Why Do I Have THIS Stuff? Building a Sharing Community

The idea of “stuff” has received a bad rap over the last few years with the growing simplicity movement. There has been a strong pull towards getting rid of everything so you have more freedom, fulfillment, and time for more important things. Cut back on lifestyle, live smaller, enjoy less. Many of these principles have inspired our lifestyle choices as well. But should I get rid of everything? Does it require me to sell everything and live in a tiny apartment in order to really pursue this lifestyle of simplicity?

I believe it’s time to get a God-centered view of stuff. We need a bit more balance.

Why has God given us this stuff? God is the giver of all good things. James 1:17, “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” He has provided us with resources, a home, and the stuff within to be used for the purpose of serving others. God gives us all things to enjoy but desires us to use them for the furtherance of His glory and kingdom.

Ephesians 4:28 reminds us: “He who has been stealing must steal no longer, but must work, doing something useful with his own hands, that he may have something to share with those in need.” It’s a call to work hard. Why? So we have something to share. It’s not just for us…it’s given to provide for our basic needs and to be shared with others in need. Alls we truly need is food, clothing, and shelter. And every other thing should be purchased with intentionality. We could simply give it away once, but there is a way I believe we can use many of the items in our homes to bless others over and over again.

Luke 3:11, ‘John answered, “The man with two tunics should share with him who has none, and the one who has food should do the same.”

Becoming a Sharing Community

Certainly simplifying will include getting rid of some things, but other things should be dedicated to a sharing category. I love reading about the early church’s passion for sharing. “They were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common…there was not a needy person among them…” (Acts 4:32, 34). This model of sharing and caring for one another was a powerful witness to a watching world around them of the love of Christ in action. This can certainly include selling things and sharing the profits with those in the community of believers that have needs…but it can also include simply making our resources available to one another through loaning, borrowing, exchanging.

What might this look like?

  • Passing around your children’s clothing.
  • Loaning out your maternity ware between your use (We store all our clothes – maternity and children’s clothing, in large plastic totes according to size and gender, so it is easy to loan out a tote as another has need of a particular size and category.)
  • Sharing your baby items in between your use. A bassinet is only in use for 6 months or so…why not loan it to another new family? It clears out space in your home until you need it again.
  • Holding a book library to share the rich treasures of books you have with others. Make a master list of all your books and pass it around to others for their reference.
  • Sharing your homeschool curriculum. Some of these materials are super expensive. Why not loan it to another family while you aren’t using it.
  • Loaning out your extra car or bedroom to missionaries or needy members of your church.
  • Host a clothing exchange, community garage sale, homemade food goods exchange, and exchange items for free.
  • Making a double batch of your dinner and sharing with a family that has just had a baby or experiencing a different trial.
  • Share a skill you have by teaching it to others.
  • Hold a work party to help someone move or get a job done around their house.
  • Open up the doors of your home in hospitality.

Your home, however big or small, is a gift to be used to bless the lives of others through your hospitality. I like to call it missional homemaking...everything you own is held loosely because it’s on a mission. A mission to comfort, nourish and support those that God sends your way. It needs to be held loosely because it may get damaged or broken along the way.

Your carpet may be stained, your toys may be broken. But if you have a God centered view of stuff you will be able to rejoice because it was used for the furtherance of His Kingdom. Having a descent size home is very beneficial for the extension of hospitality. We intentionally bought the biggest house we could reasonably afford. We picked a house that had small bedrooms and a large living space. Because we wanted to make it available for the use of others. We wanted to be able to welcome crowds of people to find refreshment through our doors. Every time you open your door you are sharing the love of Christ to a watching world.

Our basement is set up for hosting worship practice, our living room is open enough to sit larger groups for community group, leadership meetings, dinner parties, church events and so much more. We had several parties last year where over 100 people passed through our doors in a 3 hr period. Praise God! Hospitality is so much fun! Even in our small first home of a condo, we didn’t make the small space an excuse. We filled up that small space with only that which was useful for hospitality and filled it over capacity with people. It was often tight with people but sweetly intimate for the joy and laughter shared with others.

What to get rid of?

