Comforter, Teacher, Housekeeper

February 23rd, 2010

My House Needs Fiber

I had a moment of clarity last night, unfortunately. It can be very relaxing to be wrong and not know it, so it’s always upsetting when I get an epiphany.

I had the TV on because one of the birds was out of the cage, and I happened to see a show called “Hoarders.” It’s about people who fill their houses with junk, until the rats take over and the kids have to sleep on piles of boxes.

The show bugged me. I’m not a true hoarder, but I’m related to one, and I have lots of hobbies, and I’m absent-minded. Put it all together, and you end up with a person with lots of junk, who puts stuff down in the wrong places and forgets it’s there for weeks or months. Hoarding Lite.

I got up and started relocating things. I had a pile of books and gun parts by my bed. I made room in a closet and stored it. I took tool-related items off the dining room table and put them in the garage. I threw out a number of stupid and worthless items.

Of course, I will need all of those items very badly today. That’s how decluttering works. As soon as the garbage truck drives away, you need whatever is in it.

I hate clutter. It’s like living in a little dirty crevice. It probably raises your blood pressure. But I have a clutter-prone personality. It’s like Felix and Oscar are in my head, duking it out like Rock’em Sock’em Robots.

I have a feeling that the Holy Spirit reduces clutter. Hear me out. When you’re not living for God, you do stupid things with your time and money. You will wander down fruitless paths, involving yourself in futile pursuits. That’s because only God can guide you in the direction you’re supposed to take. Result? You end up with stuff you weren’t supposed to have. Not just stuff, but time obligations. For example, you may give up church because your talented kid has sports practice every day, or simply because you want to squander time watching football on TV. You might end up devoting three hours a night to drinking beer. You may find yourself at a strip bar three times a week, blowing your money.

When God takes over, your priorities and desires change with time. Suddenly, you don’t need an entire closet for your porn collection. Or, like me, you may want to get rid of your delicious Cuban cigars. You find yourself selling things and giving things away. Life becomes more streamlined. You start discarding the things Paul referred to as “dung” so you can make room for the pearl of great price.

I still have a rolling toolbox full of gun stuff by the dining table, and a lot of my canning supplies are sitting on it. I have to move that to the garage. I have to throw out or give away some of the garage objects I will never need. I think it’s safe to throw out my old PC cabinet, and I need to Craigslist my brewing kegs.

I really need to get rid of the Super Genie Lift I inherited from one of my dad’s tenants. A guy at my church said they’ll take it, but it may be ten years before they get around to coming for it.

One of the reasons I don’t like Miami is that there is no space here. I’d like to have a home with an outbuilding for my hobbies. Here, that would run maybe three million dollars. A hundred miles north, maybe two hundred and fifty thousand. Cities are for limited people. If your only hobbies are TV and clubbing, Miami is perfect for you. Add three hobbies, and you’re out of luck. You need to move and get more room.

Last night I thought about my grandfather’s house in Kentucky. It had five bedrooms, including a little spare bedroom that held some of his guns and my grandmother’s sewing stuff. It had a big kitchen, a full dining room, a full living room, a big den, a second den in the basement, a second kitchen in the basement, tons of extra basement square footage, a big foyer, and three baths. It also had a tool shed and a barn, plus a carport and a concrete patio.

Mind you, this was not a mansion. It was just a nice red brick home. It brought $120,000 when the heirs sold it.

THAT is living. Bring your tools. Bring your cooking equipment. Buy three smokers. Get four gun safes. Get a bass boat and an RV and five motorcycles. No problem!

My idea of an ideal home is a three-bedroom CBS house with a big commercial-style kitchen, terrazzo floors, and no curtains, with nothing on the walls except maybe NRA calendars. Put a 1500-square-foot building out back with lots of room for musical instruments, tools, and storage. Give me two acres or more to grow food. I’m done. Let me live there until I die. You would have to hold me at gunpoint to get me to leave that house to go to paradise.

Forget antiques. Forget rugs; they hold dirt and stains and smells. Forget hardwood. It rots, termites eat it, and it makes noise. Put a drain in the kitchen floor so I can spill things. Tile the kitchen walls all the way to the ceiling. Get me white dishes and cups from a restaurant supply house, and put in a deck oven for pizza. Kill every plant that isn’t grass or something that produces food. Give me an entire room for Maynard and Marvin. That’s luxury!

The “stronghold” concept is well known among Christians. Satan has spiritual strongholds we have to conquer. The Canaanite cities Joshua destroyed are symbolic of these strongholds. Addictions and bad habits are strongholds. Bad attitudes are strongholds. A physical illness or poverty may be a stronghold. We’re supposed to break these things down by spiritual warfare.

It has occurred to me that God has strongholds, too. Every human believer is described as a house or a temple or an embassy. We belong to the nation of heaven, even though we live on earth. Within us–within our “walls”–God’s ways prevail. And we have to strive to keep Satan out, and we pray in the Spirit to build ourselves up, so there is something stronger than Satan within us, to repel attackers.

