Materialism and the Missionary Complex

As I prepare to move to another state and am slowly packing boxes, I am amazed at all the “stuff” I have. My mom put it best when she asked me the other day “You used to be able to pack your life into two suitcases. What happened?” As I stand back and look at my things, I realize that a lot of it holds memories for me – of friends, places visited, things I’ve collected to remind me of ‘that one time’… And some of the items are from my missionary complex of “it’s still good” or “it is/was free” or “it’s not that much out of style” or “it might be useful in the future, etc…

Before I move somewhere I purge my belongings. Coming back to the US, I purge again as I bring some new things with me, and a lot of things are now out of date or have lost their temporary sentimental value. Yet I still feel like I have a lot of “stuff” in my childhood bedroom that holds all that I own. Some people may think that a 33-year-old fitting all her earthly possessions in a small bedroom is pretty impressive, yet despite having saved items for that “one day I’ll have my own house”, I still wish I could downsize.

Some things I just can’t get rid of, such as my 435+ book collection, and before you ask – yes, I do have an e-reader (and I’m not counting the e-books). If you’re a book nerd (aka book dragon) you understand! I’m packing about 70+ books to take with me this time compared to the one physical book I allow myself to pack when moving overseas. 🙂

As I ponder through the “why” – Why can’t I move with just a little? Why do I have this amount of stuff? Why do I hang on to this or that? – I think part of it goes into a materialistic way of having roots. By having these things I have something that I come back to when I’m returning from overseas, because I don’t have a place that’s “mine” or a family with whom to return. When I have to say goodbye to so many dear friends, taking a material gift or remembrance of them (or their country) helps me process and later remember them. Sometimes I think it’s the “that could be useful in the future” and the creative repurposing overseas mentality which gets me in trouble. And honestly? I think sometimes the constant getting rid of possessions and packing to the barest of minimums makes me unreasonably cling to things that should have long ago been let go.

As the Tiny House Movement has swept through the country, I find it resonating with me. A place that’s permanent, small, and can be all my own while having the freedom to up and move. Granted, part of that is scary considering I need roots and not the mobility it offers! But the simplistic, minimalistic lifestyle it offers as well as having a home to call all my own is something that part of me craves.

Watching an episode of Tiny House Nation is what brought on my most recent closet purge (as well as this post). The show helps me to evaluate what is necessary, what is sentimental, and how can I creatively reduce what I have or minimize the bulk.

What are the tips and tricks you’ve found to help you reduce your possessions and let go? What are the “must haves” you always move with?

About Traveling Mosaic

I'm on a journey in this world, hence the "Traveling" part of the name. My life is also made up of pieces that, when the Master completes it, will be a beautiful Masterpiece, hence "Mosaic."
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4 Responses to Materialism and the Missionary Complex

  1. Elaine Bell says:

    Lisa, thanks again for being so transparent. There is a place for things…at least some things. I read a book recently suggesting that instead of deciding what you want to let go of or pass on, to select only those things that bring joy to keep…in the various categories of your life. Can’t say that I’ve done a whole lot of that, but I’m working on it and it is a new way of thinking for me.

    A friend who was recently beginning to downsize commented that she was going to start taking pictures of some things that had sentimental value but pass along the item itself. Those kinds of pictures might make a great memory book (like Montage or something easy along those lines) that could be a chronicling of really special times and places for you, especially.

    Praying that God will bless you with wisdom, peace, and a sense of His pleasure as you prepare to move yet again. Blessings, Elaine

  2. Lorrie Wittig says:

    Hi Lisa,

    An employee just came in and asked about how it was going for your PD. Be encouraged that there are people praying (I don’t know if they could give!). I shared a prayer request for you at an HR dept meeting last week….so it is an HR person.


  3. tracy a tooley says:

    I like Elaine’s idea of the picture. Those can then be turned into cloth print outs and mad into a quilt. Potentially. I,sadly, have no tricks or secrets. Also, in my most recent moves I find that I did not purge as much as I should have. Now, because of the size of my house I find that I’ve acquired even more stuff….this time mostly useful! Let me know if you find a good method of getting rid of things, because I know I will not be in this house forever and really must purge when that time comes if not before.
    Finally, whenever the issue of stuff comes up I am reminded of a sermon a friend of mine wrote years ago. It was one of her first. She described two key reasons why we keep stuff and the false foundation for those reasons. You actually identified the key reasons:
    1. We keep things because of the sentimental value and the remember of good times past.
    2. We keep things because it may one day in the future be useful.

    In the first instance our eyes are on the past and we have a slight (sometimes not so slight) longing for those bygone days. In the second instance our eyes are on the future of what might be or could be.

    However, in both cases our eyes and spirits are not on what is. We long for the past or hope for the future, but do not see the security of the present (of course sometimes that may be because there is no security in the present). When we are healthy it is important to gaze on the here and now and cherish it. When we are not healthy, it is understandable that we long for past good times or hope for future excitement and security.

    You and I are lucky in that we have the security of family and the ability to still keep some of that stuff for future deliberation. I suppose the items worth most keeping are the ones that keep us anchored. The items to let go of are the things we really haven’t done anything with for 3+ years. That is a message for myself. What I fear is that the day after I get rid of something, I’ll find myself needing it after all! Grrrr.

  4. Lynne Whitmore says:

    Hello Lisa,

    We are in the middle of purging as well. I just went through my closet and asked Hannah to give me the thumbs up or down on every piece of clothing. My closet looks so much better. I have also heard the same thing Elaine discussed about only keeping things that have sentimental value. So, while I don’t have any tips at the moment, I am just echoing your thoughts in saying that when we purge and get rid of excess, I feel I can concentrate more on the important things in life…which aren’t things. We are planning a garage sale that has so far been cancelled twice due to “unforseen” circumstances. But I am confident it will happen.

    I know you are in Texas now and I am looking forward to an update on how life is in your new surroundings.

    I am praying for you.

    Lynne Whitmore

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