God centered simplifying is letting go of anything that is ruling in my heart. What am I afraid might be damaged? That might be a clue to an idol in my heart. Pray that God would change your heart and give you the grace to offer up your stuff for his use and purposes. If it is not beneficial for the use of others, then it can be discarded. Dedicate your earthly goods to his Kingdom use and see Him work. A God centered simplifying lifestyle is letting go of the stuff that’s just cluttering my life (that hasn’t practically served our family or others in the last 6 months) but preserving the stuff that is useful in the ministry to others.

We buy descent furniture but not expensive stuff that I would be afraid to have damaged, scratched, or broken. Yes, it has certainly seen some wear and tear. We buy consignment clothes so I’m not afraid if someone returns our borrowed collection and a few items are stained. We buy used reliable cars that can be loaned out as a brother has need.

We sift out the stuff that is not useful. Is it serving to strengthen our family or be used in service to others? If not, get rid of it!

Make sure everything you buy has a purpose outside yourself! Invest in a few items that will help extend your hospitality: A large crockpot to serve large gatherings? Serving forks, trays, large water pitchers, outside bikes for kids to play with, etc. When we were newly married without kids, we still wanted to reach out to families in our church. An older family in the church gave us a random assortment of small toys that they had cleared out of their inventory. This box was a huge help in assisting to make our hospitality so much more enjoyable for the little ones. This is a beautiful mix of simplifying but sharing going on.

I have learned in this pursuit of simplifying and sharing…the more I share and let go of, the more my heart desires to give. The more we give and share, the greater our treasure is being stored up in heaven, and the less of a stronghold this stuff has in our hearts. When I see everything I own as simply a tool through which I can bless another, it no longer worries me to see it damaged or ruined. And God is glorified as He takes the place of our all-consuming love, rather than it being in anything temporary in this world. Giving and sharing is the greatest investment of your resources!

Luke 6:38, “Give, and it will be given to you. A good measure, pressed down, shaken together and running over, will be poured into your lap. For with the measure you use, it will be measured to you.”
How can you intentionally share the “stuff” you have right now? How can you seek to build a sharing community?

About Lindsay

Lindsay Edmonds is first a lover of Jesus, wife, mother of three, homemaker, and writer. She is the editor of Passionate Homemaking since its beginning five years ago. She loves inspiring women around the world toward simple, natural, and intentional living for the glory of God.

38 Responses to Why Do I Have THIS Stuff? Building a Sharing Community

  1. Charisa July 3, 2012 at 1:57 pm #

    Thank you for writing this post, Lindsay! I very much agree what you said here, and we try to live this way. I was encouraged to think about things that we should purchase that would be helpful for hospitality, allowing us to host more people, etc, that we have put off buying for other reasons. We recently were given a Kitchenaid mixer, and a dishwasher, and I feel like both make it so much easier for me to cook for bigger groups of people. (We were already hosting many, but clean-up especially was always such a chore!) I’m now inspired to keep my eye out for other items (preferably on sale or used!) that would help us in hosting others. As a stay-at-home-mom, I love hosting people and feel like it is my biggest ministry, aside from my own family. Thank you for the encouragement in using my home and my stuff for ministry purposes!

  2. Erin July 3, 2012 at 9:45 am #

    I loved reading this. Exactly what I needed to read. I always wondered what to keep and what to purge…but no longer. This post simplified what really matters–extending Christ’s love with others. I never saw our material possessions as tools for dong just that until you mentioned it. What an eye opener! If you have any other ways you live resourcefully in the home in terms of hospitality, please share. I’m learning so much from your wise ways! :) –erin

  3. Allegra June 29, 2012 at 10:58 pm #

    “When I see everything I own as simply a tool through which I can bless another, it no longer worries me to see it damaged or ruined”

    That’s a beautiful statement!

    My husband and I are really into living simply, we were actuallly just talking about this tonight! Where to draw the line. Then later tonight while I was checking some emails I thought, let me check out Lindsay’s recent posts. And I see this!! Anyway, thanks for reminding us that it is about balance, and about using what we have to bless others.

