Notice came in the mail the other day – Purple Heart will be in your area…yada yada. I am a regular stop because I LOVE putting out bags of clothing. Last time the little red RadioFlyer wagon went and so did the teddy bear and Winnie-the-Pooh latch hooks I made and then Mike framed. I imagine that they will be hung in some nursery where a baby can pluck at the soft little yarn pieces instead of stashed in the back of my older children’s closets, an embarrassing reminder of what they used to have on their walls.
Lots of reasons to give to Purple Heart: to support military families, because they pick up right at my curb, because it keeps unused clothing from stacking up at my house. There’s also a fairly obvious psychological/childhood reason I stalk through the house and gather up items for donation every two months. Five children in a three-bedroom house. My two older sisters and I were moved to the basement – a dark place with items stacked up to the ceiling in some spots and in from the walls in others so that only a walkway was clear to the laundry section. Paintings, those beach scenes you buy in Ocean City, propped against a basement wall – supposed investment where you buy a ‘lot’ of paintings for a discount price and then sell each one for profit. But none ever got sold. Next to the paintings a duffel bag of clothes that needed to be sewn, patched, or a button replaced. Covered in dust and forgotten. My father did pull the duffel bag upstairs once, set up the sewing machine and got to work. He fixed one of my favorite skirts, a peach ruffle-ly flowered affair. Too bad it didn’t fit anymore. A ping pong table unplayable because of the blue boxes of Amway detergent sitting on top and remote control airplanes underneath. Not the cute kind, the six-feet kind. A couple Rainbow vacuum cleaners stashed around, victims, like my father, of a pyramid scheme. How I’d hated when he’d made me call my school acquaintances, get their parents on the phone, then ‘drop by’ to discuss vacuums. Me along for the ride to keep it all a friendly chat, barely able to swallow through my embarrassment, not meeting anyone’s eyes.
Upstairs stacks of mail sat in the bedroom, piles of pizza boxes by the fire place. Like college furniture. Fuel for the fireplace my parents said. What’s the problem? There are fifteen to twenty greasy, crumb-filled boxes sitting in our living room. That’s the problem.
So, it makes sense that in reaction I keep my house organized and neat, to a point that some of my friends mutter ’OCD’ under their breath. Even so, we still have TOO MUCH, but I try to pass things along, keep them moving, keep my house light and airy. Not so easy with seven people living here, but we do alright.
There’s another reason, though, a spiritual reason. People hold on to things because of fear. You never know when you’re going to need it. What if this becomes valuable. Maybe I’ll find the other sock to make the pair. I’ll keep it for the grandkids. What if I run out of money and only the broken lawnmower I have in the carport will save me from a life of destitution. It could be an antique…one day.
I’m not judging, I can only do what is right for me. Right now, that means letting go of the ‘what-if’ fear and finding joy in donating clothes, books, toys and imagining those things being used by someone else. Grabbing onto faith that what we need will be supplied by my Heavenly Father.