My Relationship with My Stuff

My Relationship with My Stuff

July 22, 2015

"A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." John 13:34-35 (NIV)

This morning I stood in my closet and considered all the multiples — multiple shoes, multiple scarves and multiple purses. Too much stuff!

How have I gotten to this place again with a collection of more than I need? The most honest answer is that I use my things to define myself. I think my "perfect" purse makes me seem more perfect. I believe my cool shoes transfer their vibe to my persona. I hope my trendy scarf affirms my relevance.

It’s time to clean out! Not only do I not need so much, but years ago I learned a memorable lesson about the soul-cleansing power of simplifying. I learned it while visiting a humble, cinder-block house in the mountains of Ecuador.

Early on a Sunday morning, the Proverbs 31 Ministries Team and our local hosts loaded into buses that drove us out of the large capital city of Quito, into the gorgeous countryside and up the mountains.

As the bus rounded a corner on the twisting mountain road, a stucco church with a red-tiled roof came into view. Our group clambered down the steps and walked toward the church flanked on either side by two rows of stunning, dark-haired, dark-eyed children clad in heavily embroidered clothing. Once their shyness melted away, these darling children climbed onto our laps and held our hands throughout the entire worship service.

When the sermon ended, our team split into pairs to visit with the children in their homes. Our guides explained that their beautiful faces might cause us to overlook the harsh reality of their lives. So, with groceries in hand for the families, we set out to visit their homes and see their true living conditions.

One of the mothers, Dolores, greeted us and invited us into her home to meet her family. Her husband, a builder working in Quito, wasn’t there that day, but evidently they had a loving relationship when he was home … he and Dolores had filled their tiny space with seven children!

The home was tidy, but the floors were bare dirt and plastic sheeting served as a ceiling. There was running water and electricity but no appliances in the kitchen. The only sign of food was a small stack of maize in the corner. In the bedroom, we saw two beds for the whole family, and though we knew the mountain nights and winters to be cold, I didn’t see a furnace or any indication that the house was heated. Even so, it was obvious that Dolores was proud of her well-built home and of the hours her faithful husband had spent building it for their family. She glowed as she described the care and craftsmanship he invested for them.

As we prepared to leave, my team partner asked Dolores a pivotal question: "Dolores," she began. "How can we pray for you and your family? What is your greatest need?"

While we waited for the interpreter, I took a mental assessment of Dolores’ many needs. But my mouth hung open as I listened to her response: "My greatest need is to be able to teach my children about Jesus so they will follow the Lord all the days of their lives." Tears filled my eyes as my heart absorbed the lesson this Ecuadorian woman in humble circumstances taught me.

Dolores’ prayer request revealed that her deepest desire isn’t for the perfect house or the signature outfit. She values relationships — with God and others — more than material things.

That experience impressed this truth upon my heart: God created us for connecting, not collecting.

As I clean out my closet, I want to value the same thing Dolores values. I vow to hold my "stuff" loosely and be defined by the closeness of my relationships.

Lord, forgive me for my defining relationship with stuff. I want to be defined by You and my love for others. In Jesus’ Name, Amen.

Philippians 2:3, "Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves." (NIV)

Learn to value relationships over resources in Amy Carroll’s brand new book, Breaking Up with Perfect: Kiss Perfection Good-Bye and Embrace the Joy God Has in Store for You.

Amy invites you to visit her blog today where she’s giving away a copy of her book Breaking Up with Perfect and a beautiful sign that says, "God created us for connecting, not collecting."

You can also sign up for "Five Days to Himperfection," five devotions and freebies centered around ending the exhausting pursuit of perfection by clicking here.

What material things have you used to define yourself? Your house? Your clothes? Your car?

What do you have that you could give to bless someone else, build relationships or help you start to redefine yourself by love rather than by what you own?

© 2015 by Amy Carroll. All rights reserved.

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  1. notabride says:

    totally me as I may turn down some opportunities for more money. the more stuff the lonely er I feel.

  2. I’m just starting to do a deep clean and deep declutter. I find myself holding on too tightly to things that I use to define me. I’m thankful that God brought me to this blog today. Thank you for letting Him speak through you!

  3. Oh this is God’s perfect timing. I’ve never been one to hold onto “things” but find my home is so cluttered and disorganized. I’m overwhelmed with the noise it creates in my head and the busy work that it creates. I’ve recently started the Konmari method of decluttering. My greatest desire is to teach my children that their happiness comes from their relationship with Christ and with others, not their things. And I know the greatest lesson is taught by example.