  4. Jessica R June 29, 2012 at 6:51 pm #

    This post really spoke to me, and I would love to read even more about this – I am struggling hard with guilt and balance right now. We just moved into our dream house – not fancy, but big (hopefully to fill up with more babies!). As I watched the garden bloom this spring, I felt like God had created this little patch of heaven specifically with me in mind, but I also feel bad about spending the money to furnish it, so half of it sits empty, which I know it can’t forever, but I just can’t get past the guilt I am heaping on myself. I look at people who give up everything, and I feel selfish and worldly. I buy clothes new, but ALWAYS on sale (from Target/Old Navy), but then I tell myself that I already have a closet full, and shouldn’t be buying more. Ugh. My heart is full of muddy water right now and I need some clarity. Thank you for the timely post, which I am going to reread several times :) . Would welcome anyone’s advice!

    • Mary June 29, 2012 at 7:59 pm #

      I’m in a very similar situation Jessica, and feeling just the same. I osscillate between loving our beautiful dream home to hating the excess of owing such a big, beautiful house in such a nice neighbourhood when others are struggling with so much less. 3 years after buying it, it is (just) furnished – all with 2nd hand or warehouse clearance stuff. This is great because it keeps us free of worry that precious things could be broken or spoilt and keeps us free to share and enjoy what we have with others. So much more relaxing and enjoyable for everyone!
      I have recently come to peace on this issue with the realisation that the Lord has blessed us with all that we have and it is to be used – just as Lindsay says – not for our own luxury but for His Kingdom, and that one day I will give an account to Him of how I used all that He gave me. There is such a work to do in showing hospitality to His people, sharing with those who have less and also using our resources in the furtherance of the gospel.
      Thanks for the article Lindsay! I love reading what you have to say on this subject. It is so lovely that we have come to the same convictions by reading God’s word and seeking to obey it – although we have never met or spoken before and live on opposite sides of the world. God bless!

  5. Karis June 28, 2012 at 8:56 pm #

    This is very timely as we were discussing this in our home fellowship last week. Thank you for your ideas. Blessings!

  6. Meredith June 28, 2012 at 1:08 pm #

    I’m so glad to see such a well written post on balance! There can sometimes be an overwhelming amount of guilt at either end of the spectrum (we ignore it and pile on the stuff or go the monk’s route and sell everything and live in our vans!–both of which, in the end, are about us, not God or others). God gives us certain things at certain times and the wisdom to use them well. It’s all His! We don’t have to worry about it. Even if it’s lost, damaged or burned in a fire, He provided it once and He’ll give it again if we need it!

    Thanks, Lindsay, for being a voice of reason in our worship :)

  7. Michelle W June 28, 2012 at 11:10 am #

    Love this! We bought our home with the intention of using it to host community group and have parties to bless others with fellowship! God has been teaching me to hold onto possessions loosely. I grew up with a father who valued all his possessions as an idol, even above family, friends and his children, they were the most important things to him.
    My husband and I don’t bring in barely any money so food budget among others is tight, but I know I’m called to share my food and be hospitable with having people over for dinner. I know that if I do what I’m called to do, God will provide, because ultimately it’s up to Him, not us :)
    Thanks for this great post!

  8. Jesse June 28, 2012 at 10:48 am #

    Lindsay
    thank you for your heart in this matter! Coming from a big family and growing up with little has made this concept a bit easier but I’m continually challenged to go further. I love sharing my maternity clothes and boys clothes but find myself annoyed over a stain! What a silly thing. People are the most important thing. When it comes down to it, that is the question you must ask yourself. We inherited (bought) my parents big farmhouse and everytime I question who needs 7 bedrooms I’m reminded we don’t know what God will do when we are willing to open our hearts and homes. This post will remind me not to focus on the “simplicity” my friends have in their smaller homes but to be thankful for the ablility to share our space when needed! You always bless me!

  9. Mikaela June 28, 2012 at 10:23 am #

    Wow, Lindsay–this was a revolutionary post for me. I have always admired you (and desired to emulate you) for your simplistic living, but now I admire you even more for pointing out the happy medium between availibility and simplicity. Giving has always been a part of my family, but I love the intentional way that you go about giving. Thanks for renewing my desire to give in an effective way for the glory of God!

  10. Bethany@OurSoCalledLife June 28, 2012 at 5:01 am #

    Thanks for this–I really like the concept of God-centered decluttering and sharing.

