When my shower gel most recently ran out, I decided not to buy another bottle.
No, I wasn’t embarking on a pungent new ‘back to basics’ personal hygiene routine. Instead I started using the many mini-bottles of shower gel that I’ve picked up from hotels over the years.
The purpose of this post isn’t to discuss the morality of taking home ‘consumables’ from hotel rooms – that question has been dealt with quite thoroughly already, right here. The simple fact is that I had a lot of spare toiletries that I was holding onto ostensibly for an ‘emergency’, but in reality they were just taking up storage space.
I’ve always had a weakness for hoarding. In my teens I subscribed to news magazines like Time, Newsweek and The Economist, and I held on to back issues. I thought that one day the articles in there would provide fantastic background material for my creative pursuits – writing songs, short stories or novels. This was before the Internet made research rather less challenging than it used to be.
Well a time came when I moved house and didn’t have room for all those magazines, so I reluctantly took them to the city’s waste disposal centre. I don’t think they even had recycling facilities back then, so hundreds of magazines probably ended up as landfill.
I’ve had similar clear-outs over the years – a lot of CDs, a few clothes, and many little gadgets, tools and so on that might have one day come in useful. That day never came.
Every time I’ve disposed of, or given away, something I’ve hoarded, there’s been a small pang of regret just beforehand, and quite a heavy sigh of relief immediately afterwards. Almost like I’ve been released from invisible chains.
I could tell you a similar story about money, but that’s an interesting one that deserves its own post, so for now I’ll keep a hold on it. (Or is it keeping a hold on me?)
This morning after I’d finished my shower I thought about Job’s words (in Job 1:21),
Naked came I out of my mother’s womb,
and naked shall I return thither:
the Lord gave, and the Lord hath taken away;
blessed be the name of the Lord.
And it’s true that everything we hold on to physically can be taken away, by theft, by accident, or by natural disaster. And even if we hold on to it for the whole of our lives, as the saying goes “You can’t take it with you.”
As Paul wrote to Timothy (1 Timothy 6:6-10),
But godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it. But if we have food and clothing, we will be content with that. Those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs.
The other scripture that came to mind as I was contemplating the shower gel was Jesus’ famous instruction in the sermon on the mount (Matthew 6:19-21),
‘Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moths and vermin do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
It can be very difficult sometimes to let go of things, even when you’ve convinced yourself they have no real value. Whether it’s selfishness, or fear, or some other emotion or lie that has you bound, the pull can be powerfully persuasive, and the consequences terribly destructive.
I know I haven’t completely conquered my hoarding habit yet, but as in so many areas of weakness, I keep striving to improve. One day at a time. One step at a time. That’s the journey.