The Parish Church of St John-at-Hampstead

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April 2018

HOME FREED: the theology of de-cluttering - Part 3: Clutter and Happiness

Jane Brocklehurst

Advertisers want us to aspire to own the things they are marketing: a house full of beautiful furniture, fast cars, the latest technology. The more we own, they tell us, the happier we will be. Up to a point, this is true. Certainly, people with nothing at all are far from happy! Appeals are made to provide water, food, clothes, and medical supplies, for those who have lost everything in a disaster. Babies cry because their needs are not met. Adults cry too.

Owning things that provide warmth and comfort makes us happy. It is easy to assume that if things make us happy, then even more things will make us happier still, and the people who own the most things will be happiest of all. This seems to be the basis of capitalist culture. Happiness, however, does not follow a mathematical equation. Owning more and more eventually creates problems rather than solving them. Wanting is not the same as needing. Precious time and energy goes into maintaining a wealth of possessions, it can become oppressive.

Yet if "God ... richly provides us with everything for our enjoyment" (I Timothy 6:17) surely an abundance of possessions is a sign of God's blessing? Would that mean the ones with the most clutter are the most blessed by God?

But having something to enjoy is not necessarily the same as owning it, or keeping it long term. I Timothy chapter 6 tells us why God blesses people with material goods:

As for those who in the present age are rich, command them not to . . . set their hopes on the uncertainty of riches . . . They are to do good, to be rich in good works, generous and ready to share (From 1 Tim 6:17,18 NRSV).

So, don’t be afraid to give away the things that you really don’t need! God's blessings enable us to be hospitable and generous. Once our physical and emotional needs are met, the rest of our possessions are clutter. Creative imagination can come into clearing away too. There are many outlets for selling things, it can be fun taking part in a car boot sale for example. There are even more opportunities to give things away, such as charity shops, and Freegle (aka Freecycle) online. Look around your locality. How could you bless other people from the rich abundance that you have enjoyed?

Generosity towards other people is a great way to express thankfulness to our generous God.

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