We’ve discussed gleaning outside the home and gleaning inside. I want to address 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?
Our excess “stuff.”
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 “bluebird 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 tweeting with fourteen happy bluebirds, all of which have been garnered second hand. I even have a sitting salt bluebird and a perched pepper one: salt is seated, pepper is perched--easy to remember in case we forget. However, what amazes me is how those cheerful chirpers keep flying into the Goodwill or thrift shops at 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. On the other hand, my sister and husband have absolutely NO problem saying NO. I marvel at their ability! 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 online shopping sales. You have to go cold turkey.
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 faces forward after she wears an article. At the end of the season, all articles facing backward (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 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 with growing children, 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 that 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 an unused forty-five-year-old piano to a family who really wanted it.
For our final question, how do 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 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!
Martha Wild King, M. Ed., Author
The Frugal Catholic: Learn to live on less to give and save more.