The 7 Experiment: Possessions (Part I)

This is our third experiment for The 7 Book Club. The first two covered food and clothes

During the clothes experiment I found a sweatshirt in the back of my closet that I bought when I was in 7th grade. I was all sorts of self-conscious back then so I bought a women's XL despite the fact that I weighed less than 100 pounds at the time. I've justified holding onto it for the past 14 years because "it would be comfy to wear while I'm pregnant." I didn't wear it once during my first pregnancy and I hadn't worn it during this one either. Of course, just because I like to be right, I wore it for the next two days straight. 

Possessions. I don't even want to talk about this. Clearly, I hold onto EVERYTHING. However, now that we've decided to downsize, I've gotten on board with getting rid of our stuff. The challenge for me this week is this: give or sell? More on that at a later date. 

In 7, Jen Hatmaker and her family gave away 7 possessions per day for one month: 210 items. The first week she purged her closet and took the items to a local women's shelter. Apparently I jumped the gun during the clothes experiment, but with selling the house it had to happen. I knew there was a reason I'd been driving around with all those bins of clothes in my car for the last two weeks! After the closets were purged Jen moved through the rest of the house and got rid of anything that hadn't been used in the last six months or that there were duplicates of. 

The Bible study group was given a few options for our experiment:

  • We could give away 7 items per day for one week (but clothes had to be limited to one day).
  • We could sell some possessions and donate the proceeds.
  • We could choose 7 organizations in our community to donate to or volunteer at.

The point of this chapter wasn't to clear out unwanted items, it was to connect us to someone in need so we could see firsthand how our privilege impacts our purchases and possessions. 

Donating everything to a third party removes the relational magic when one human connects with another. Donating to Goodwill is fine, but about five years ago I read that it’s not that rich Christians don’t care about the poor; it’s that they don’t know the poor. It changed my perspective.
— Jen Hatmaker, 7

I am going to focus on the "relational magic" in part two, but for now let's stick with the purging. We have to have something to give away before we can find someone in need, so what do we get rid of? 

This part was easy for us because we are taking basically nothing with to the tiny house. There are only a few items tagging along to our interim living arrangement that won't get taken with us once the build is complete. For us it wasn't a question of what we should get rid of, it was what should we keep? If the item was definitely not coming with us, it got put in the donate pile. Here's the pile after one bathroom and linen closet. 

I realize our situation is extreme, so here's a suggestion that came from our workshop. Give everyone in your family a roll of masking tape or blue paint tape. For one week (or however long you decide), put a piece of tape on every item you use. You would be amazed at how much stuff is in your house that doesn't get used on a daily, weekly or even monthly basis. 

Remember, the more you own, the more you have to maintain. So as you're evaluating your stuff, try to think of it as one less item you're responsible for maintaining. That idea has helped me enjoy the purging process rather than feel sad as the donate pile grew larger and larger. 

Stay tuned for part two. 

"And he said to them, 'Take care, and be on your guard against all covetousness,
for one's life does not consist in the abundance of his possessions.'" 
Luke 12:15