammed with stuff.
A few years ago I made a clothing “cut to” list. I wrote about it here: https://simplycatholic.net/2008/05/27/getting-clothing-under-control/ and more recently here: https://simplycatholic.net/2009/02/20/culling-the-clothing/
I basically plan for what my children need to have based on our weather, their activities and my laundry cycle. For us one heavy/warm coat, one light weight jacket and one rain slick are enough for each child. Anymore than that would be extra, but if I had a child who was a ski bum I would probably have an extra jacket for ski season. Need dictates the list.
OMGosh! What a wonderful idea and inspiration for Lent and sharing with those who are less fortunate. I am going to get started right away and sharing this with an Angel group I know who help people that have fallen on hard times through disaster,like unexpected fires in their homes. God bless,