Stuff for Stuff

I was flipping through a home and garden magazine and glanced at an article about organizing the garage. It had some helpful ideas about establishing zones for the boat stuff, the tools, and the hobby stuff. But the striking thing was a very insightful worldview comment about our culture.

Here’s the interesting quote I found amongst the tips about how to store the camping gear:

“The American home is changing dramatically. Houses are growing larger, as families grow smaller. Storage space has kept pace with the growing size of the American home, so extra room isn’t the problem, nor is it the solution. In other words, today’s homeowners are replacing people with stuff.”

Now that’s an insightful comment about America. We are having smaller families, buying bigger homes, and filling them with more and more stuff. In fact, there is an entire industry devoted to storage solutions for all our stuff. And if you think about it, a typical modern  magazine for women will  have an article or two on organization, but rarely an article on mothering, though it may have something about how to care for your pet. The modern American is fond of stuff and lots of it.

Stuff may be hard to store, but it’s a whole lot easier to fill a house with stuff than with children. When the stuff gets in the way, you can have a yard sale. In a sense, Americans are mothering their stuff more than they are mothering the kids. They pay for big closets, buy bins of all sizes and shapes, call in consultants to organize the storage room, and add on more rooms to keep all the stuff. One of the common reasons given for not having children is because they are so expensive. But just think how much it costs to provide for all your stuff. You need to buy more stuff for your stuff. It may even cost more than bringing up a child!

Stuff is much easier to deal with than people are. Stuff doesn’t talk back, doesn’t need to be brought up and trained and fed or taught to mind its manners. But it’s a cold comfort in old age. As much as I love storage bins and tidy closets, they all  eventually end up in the land fill (so to speak), while all those messy little fat faces will inhabit eternity.

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20 thoughts on “Stuff for Stuff

  1. “Where there are no oxen, the stable is clean…”

    We once lived in an 1100 square foot house with three children, and when our fourth was on the way we decided we needed a bigger house. We made some foolish financial decisions in order to move into a 5 bedroom, 3 bath house, and when the economy took a nosedive (early 90s), we lost our house. We were later able to buy another home, 1900 square feet, into which we eventually ended up squeezing 10 children. Through God’s blessing, after a few years we were able to add on 1000 more square feet. Now we are in a position to remodel and add on more space. The most important thing to us at this point is making room for lots and lots of people to come here and be welcomed and comfortable. Lord willing, that will mean many grandchildren, but we want to fill this house with people from our church and whoever needs encouragement and rest.

    The living room will be as big as we can make it, and the kitchen will be a busy place, and the stuff will be to serve the people. A friend made us smile once when she told us about an inside joke she has with her husband. Whenever they’re tempted to become exasperated by the toll their large family takes on her possessions, they look at each other and sigh, “They’re breaking our stuff!” That reminds them not to hold on too tightly to the wrong things.

  2. So Right!!!
    And it makes me think of one summer just a few years ago when our family spent three months camping in a tent. We had minimal “stuff”, maximum time together reading and playing and exploring.
    And it is (probably) our happiest shared memory.
    We had one another, and none of the distractions of a house full of things.

  3. I only have two living children but I must say I love your perspective of putting our children ahead of material things. There is nothing like the joy of your own children.

  4. I’m the youngest of eight children, and in the middle of baby season in my own life. My mother, who is in her 70s and has over 20 grandchildren, frequently thanks God that her lap is still full of babies and her kitchen full of hungry teenagers even though her own childbearing years are long over! She frequently comments how few of her friends have the same joy in the old age, since they chose careers and stuff over children.

    I like to remember this, when the task of raising all these little ones seems overwhelming. I hope that when I’m old and wrinkled one of my children will be plopping fresh grandbabies on my lap!

  5. When I was little, my mom would do a twice a year “skim” off all our stuff. Sometimes it hurt a little (especially when it came to dolls and things) but looking back it really made the aura of the house seem happier and cleaner thus making us closer as a family. This post made me grin as it really is a sign of the times.

  6. We lived in a 690 square foot home when our first six children were young, and it was filled with joy. After we had the opportunity to move to a 2700 sq ft home, we had more space, but I felt that we missed out on a lot of closeness, too. I have often wished we still had that little home, despite the six more children who came along:-)

    Kieran, we too keep our *stuff* to a minimum as a blessing to our family, and we have benefitted more than once from your mom’s skimming!!

  7. Thank you for the wisdom in this article. All of it so sadly true these days.

    I am on the Grandparenting side for our 3 grown girls who have given us 6 grandchildren so far. Children are truly a treasure from the LORD. We are thankful for each one.

  8. Anyone who ever worked in government education can tell you that there is no shortage of kids who have been thrown out as if they were the goods in a yard sale. If they aren’t loved, properly, your worst enemies will become your kids

  9. Oh what a blessing it is to know that there are women who love what The Good Lord gives us as blessings. I am moved and reminded of how my stuff is not mine and only can The Lord give you the true meaning of warm love, with sticky hands and dirty faces that seem to find everything that is white. Thank you for that reminder they are only little once. Enjoy them. Quinn

  10. I will always treasure my friend Lisa’s words (Mother of 6) “I love living in a small house because it help us -even forces us- to die to our selfish nature”

    Amen.

  11. One of my best friends (a Reformed Presbyterian) gave birth to her seventh baby today! They live in a small house, and we all love going over there. It never ceases for fun!

  12. Thank you Lord, that we can be reminded daily that we are simultaneous and not go to either error of judging those who value stuff over children, or the error of being caught up in the spirit/reason of the age.

    Money is good. It can be used to get things that are valuable and fun! No confusion in a home is good as well. Not having to worry about bills is a good thing.

    But,
    that is never, never the source of happiness. Children don’t know they are poor, and if there is an identity of who they are in Christ given to them by their parents, they won’t be lusting after something their neighbor has… and parents won’t be jealous either…

  13. Thank you, Nancy for your thoughtful article. There are barren women, however, who long to fill up their houses with children to care for, tend to, nurture and bring up in a way that glorifies Christ. For some, the Lord has other plans. I agree with you, that when we focus on stuff or children to the exclusion of our Lord, we miss the mark. Children, indeed, are a blessing from the Lord.

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