Too Much and Not Enough

Pinterest, Peers, and Pastel Ranges

For pennies a day, my husband and I sponsored a child through Compassion International, a Christian organization with charitable projects in third-world countries. This young boy wrote me letters, and I wrote back (inconsistently, I’m afraid). Sometimes, I sent him a few extra dollars for his birthday, and he sent me a Crayon-decorated note to tell me what he bought: a live chicken. For food.

It would help me, in my most shallow moments, to remember this.

But I forget that I already have enough when I’m browsing Pinterest pictures of remodeled houses painted all the right colors. Photos of kitchens with custom-made cabinets and retro ranges that come in a rainbow of pastels. Not that there’s anything wrong with having a nice kitchen. But my kitchen is nice enough.

I forget it when my friend shows me the new furniture in her sunroom makeover. When she fills a Lenox teacup from the built-in single-handle instant hot water dispenser, and I think, I need one of those. Need, my foot.

Clutter and the Need for Less

Recently, I read Rick Bragg’s All Over but the Shoutin’, a beautifully-written, heart-breaking memoir and tribute to his mother, who “went eighteen years without a new dress so her sons could have school clothes.” And I recall my over-filled closet where the dresses hang so close, there’s no light between them.

Not that I disdain my possessions. I’m thankful for my clothes and furniture and food. I’m supremely thankful for a hard-working, generous husband, because this English Major isn’t exactly a money-making machine. I’m thankful for family members who have given us so much, relatives who grew up with Not Enough.

But for me, the scales between Too Much and Not Enough tip heavily to one side. And holding on to five black skirts, because, well, you never know when you might need five black skirts, is just a tad irrational.

Hobbes has a clutter problem.

A Zero-Sum Game

I’m no different from my little dog who isn’t hungry but stands sentry beside his food, growling, for HOURS, to keep the other dogs from eating it. While Calvin and Ollie are chasing toads and digging holes in the yard, Hobbes is shackled to his metal bowl.

I, too, am a captive of my clutter if I allow myself to be. As they say, everything you own, owns you. If, like Hobbes, I spend my limited time, energy and attention on superfluous possessions, I have less of those resources to spend on more important things, such as spirituality, people, or creative pursuits.

“The greatest need of our time is to clean out the enormous mass of mental and emotional rubbish that clutters our minds.”  Thomas Merton

If I accumulate stuff motivated by (let’s call it what it is) envy, or a false sense of scarcity (rather than true scarcity such as that experienced in the third-world), clutter will fill all the corners of my home and my mind.

Hobbes, you and I need a mindset makeover.


Empty Drawers and Creativity


Help! I’m drowning…

clothes rack
Photo by Daian Gan on

I have no empty drawers in my house. No empty shelves. No empty closets.

I have too many things. Am I materialistic? As a typical American, the answer is probably yes.

The myriad knickknacks, magazines, and (dare I say it?) even books are suffocating me.

Batteries, business cards, binoculars…

Clothes, candles, cords…so many electrical cords…

Half-dead plants, pencils, papers. An astounding number of papers.

I try to ignore the stacks of stuff when I walk into my den. And my bedroom. And my kitchen. But they dance mockingly in my peripheral vision. The clutter taunts me.

I can ignore a messy room. Until I can’t. Some people have a tipping point. I skip straight to the exploding point. I MUST get rid of some clutter NOW.

Don’t Mess with Creativity

They say that messy people are more creative. That working in a messy environment encourages new ideas. But can it be too messy? Can you have too much of a good bad thing? You know, the Law of Diminishing Returns and all that.

I can’t create while seeing the clutter and knowing that I should be doing something about it — instead of writing.

So, to help my writing — and to help the people I live with and whom I love so much — I will aspire to own fewer things. My new motto? Possess Less.

I will accomplish my goal one junk drawer at a time.

Little steps.

Little steps.

It’s hard to take little steps while you’re exploding.