Purge Weekend: Fighting Materialism in My Heart and House
In the past three years, I have moved three times. Each time I call upon the great physical strength of my friends – an area I am decidedly lacking in – and then offer them pizza. They don’t care about the pizza; it’s just a gesture.
As we lug all of mine and my wife’s stuff down stairs, into a moving truck, and then back up stairs again, two thoughts occur to me.
The first is that my dad is a bit of a liar. He told me if I went to college I could avoid manual labor, which has clearly not been the case. As I tighten my fist in slight anger, I also get a feeling of embarrassment. This is the second feeling.
Most would probably think that I’m embarrassed about my traditional moving attire of a Polo shirt and Gym shorts. That’s not it, I’m not embarrassed to class up moving day (which for some reason embarrasses my wife). Instead, I’m embarrassed at how much stuff I have. I probably don’t need two copies of Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire and chances are that twenty-five Polo shirts is a little excessive. Sadly, those aren’t even the most embarrassing examples.
I felt like a materialist. Someone who can’t let go of meaningless junk because its very accumulation was a feat in and of itself. But aside from that, I liked owning things: DVDs, books, clothes, and trinkets. It was nice to have them even if I didn’t use them. As I watched one of my friends carry down the guitar that I had not played since High School, I felt a little more like a pagan than I had in a while.
And months after moving, I couldn’t shake the feeling. So, I decided to institute Purge Weekend in our household. I needed to get rid of all of the junk that I owned in order to live a more “Spartan” lifestyle. I didn’t need all of this stuff so I was going to do something about it. Purge Weekend was the answer: two and a half days of cleaning and throwing stuff out. I loved the idea, my wife wasn’t on board yet, but I knew she would be…
Overall, it went well. In fact, we’ve done it three times since then. I suggest more people do it. Here are a few conclusions that I came to as I sorted through stuff I didn’t need:
(1) Utility matters. If it doesn’t do something, chances are, you probably don’t need it. Yes, there are keepsakes. I learned that from fighting with my wife over whether or not to keep our toasting glasses from our wedding – that was a rare loss for me. And yes, sometimes you will come across something that is seldom used, but in the few times it is brought out becomes worth the space it takes up. Mostly though, if it didn’t have a clear, regular use, it needs to go.
(2) Digitize what you can. There is no excuse to have CDs, DVDs, or Books (for the most part) anymore. Everything is on your computer or online and can be accessed for little to no money.
(3) Lastly, Nostalgia can be your enemy. Usually something’s nostalgic value grows. The dumbest things can increase in value over time and sink their roots into your emotions so deeply that they become nearly impossible to let go of. If it doesn’t have value now, then the value it has later is probably just a trick.
I want to fight materialism in my life. There is a sick mentality in our culture centered on accumulating stuff. Ads for useless junk are everywhere. They trick me often. I guess Purge Weekend and my new mindset concerning material possessions is a way to rebel against that. To make it sound cool, I should call it Vigilante Anti-Consumerism or something. But really, it’s just me getting rid of my stuff.
This is a habit-forming process for my wife and I, and for the children I hope to have. I want to shrink the importance of material possessions. I believe that this will leave more room for me to magnify the importance of Christ.