Friday, March 27, 2009

Boxed In

I've got an issue with boxes. As the Israelites hoarded manna in the wilderness, I store oodles of cardboard boxes in my basement because you never know when there may be a box famine.

To make matters worse, most of my beloved boxes were flooded last spring when a torrential downpour flowed through my basement. They've dried out now, but they're totally useless.

I could cast blame for this box collection in two directions. The first is necessity. I moved every year during college and grad school. I'm an itinerant pastor who could be moved again on a moment's notice. I need them, for goodness' sake, even the useless ones.

The second is heredity. Compulsive hoarding is a form of obsessive-compulsive disorder, a genetic problem on the 14th chromosome. My grandma's home used to be piled floor-to-ceiling with used Pringles cans, Styrofoam trays, rusty coffee cans, crusty marshmallow cream jars, envelopes of blurry photographs, old-fashioned blow-dryers, friendship cards, ration coupons from World War II, sequin calendars, 30-year-old boxes of raisins, fossilized candy, receipts from my grandpa’s 1940s job at the dairy, Indianapolis Star newspapers from the 1960s, clothes she meant to give me 20 years ago, and my favorite, the sanitary belt Methodist Hospital gave her when my uncle was born in 1942.

I'm happy to report that a saintly neighbor has helped to tidy my grandma's clutter heaven so that her red Cadillac walker can be easily maneuvered. Even so, we dread the surprises that await us when it comes time to clean out her front porch, basement, attic, and spare bedroom.

As I reflect on my grandma's home, I can sense a similar future awaiting me. First boxes, then who knows what? Why do we cling to such useless possessions?

When I confessed this issue to a church small group studying simplicity, they laughed. But they also held me accountable. One person is checking my recycle bin to make sure that I'm purging those boxes.

My sister and her husband recently moved. She called the other day to see if I wanted any of their leftover boxes, adding that she didn't want to contribute to my box problem.

"No thanks," I replied, explaining that I need to remain strong to my resolution. I'm getting rid of the boxes I'm in, one at a time.

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