Similarly, a Christian’s home can be a stronghold. It can be an embassy of God. That’s what I want. I know life isn’t supposed to be a breeze, but we’re supposed to live in victory, and it seems to me that within our homes, Satan should be relatively powerless. A stronghold home should be a place where a Christian can retreat and recharge. We have to fight the enemy everywhere else. At home, we should have more peace.

A home should be like a military garrison. You defend it and keep it free from invaders, and from time to time, you make excursions into enemy territory and do damage. Then you retreat back to the garrison and prepare for your next assault.

This is what I want. I don’t want fancy furniture or snooty neighbors or a location shallow people would crave. I want a fortress where I can find a little relief.

Before the clutter show, I say a show called American Pickers, about two guys who go around talking old people into selling them valuable antiques below the market price. They went to visit a man who had twelve buildings full of junk. They had a hard time persuading him to sell them anything. He had to be 75 years old, and this stuff was falling apart, but time after time, they would show him a rusty object and ask the price, and he would tell them it wasn’t for sale. It seemed to me that this guy was in the same boat as the hoarders. He’s going to die, and all that neglected, decaying stuff will be loaded up in dumptrucks and destroyed so the new owners will be able to use the buildings. Crazy.

I also caught a few minutes of a show called Intervention. You can probably guess what that’s about. I plan to record it from now own. It’s helpful to see how tough professional addiction counselors are. It reminded me of an important truth: if you don’t fix a loved one who has an addiction–if you withdraw and wait for them to change, and it doesn’t happen–it doesn’t mean you didn’t try to help. It means the addict didn’t try. Every bad thing that happens to an addict as the result of not trying is the addict’s fault. If someone asks you why you’re not helping, say, “Shouldn’t you be asking why the addict isn’t trying?” Don’t fall for blame-shifting. If you accept even the smallest particle of blame, you might as well be handing the addict a bottle of pills.

It’s funny how I happened to tune in to three very instructive shows, on a night when I was just trying to find entertainment while I communed with my pets. Dang these “coincidences.” They are swarming on me.

23 Responses to “Comforter, Teacher, Housekeeper”

  1. Titan Mk6B Says:

    Your perfect home sounds a lot like my perfect home. I am going to have it someday very soon, I hope. The biggest problem with where I live is that you can by 20 acres or a city size lot but nothing in between. Gets a little frustrating.

  2. Kyle Says:

    Perfect home is a good idea. That said, just build shelving and go nuts in one of your rooms. It will organize the stuff you want to keep and help you get rid of the junk you don’t want to look at. It will change your life.

  3. Virgil Says:

    I say that the perfect “compound” is ten to forty acres of pines/hardwoods, with a three to five acre yard/garden area cleaned up and fenced in–house in the middle–with a long driveway and a GATE on the road.

    Then you can have a small pond to fish in and a dirt embankment shooting range and even a couple of dogs and some miniature goats and a few chickens and you’ll never leave except to go buy flour and cheese and go to church.

    I’m managing such a property long distance in Southern Alabama but have to wait…hopefully a LONGGG time…until my mother stops using it but then I’ll basically disappear from the public realm…except possibly people hearing the distant sounds of gunfire coming from my back yard occasionally.

  4. Steve H. Says:

    That’s really exciting except for the pond. I can’t stand small fish. A friend of mine put it best when he described this kind of thing as “aquarium fishing.”

  5. BlogDog Says:

    I’m sorry. I’m not tracking with you on “CBS house.” It’s not a term I know.

  6. Virgil Says:

    You mis-understood…by “small” pond maybe I should have used the word “lake”.
    Not wanting to brag further earlier, our “pond” is actually about 5 acres in size, and over 20 feet deep at the dam.
    Some days you can catch fish like crazy and other days you catch nothing or only get “strikes”…but it’s been around since 1965 when my grandfather built it for the family to enjoy and for his cattle to water in/around in the summer and today we don’t name the largmouth bass and Bream and Catfish…or even keep and eat the ones we do catch most of the time unless we gut hook them.
    Still, I think that it’s cool to be able to go out your back door and walk 50 yards to the bank with a couple of cheap rods and reels and a few lures and go fishing.
    If nothing is biting you can always just sit on the dock and watch the Ducks and Herons and Egrets flap around and the Turtles bob their heads.

  7. Chris Says:

    I usually watch reruns of Hoarders on the OnDemand channel, and the one thing that really stands out about the folks they profile is that they all seem to share a feeling of insecurity that is ramped up to 11. Oftentimes its the loss of a close relative that finally tips them over the edge, and when they don’t have that emotional crutch anymore they try to drown their insecurity in “things.” The constant nagging fear that they will “need that someday” becomes an insidious part of their psyche.
    From a Christian standpoint, it’s not hard to see how these hyperactive feelings of insecurity would be a demon or demons at work tearing people down. The Hoarders folks end up so attached to their things that they destroy their relationships with their relatives and actually create a literal fortress with their stuff, and in some cases pass that insecurity on to their kids (related, I guess, to the family curses that you’ve discussed on here from time to time). What better way to ruin families and break down societies than to make people value objects above their loved ones?

