The famous, and sometimes irreverent, comedian George Carlin did a comic routine back in 1981 entitled Stuff:
“And I don’t know how you are…
…but I need a place to put my stuff…
You know how important that is, that’s the whole…
…that’s the whole meaning of life, isn’t it?
Trying to find a place for your stuff.”
Now you can find his routine in written format and on video. Should you want to listen to the whole routine, be aware that it does contain coarse language. Carlin, with his usual quirky humor, hits the nail on the head. For some of us, maybe even most of us, at some point in your life, life is all about “stuff.”
And this idea carries over to other famous people as well. Also in the 1980s a saying that became popular was, “He who dies with the most toys wins,” we can thank millionaire Malcolm Forbes for this little ditty. Over the years I’ve seen this saying mostly on bumper stickers on the back of some souped-up pick-up truck, the bed of which often holds items such as dirt covered off-road vehicles. And, it appears as if the ones who sport this particular bumper sticker totally ascribe to Forbes’ philosophy. They too have “stuff” envy.
I ascribed to the idea that “stuff” was important. As a child I used to think about what items of my stuff I would absolutely have to save should the house catch on fire. Kind of a weird thing to think about huh? Perhaps I am a misfit, but maybe others have done the same. There was the treasured jewelry box, my little mirror, my award ribbon from the science fair, my dolls, my toys, my EZ Bake Oven, and all of my clothes – of course I would have to save them all. I learned early on that “stuff” was important to me. Whatever the newest fashion was, I had it right down to the shiny red raincoat and white go-go boots (my mother would have been termed a shopaholic, had the term existed back then). I can hear you now saying “sure blame your mother!” Well Mom was partly to blame, and I was a willing accomplice. After all, if you have a fixation with “stuff” how could you ever turn down more stuff?
It wasn’t until I was well advanced into my adulthood I realized that “stuff” was my idol. I think that deep down I probably always realized it. If I acquired a new hobby, you better believe that I was in the stores purchasing all of the stuff that I would ever need to become proficient at my newest hobby. I became so enamored with stuff that my credit cards were often neared to being maxed out. The more I purchased, the more I wanted. Sure the thrill of something new was fun, but that thrill didn’t last long, especially when the bill came. I didn’t own my stuff, my stuff owned me. My creditors also owned me. It was like I was a marionette dancing on the strings to the whim of the puppet master.
It was back in 2010 when I began what I refer to as the “great purge.” Now there had been a few mini purges that took place, but that was more on the line of cleaning out closets and parting with obsolete items. This however was “the purge that began all other purging” in my life. I moved from having possessions that filled a large three bedroom home to taking whatever possessions I could fit into a UHaul truck with a storage capacity of 10 feet long. I was ruthless in determining just what to keep and what to get rid of. Dining room table and chairs – gone. Queen-size Thomasville bed and mattresses – gone. Matching triple dresser with mirrors – gone. My beloved treadmill – gone.
As I purged, I felt a great weight being lifted off of my shoulders. It was as if I was being released from chains that bound me. I drove down the road towards a new life – a new adventure, new hopes, new dreams. The burden from those things that held me down was gone. Since then, I admit that I acquired new stuff, furniture and some treasured things that belonged to my brother before he died from ALS. But, the spirit of the purge lives on. I have developed a more keen eye as to just what “stuff” I really need to have in my life. And at times, my husband is surprised as to just what “stuff” continues to be purged. Recently it was all my professional clothes, my vast collection of shoes, kitchen items, even some of the “stuff” that we had at our wedding a few years back.
I’ve found when we fix our eyes on the things that most occupy our thoughts, as in my case, accumulating “stuff,” we miss the most important things in our life. You cannot be preoccupied with the things of this life, letting them monopolize most of your time. If you do, you lose sight of what’s really important. Love, family, relationships, and most of all God.
Jesus, himself said it best: “No one can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.” (Matthew 6:24, ESV)
I realize that the love of “stuff” can be perhaps my biggest stumbling block in my relationship with God. And, it is with this realization that I try to keep foremost in my mind, I don’t want “stuff” more than I want God. My daily walk, Bible Study, and composing refections help me the most to remember just what’s important.
Stuff can’t fill me, nor can it fill you. Only God can do that.