We recently purchased our very first house, which meant the end of June found us packing up every single one of our belongings and hauling them across town with the help of friends and family. Our new home, purchased for its affordability, is slightly smaller than the three bedroom townhouse we had been renting for the past year. With reduced bedroom and living room sizes and very little extra storage space, I found myself reassessing what we truly needed to take with us as I packed up our belongings.
As I mentally rearranged our new bedrooms, drawing out diagrams of where our furniture would go, I realized several bags of possessions and multiple pieces of furniture would not be coming with us to the new house. One bookshelf would definitely have to go, along with several end tables, a coffee table, and a large bedroom dresser. We just wouldn’t have space for these things, either in our new home or in storage.
With this realization, I set out to get rid of our excess possessions as quickly and efficiently as possible. Some things made their way into my trunk and were dropped off at the nearest thrift store donation center. Others were listed on local buy/sell/trade facebook groups. Still others, I gave away for free. Soon, I was a stuff-purging fiend! Nothing in my home was safe. With each large piece or bag of excess junk that left my house, I felt the freedom and possibility of the extra living space it afforded me. Getting rid of stuff was incredibly easy and liberating!
Then I came to the six drawer dresser, sitting empty and unloved in our third bedroom.
We definitely did not have a place to put this dresser in our new home, nor had we really used it for much beyond diaper storage for the past year. And yet, as I snapped a photo of the dresser and went to post it up for sale on a local facebook group, my finger hesitated before clicking the “post” button. I needed to get rid of the dresser, but I suddenly didn’t want to. It wasn’t a particularly high quality dresser. Its drawers slid in and out unevenly and paint peeled from the top surface easily. But I’d had it since I was a small child, and it was just so full of memories!
I remembered the dresser sitting in my childhood bedroom at my parents' house, its top right drawer filled to the brim with relics of the 80s and 90s--slap bracelets, tinkerbell perfume, Mcdonald’s Happy Meal toys, and the plastic remnants from Ring Pops. On top of the dresser sat my guinea pig, Mikey, in his cage full of fresh shavings. When I’d let Mikey out to run around the room, I’d have to prop books up in front of the dresser, or else he’d make a mad dash for the dark space of “safety” beneath it.
Years later, while expecting my first baby, my dad and I fixed up the old dresser for the nursery, sanding it, painting it a neutral grey and replacing all the old hardware with new wooden knobs. My dad also spent time fixing and replacing the drawer runners so that the drawers would stay on track and slide smoothly again. I remembered the gratitude I felt for the love and effort he had poured into making an old dresser new again, and how great the dresser looked sitting in our new nursery, holding all of our baby’s adorable new clothes.
I remembered the countless diaper changes and sponge baths that took place on the changing pad I later placed on the dresser, the drawers my girls claimed as their own, my naughty toddler monkeys scaling to the top of the dresser all on their own. I remembered constantly reminding them not to use the wooden knobs like a ladder.
Remembering all of these things, I thought: there is no way I can get rid of this dresser. It holds far too many memories! Then I snapped back to reality and remembered the truth of the matter. We hadn’t used the dresser in over a year. It wasn’t a family heirloom, just a cheap made-in-the-80s-out-of-fake-wood quality dresser. Yes, we had put work into fixing it up, but we used it while we needed it, and now we didn’t need it nor have space to store it anymore. Why did I feel the need to hang onto it?
Television shows like “Hoarders,” depicting the lives of people who are unable to let go of their possessions, are a fairly recent phenomenon. But the human inclincation to store and hoard away our earthly possessions well beyond the point of need is one of the oldest sins in the world. Consider these verses, written well before “Hoarders” was a television show:
Matthew 19:21-22 “Jesus answered, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.” When the young man heard this, he went away sad, because he had great wealth.
Proverbs 11:26 “People curse the one who hoards grain, but they pray God’s blessing on the one who is willing to sell.”
Matthew 6: 19-21 “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where theives do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”
Why do I so often attach undue meaning and significance to earthly possessions? Why should I fret over letting go of a dresser that I clearly do not need and cannot imagine I will need in the foreseeable future? Should I hang onto something indefinitely, paying to let it rot in storage “where moths and vermin destroy” simply because the object has “memory value”? Should I avoid getting rid of the things that are currently worthless to me and wasting away in cardboard storage boxes out of a selfish need to obtain as much money as possible for them (even if I have been saying I am going to sell them for over five years now and haven’t)? Or should I just let them go and pass them on to bless someone else? How many things on this planet are currently being selfishly stored (and often destroyed by the storage process) that would be extremely useful to someone in need? What would the world look like if we stopped storing our treasure here on earth and started storing it in heaven instead?
Weighing all of these things in my heart, I got over myself and listed the dresser. And within a week, somebody bought it. She sent a friend and her children to come hoist it up out of my house and into their van. And that was that.
A few days after the dresser had forever left my home, the buyer sent me a facebook message with an image of the dresser in its new space and the caption “Super-perfect. Thank you!’ I was immediately struck by the new life she had given the dresser with a pretty rug draped over the top, flowers, and a mirror. The dresser looked perfect in her space, and I found myself glad it was being enjoyed by someone who needed it, instead of being crammed into a corner of my leaky garage for all eternity.
Please give me the strength to let go of and bless forward the earthly possessions I no longer need. Allow me to care for the things you have blessed me with on this world, but to hold them loosely, storing my true treasure in heaven instead of the basement or a storage unit. Let me not cling to the things of this world that "moth and vermin destroy", but to reflect on lasting spiritual matters daily and keep them close at heart. Amen.
Where do you store your treasure? Do you have trouble letting go of earthly things you don't need anymore?