  8. Steve H. Says:

    “You mis-understood…by ‘small’ pond maybe I should have used the word ‘lake’.”
    I know, but freshwater fish are so depressing.

  9. Steve H. Says:

    “It’s not a term I know.”
    “Concrete Block Stucco”

  10. Aaron's cc: Says:

    Hoarding is essentially shouting at God that you don’t believe He’ll provide.
    My desire as I hit my 60’s is to give away nearly everything and whittle down my possessions to the bed I sleep in, the desk I work from, the table I eat at, a small dresser of clothing and ONE bookcase filled with the kind of stuff I refer to regularly. I’ve seen too many people in my family overwhelmed by the death of a family member and dealing with van loads of stuff nobody wants. Clutter is a cruelty perpetuated by the dead on the survivors.
    The only stuff I like to collect has interest to genealogy fans in my family, irreplaceable photos, documents, yearbooks, etc.. But they’ll be easy to identify in my will.
    Much better to give possessions away while you anticipate living another 5-10 years than to have family members fight over wanting it or hating it. Better to give stuff unwanted by family away on Craigslist to someone who wants it.

  11. Richie Says:

    I have 940 square feet, half the stuff from the folks’ house, and a pathway through the back bedroom to the little bitty lathe and the little bitty drill press. This “de-cluttering” of which you speak-is there a support group?

  12. pbird Says:

    I’ve watched that show too and I am a little skeptical about the motivations of the producers. Sure the cases shown are overthetop, but…productive people have stuff to be productive with. We can’t all live in a stripped down enviornment meant only for show like some of those houses when they get done with them. Who would want us to throw away a bunch of practical stuff?

  13. ErikZ Says:

    Titan Mk6B, you can subdivide property. Buy your 20 acres, divide it into 4 lots and sell off the other three.

  14. Steve H. Says:

    “My desire as I hit my 60’s is to give away nearly everything and whittle down my possessions to the bed I sleep in, the desk I work from, the table I eat at, a small dresser of clothing and ONE bookcase filled with the kind of stuff I refer to regularly.”
    Sounds kind of Catholic.

  15. Elizabeth Says:

    I’ve decided that when I turn 65 (8 1/2 years from now), I’ll tell the kids to meet me at the house with pick up trucks. I’ll divide my estate (such as it is) right there and then, tell them to put the stuff in the trucks, and get it the %#@% out of here. I came from a long line of hoarders, and do not want them to have the experience I did.

    Although we never could quite figure out how grandma got the wringer washer up the steps (she died in 1982).

  16. krm Says:

    I quibble about the flooring point – hardwoods and tile/slate type stuff is good for allergies, but bad for sound and comfort of walking on (granted, hardwoods don’t get eaten by termites up here in the North, and the cold floors issue is greater).
    We are working toward a point of hardwoods and tile flooring with area rugs (which can be effectively cleaned periodically – or replaced as needed).
    I’ve also become a fan of the fiberglass shower/bath units to replace the tiny tiles that always need grout maintenance.

  17. HTRN Says:

    Your idea of the ideal house is a bit skewed from mine, but then, mine is a bit skewed from everybody elses – a 1bdrm, single bath with a kitchenette… attached to a 8000 sq foot climate controlled machine shop, with a 1000 yard range out back.

    I know I’d learn to regret it – machine shops are never large enough. 🙂

  18. Steve H. Says:


  19. Aaron's cc: Says:

    By my 60’s, I’d like to spend my time circling Israel visiting my kids and grandkids.
    Another fantasy is a multi-acre lakeside compound with sufficient bedrooms to have annual descendant conventions. It should have a firing range on site. It pains me that my grandfather’s two-pond 14-acre mountainside home with swimming pool in the Ozarks was sold after he passed away a decade ago before I had the means of buying it and turning into my dream compound. Downside of Ozarks is getting kosher food, but I’d install an industrial freezer and get shipments from St. Louis or Chicago.

  20. pbird Says:

    Yeah, I’m thinking of getting rid of my piles of fabric and yarn and all that before I die too.. Of course I’ll have to fine some other sick little monkey that likes to make stuff to give it to.
    Oh yea, and all the cooliecool pans and stuff I got at yard sales and such. Sigh.

  21. pbird Says:

    Feel free to correct my spelling. I’m old.

  22. HTRN Says:

    Yeah, Kitchenette.

    Hey, at least I didn’t write “a hotplate and a microwave”. 🙂

  23. Laura Says:

    My parents are recently retired and working on a ‘family compound’ concept.
    Unrelated: is it mandatory that you remain in Miami, especially given the potential for awesomeness only 100 miles away?