    My friends and I had a tote of marernity clothes that we shared. We all added to it, when it was our turn to use the clothing. We were probably the best-dressed pregnant ladies ever!

  11. Diane | An Extraordinary Day June 27, 2012 at 7:28 pm #

    What a great post! There certainly is a tension with this topic. You’ve done an excellent job of addressing the issues and providing great solutions. Plus, you’ve given me lots to think about as well.

    Wishing you An Extraordinary Day!

  12. Kayla June 27, 2012 at 6:33 pm #

    I loved this post, it is very encouraging! My one comment is that you should give and share within the means of your family. If you are always giving away everything you own and are being eaten out of house and home, then it may get to the point where your family is the one that’s in need! We need to remember that our family should be our number one ministry, and we shouldn’t starve our children to feed others. However, it’s probably quite rare that families are giving to this point and the more common issue is that we are holding onto our possessions and comforts too tightly. Like I said, this was such a great post and I was really encouraged by it; definitely a good heart check! Thanks!

  13. Amanda Strnad June 27, 2012 at 5:47 pm #

    I have several friends currently evacuated due to the massive fire in Colorado Springs. My old home is 5 minutes around the corner neighborhoods entirely destroyed last night. Your question “What am I afraid might be damaged?” has been echoing hypothetically in my head since I saw pictures of the neighborhood this afternoon. I’ve been wondering how I would respond if I were still living there, evacuated quickly and didn’t have time or space to pack much of anything. It’s been quite the challenging heart check for me…I love how you balance simplicity with community needs and hospitality. Things are just things; however, they are often things that can be used for the Glory of the Lord as a blessing to His people. Thank you for sharing!

    • Rachel July 5, 2012 at 7:26 pm #

      I, too, live about 2 miles from where the Waldo Canyon fire hit. We just took a drive to see some of the damage. It was really surreal. The fire put a lot in perspective for me as we did have to evacuate and could only take a hand-full of items. It ended up being a wonderful exercise to evaluate my belongings, and more importantly my heart. We do have a few friends who lost there homes, so we have a great opportunity admist this tragedy to help out. I am able to give a little more easily this week because God used this fire to open my eyes on the “value” I had often placed on stuff.
      Also, I really enjoy this blog and the thinking that has spurred from this post and many others. :)

  14. Elizabeth | ReadySetSimplify June 27, 2012 at 5:23 pm #

    I am blessed to be a part of a church that has this kind of sharing spirit. I personally struggle with way too much clutter, so I do need to be careful about what I keep, even if it is to share. My clutter also hinders me in the area of hospitality. That is an area I really want to improve on. Thanks for the post.

  15. Annie June 27, 2012 at 4:30 pm #

    I loved this! a really balanced view. Thank you for this post.

  16. Gail June 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm #

    I hosted a food exchange in the Fall with 4 other ladies. We all cook for just 2 so we each brought in 4 of the same meals. We had Coconut, Carrot Ginger soup, I made enchiladas, we had chicken pot pie and Chicken soup). It was a fabulous time of fellowship and we went home with 4 freezer meals!

  17. Cheryl June 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm #

    Great post and just the subject God has put on my heart recently. We are selling some household items and giving the money away to help some friends adoptm3 orphans from Haiti.

  18. Cheryl June 27, 2012 at 2:12 pm #

    Great post and just the subject God has recently put on my heart. We are currently selling some household items, jewelry, toys, etc. and giving the money to some friends who are adopting 3 orphans from Haiti.

  19. Emily Upchurch June 27, 2012 at 1:12 pm #

    This is beautiful……I’ve been on the receiving end of such sharing as a generous friend gave me a HUGE box of (high quality, very gently used) clothes for my daughter when we came to the end of the things she’d gotten as gifts…..it was such a blessing that I hope to pass on!

  20. Emily June 27, 2012 at 12:50 pm #

    Loved this post. Hospitality is not my gift and often the preparation stresses me out, but the fellowship is often so sweet and so worth the efforts.

  21. Heather June 27, 2012 at 11:49 am #

    I am so thankful for this post. I can get down on myself for having stuff around, but people call all the time for random needs and I almost always have what they need. In college ministry it’s hard to predict the needs, but it’s freeing to be be reminded of how to prune my heart to God’s desires for our stuff – and that may not mean purging it all.

