We’ve discussed gleaning outside the home and gleaning inside. What I’d like to address now is Reverse Gleaning—known as de-junking. When my lovely neighbor Barbara Kowalski, a senior citizen and mother of five, read The Frugal Catholic gleaning articles, she stated, “I don’t want to glean anymore; I just want to reverse glean.” Easier said than done, for it requires getting rid of whatever we don’t need or use. And three very tough questions remain: 1. How’d we get so much stuff in the first place? 2. How do we truly let it go? 3. And how do we keep it from returning?
To answer the first question of excess stuff, it is important to look at our motives. Some people are “born to shop” whether they want to acknowledge it or not. And if you are a diligent thrift store shopper, it is easy to keep acquiring whatever catches your eye. Take for example my “blue bird of happiness collection.” It began with one happy bluebird given to me as a wedding gift. Now some 34 years later, the center of our dining table is chirping with fourteen happy bluebirds all of which have been garnered second hand. I even have a sitting salt bluebird and a perched pepper one, just in case someone mixes up their spices. What amazes me, however, is how those darned things keep flying into the Goodwill or thrift shops at exactly the same time I happen in.
My problem, of course, is self-restraint. Some have it: others lack it. If the price is right, I find it hard to say no. My sister and husband, on the other hand, have absolutely NO problem saying NO. I marvel at their ability! So how does one, who likes pretty things–used clothes, jewelry, shoes, household items (you get the picture)—conquer excess? Sadly the best way is to STAY OUT OF STORES. That includes thrift stores, yard sales, catalogs and on-line shopping sales. You simply have to go cold turkey.
Now regarding question two on how to let items go, several ideas come to mind. One way is to “release” an article when you bring another into the house. Jeanette, a mother on Bainbridge Island WA, hangs her clothes so the hanger is facing forward after she wears an article, and at the end of the season, all articles which are facing backwards (meaning they haven’t been worn) are shipped off to Goodwill. Another way is to have a large basket near the front door or somewhere obvious. Force yourself to weekly put unused clothes and house objects in this basket. After a month or two, itemize and record the pieces giving them one-third of their original value. Take them to your favorite thrift store and deduct the total from your taxes. Every year, we amass several thousand in tax deductions from this simple act, and our contributions are helping others in need. Less stuff for us: more money and jobs for others. Of course for any big (or small) items you want to donate, giving to Saint Vincent de Paul provides donations which help provide direct assistance to the poor in local communities throughout the United States. Or try Craig’s List or any free give away site in your local area. We unloaded a forty-five-year-old piano that was no longer being used to a family who really wanted it.
And for our final question: How to we keep that STUFF from returning? Well Saint Paul gives us our best advice in Philippians 4:11 (RSVCE) “11 Not that I complain of want; for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content. 12 I know how to be abased, and I know how to abound; in any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and want. 13 I can do all things in him who strengthens me.” Obviously contentment only comes from looking to Him—Jesus–for our happiness; not to our heaps of stuff. Now that is an idea worth hoarding!