Tag Archives: homeless

Decluttering

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I feel like this is a constant battle in my house. Husband and I were both packrats before we got married and brought a lot of Stuff into our family. Over the years, every time we’ve moved (and we have moved quite a bit) we have shed some of that Stuff and accumulated very little by comparison. This time, with an eviction looming and economic hardship at our door, we are preparing to move from a two bedroom townhome to a one bedroom apartment. With kids and pets. Hopefully it will be a very temporary situation. Our parents have graciously offered to let us store some things at their houses, but neither set has much space to offer. So when we found out what exactly we were facing this time around, we began to declutter with abandon. Husband has finally let go of fifteen year old t-shirts for bands he hasn’t cared anything about in at least five. The kids and I have shed close to half of their toys and books. My wardrobe has shrunk by about a third. We’ve culled DVDs and wedding presents that haven’t seen enough use to keep. There have been things we had copies of for upstairs and downstairs that we’ll only need one of at the new apartment. Some of it has been hard to let go of, but mostly it’s been very freeing. A lot of it I’ve been meaning to take to the thrift shop/animal shelter/women’s shelter for ages, but never got around to it. And the more we get rid of, the more I hate Stuff.

We live in a society of excess, and this is never more apparent to me than when preparing for a move. Each time, I am amazed and disgusted at the things that have been gathering dust since our LAST move (those things never accompany us for a second move). God has slowly, painstakingly molded me from a packrat to a minimalist over the past decade through many moves, and through showing me poverty. He has sent me to barren lands where the people make do with so much less, and seem happier for it in some cases or just cannot comprehend the luxury in which we live. One experience that sticks with me is from a mission trip I went on with my youth group. A girl about my age noticed I was wearing different jeans from the day before. She was enamored with them, wanting to inspect the hems, touch the seams. She gushed about how new they looked. And then she asked me if I had more. I blushed and lied: I said I had seven pairs, but in reality at the time I probably had more than ten. Her eyes opened wide, she called me rich (I’d never thought of myself that way before) and asked where I kept these seven pairs of jeans. So we began to talk about closets and dressers, and how even the poor kids at my school all had two or three pairs of jeans. That week, my world began to change.  My worldview, my normal, shifted. What is your normal? What do you think is normal in terms of possessions for any ordinary person? Do you crave more, or are you constantly fighting for less? What role does Stuff play in your life, and what role do you think it should play?

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Now I See.

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And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to His purpose. Romans 8:28

A part of God’s plan for our family became clear today. A tragedy struck an old friend last night. Soon, because of the eviction, we will live close by to help ease their suffering. Obviously I’d rather have a better reason than eviction, but I am glad and grateful that we can be there in time to bring some holiday cheer.

to grant to those who mourn in Zion—
to give them a beautiful headdress instead of ashes,
the oil of gladness instead of mourning,
the garment of praise instead of a faint spirit;
that they may be called oaks of righteousness,
the planting of the LORD, that he may be glorified. Isaiah 61:3

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Singed

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A couple of years after Nancy and Ellie came to live with us, we experienced a major tragedy together. Our home burned to the ground, along with most of our possessions.

It happened on a beautiful Fall day: crisp, cool air, just a few white fluffy clouds in the sky, leaves just beginning to change. While working in the kitchen, Mother caught a whiff of that awful stench: melting plastic. She frantically looked around the kitchen, but found nothing. Then we all heard a pop, followed by crackling.

Mother ran into the living room and ushered us all outside. She and Nancy did a headcount once we got to the curb and realized my brother was not with us. Mother ran back inside and found him hiding in the hall closet, clutching his blankie and crying quietly. She scooped him up and ran.

After depositing him safely in “Mommy Nancy’s” arms, she ran back in a second time, and then a third, and a fourth. Over and over, she ran back in. I remember increasingly large puffs of smoke pouring out the front door each time it opened. The neighbors gathered at the end of the driveway with us, watching in shock. Nobody tried to stop her.

After each trip back into the burning building, she ran to the end of the driveway to deposit an armload of things in a growing pile. Mostly photo albums and family movies, but she grabbed other things too: nick knacks, blankets and pillows, whatever she could snatch from the flames’ path. She only stopped when she went to open the door one last time and the flames singed her hair.

My dad came flying into the cul-de-sac around the same time as the fire engines. I remember him hoisting me up into a bear hug and asking Mom if everyone made it out OK. We watched the jets of water shoot into our crumbling house. It seemed like hours before the smoke began to slow. The flames won, rendering our home nothing but piles of black rubble. A neighbor brought blankets out to wrap around the children. She invited us in for cocoa to help us warm up while Mom dealt with the police, firemen, and insurance agent. I think I only took a couple of sips of cocoa. I remember staring into the thick, sand-colored mug in shock. Grown-ups were talking around me, but it sounded distorted, like I was under water.

We spent the night in a cheap motel, then moved into a rental house for several months while our house was rebuilt. I don’t remember much about the rental house except for drab, grey walls, and a window seat overlooking the back yard. It was my favorite spot in the house. Somehow cozy and magical, it made me feel safe, and provided the perfect spot to immerse myself in a good book or day dream. I’ve loved window seats ever since then.

Daddy did not live in the rental house with us. This was one of the separations when we didn’t see him much. The fire took the only home he’d ever known and left him devastated. He lacked healthy coping tools, so he withdrew and sunk deeper into his addiction. As soon as our new house was ready, he came around again. I don’t know if he moved back in, but he was there every night after work, playing, reading stories, tucking in, eating dinner.

Some of our things were salvaged and professionally treated for smoke damage, including my favorite doll. I cried the day Mom brought her to the rental house. I hugged my dolly tight and didn’t let her out of my sight for months.

I developed PTSD after the fire. I had a recurring night terror about it for years where I was trapped in the burning house and couldn’t get out, complete with feeling the heat and smelling the smoke. I haven’t had that particular one in a long time, but I do still get occasional night terrors about fire. I’m still pyrophobic. If someone lights a match or lighter anywhere near me, it’s all I can do not to panic. I DID panic until a few years ago. I would scream and back away in terror, seeing the flame burst out of control before me. This got some weird looks, and I had to explain about the house fire to many friends over the years. None understood. I was never evaluated for PTSD until college.