  22. Twiz June 27, 2012 at 11:41 am #

    I’ve five years between my sons so my baby stuff went round many families before it came back to me (with generous additions).
    However,I feel really challenged by some of your words, especially
    ” What am I afraid might be damaged? That might be a clue to an idol in my heart”
    I have many ‘things’ I value, not because they’re worth anything but because of their history. I’m going to have to ponder on this for a while. Thank you for sharing, as Molly says, some of us don’t otherwise receive this kind of challenging encouragement.

    • Emily June 28, 2012 at 12:37 pm #

      @ Twiz -
      I believe the author is stating something like if you have a white leather couch and you do not invite families with children coming over because you are afraid the kids will ruin it.

      Or, you got so mad that day your friend spilled coffee on your new carpet.

      Or, you have a fancy living room that nobody can ever go in as if it is a museum! Why have stuff you are not going to use?

      We all have valuable posessions like our wedding ring or mother’s antiques that are near and dear to our hearts. I believe the author means the stuff besides that.

      • Maria June 28, 2012 at 8:38 pm #

        For me this means I keep my Waterford crystal goblets out of children’s reach but I let them use (and break) my inexpensive glass goblets because it makes them feel important.

        It means that, instead of keeping it safely packed away because I’m scared it will be chipped or broken, when friends come over I use the tea set I bought in Poland.

    • Morgan June 30, 2012 at 7:14 am #

      The words you quoted reminded me of an incident a few years back…Some friends at church had to go pick up their neice after she was placed in foster care. They had grown kids so no clothes for her other than what was on her back. I had clothes in storage her size that I had saved from my oldest to be used by my baby. I went & got those clothes out and went through them to check for stains (I didn’t want to give her stained clothes). I came across some Gymboree clothes that were in new condition and it gave me pause. I wasn’t sure I wanted to give her my prized Gymboree clothes. What if she ruined them? What if they didn’t give them back? Then I realized how selfish that was. its just clothes. They are very replaceable. I gladly handed them over. Since then my family has been blessed over and over by friends who give us their name brand-like new clothing. They could have kept them and sold them on ebay for a pretty penny but instead they cheerfully passed them along. I think God blessed us bc we didnt let a label become our idol. That’s what I think she meant…

  23. Patty June 27, 2012 at 11:21 am #

    This post was an answer to my prayers today. A friend wanted to borrow something of mine, and for some reason I was having a hard time doing it joyfully. I say that I want everything God’s given me to be shared freely, but it was silly how this one thing was bothering me because I knew it probably wouldn’t come back in the same shape as it left, and I really enjoy this item. I have not visited this site in a while and just wanted to “check in” and sure enough this was the first post. It was God directly answering my prayer for a generous heart! Wow, thank you so much.

  24. Becki June 27, 2012 at 10:50 am #

    I LOVE this post. My husband and I just experienced an abrupt end to our ministry as foster parents. We relished the chance to use our home and resources to bless others, but it was difficult too. We were sad to “not be doing that anymore.” This post gave me lots of great ideas for how to still help others. Plus, it is good to not hold as tight to our things. I really struggled with that when kids would write on the furniture or walls! I pray that God would give me a more patient and less earth-focused heart!

    We bought a big house to bless others, and it truly is still a ministry! Thank you.

  25. Nola June 27, 2012 at 9:54 am #

    This is so important yet I think its one of my biggest struggles. I do think that it is partly caused by the way I was raised- in a non-Christian home where we never had people over and never gave to others other than a few times. It was also grumbled about those few times. However, its now MY sin and my problem. I do give, but its not enough, and not without great struggle.I have been thinking about how this needs to change lately. So this is a timely post.

    I have a question regarding lending out clothes. I have really hesitated to do this because I find that others use really strong smelling laundry products which I am very allergic to. I have a huge allergy problem with chemical based scents (I feel very sick). When I do buy clothes, mainly second hand, I have to wash them about 5-6 times with vinegar before I can wear them, and the odd time, I can’t use them at all. Is there a way to wash those smells out that I haven’t thought of? Anyone else have this problem? Any ideas on what to do, both if I were to lend something out, and for when I buy second hand? I get allergic even from holding other people’s children that smell like dryer sheets etc. but once its in my own home it gets even worse. I have this issue as well with having others over, unfortunately, but I have to draw the line somewhere since I can’t never have people over. Is there something I can do about this? Thanks

    • Jodi June 27, 2012 at 11:36 am #

      I don’t think the list is meant to be all inclusive, just some ideas that maybe you’ve not thought about. I would be concerned about the allergies too and don’t think there is anything wrong at all with drawing the line there for you. There isn’t a need to put you or your health in jeopardy in order to minister to others. I think as long as you are giving in some way, that is wonderful!

      • Nola June 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

        Yes I agree- its just some ideas, and it got me thinking too. Thanks!

    • Jess June 28, 2012 at 5:40 am #

      Yeah, I agree with Jodi. There is no reason why you should have to loan out your clothing to others. Be careful not to turn this into a legalistic list of things you must do. That is the big problem with lists. Because we (the human race) have always had a tendency to turn things into lists of things we must and must not do to be ok. God’s grace is a gift and not something you earn by following a list. There is no reason you should be putting your health in jeopardy. If you do feel like an item of clothing has become an idol in your life, then you should be willing to give it away, without the expectation of having it returned. But if it is simply a matter of having allergies, that is beyond your control. If someone wants to have something for an evening out, etc, you could always just ask them not to wash the item before returning it. Then you could wash it with your own detergent. Obviously, that wouldn’t work for long term stuff.

      As for your question about stripping them of the chemicals from the get go, have you tried alternating baking soda and vinegar? Front loaders have a tendency to make for stinky towels after a while. Apparently it has something to do with the build up of detergent and fabric softener on the towels, which prevents them from ever getting completely dry, so they get musty. Anyway, the technique (which is called stripping or recharging) for cleaning them and getting the detergent and softener out is pretty easy. You wash them one time with about a cup of vinegar (no detergent) in the load on hot. Then you do the same again (without drying in between) with half cup of baking soda on hot. This strips off a lot of the stuff and works fantastically for towels. Maybe you could try this method next time you get some used clothing.

      • Nola June 28, 2012 at 1:02 pm #

        Thanks, I will try that idea!! For sure I wasn’t trying to turn it into a list of “I must loan out our clothes or else I’m not giving” but I have been presented with opportunities in the past (mainly for maternity clothes) and not given because of this issue and was wondering if there was a solution. Thank you!

    • Emily June 28, 2012 at 12:51 pm #

      I believe it was just the author’s list of ways she shares items.

      Another thing to consider is income levels. To someone who makes $300,000 may loan out a $100 item more easily than someone who makes $50,000 a year.

      Also, someone who makes more money may have more disposal income to purchase new items more frequently so they may be viewed as giving more generously.

      I know a couple who always buys new furniture and passes their barely-used hand-me-downs to others in need. Some may view the couple as high-maintenance – always needing new items. On the other hand, some may view the couple as generous givers. It all depends on the givers heart!

    • Tara July 17, 2012 at 7:20 pm #

      To Nola:
      I empathize with your situation. My son and I suffer from allergies that keep us from enjoying being guests at homes with pets, but your allergies are something different altogether!

      I heard a wonderful lesson recently about how hospitality begins no in someone’s home as we typically think of it, but in a person’s presence. This concept has transformed my idea of hospitality! I try to make my presence a comfortable place: giving someone my undivided attention, asking thoughtful questions, seeking to encourage them with appropriate scripture, having an non-judgemental spirit, etc. Maybe, Nola, this is how you can offer hospitality without threatening your “safe place” at home.

  26. Kate June 27, 2012 at 9:46 am #

    Sharing can be difficult to do, in a day in age when everyone has one or two of everything…. but ‘everyone’ isn’t really everyone… there’s always someone who’s in need!
    [ http://www.allthingsworking.wordpress.com ]

    • Molly June 27, 2012 at 10:12 am #

      Lindsay,

      I love the way you live so wholeheartedly for the Lord and transparently before your readers. Thank you! I have many precious friends in my circle who challenge me in my thinking as you do . . . I can only imagine how valuable your blog is to those who are not blessed with a really great Christian community.