    • I also have been reading about the Konmari method. I have accumulated way too much stuff and am now overwhelmed by it. It does not produce the fruit I would like to see in my life.

  4. I needed to read this today. I am constantly concerned with wanting everything to be perfect. I lost a child and now know that the quality of time spent is THE MOST important thing you need in your life. Just wish I could turn back the clock and get back all the time I wasted getting everything PERFECT before I sat down to spend precious time I will NEVER EVER get back.

    • Amy Carroll says:

      Debbie, your story brought tears to my eyes. I’m praying that God comforts and redeems every pain and regret of your heart.

  5. What a much needed reading for me this morning! Praying with my husband over selling our home because he has accepted a job with a long commute. I don’t want to give my house up!! After reading this excerpt, I am believing that God has a different plan than my own plan!!! Thank you for opening my eyes about hanging onto stuff!!

  6. Thank you for this very timely reminder. It’s so easy to get caught up in the “the more stuff I have the better I feel!

  7. This Christmas will be 5 years since we lost everything in a house fire. We rebuilt and replaced what we thought was important. (We had over 1500 books, each teenager had at least 500 dvd’s and 500 cd’s.) When we started to repurchase items we all had a different outlook on what was important. Our ‘needs’ and ‘want’ list is so different now. The only things I miss is the first baby outfits, toys and pictures that we lost. Everything else is just stuff. We laugh now at how we use to think was important. A relative asked if we were minimalists now. LOL. No we just would rather give now than get. God really does take care of our needs.

    • Amy Carroll says:

      Wow. That’s a terrible way to gain perspective, but I thank you for sharing your powerful insight with us!

  8. Wow, what a beautiful devotion. Life is about connection and not collection. This is very true. Thank you for sharing the word. The word is truly a Lamp onto my feet and a light onto our path.

  9. Rochelle Howard says:

    Thank you for your testimony this morning. I’ve been working really hard to provide what I’ve been conditioned to believe my family needs. The price I’ve paid is isolating myself from important relationships including my relationship with God. The Holy Spirit has been convicting me to take a different path and I appreciate the confirmation that came by reading this devotion this morning. Praise God from whom all blessings flow and His disciples who share their wisdom for the benefit of others.

  10. Thank you.
    Two words to express gratitude for the six words you have given me
    Life is about connecting, not collecting.
    Again,thank you.


  11. Sandy Benson says:

    I day’s message was written for me i am sure! God always gives what I need for the day to encourage me to keep on trying no matter how I feel! God Blesses yo with the words and me with the message that hits home! Thank you both!

  12. Amen, thank you Amy for such a revealing and timely devotional. I am trying to break up with ‘stuff’ as well as model and teach my sons that ‘stuff’ does not last, only their relationship with Christ will. It is not an easy thing to do with them being bombarded with television, radio, the internet and peers messages that seem to overwhelming send the opposite. However, I know God is faithful to us and our children and He will always lead us in shaping and directing their future paths. Yes, connecting, not collecting is a very strong and heartfelt statement.

  13. As a Christian working in the secular wold, it is easy to have “stuff” creep into my life because of working relationships around me. God always has some way, though, to bring my focus back to Him and His purpose, usually through His Word. Praise the Lord for His Word and Spirit at work!

  14. Crystal says:

    So true! Thank you for this reminder!

  15. Wow,!! Thank you for sharing

  16. Cookie Marie Kurtz says:

    Stuff woo boy I’ve had my share of stuff and sometimes think I need more stuff.
    “that car will show everyone that I’ am successful” the truth is that lately I have been revealed by what I have been able to build. My service and humility have given me more reward than the belief that ” the car” will define how successful I am. My relationship with Lord is my signiture item

  17. Thank you for the devotion today. This has been a reoccurring message to me. It’s time to get rid of all the clutter and be content with what I have. Getting rid of the clutter would allow me to spend more time with my family and friends rather then cleaning up all our stuff.

  18. Wow

  19. Christi K. says:

    Definitely something I needed to be reminded of. Just looking at my closet stresses me out because it is so cluttered. I recently bought new storage and organization items that I thought would help, but what I really need to do is part with some “STUFF”! I’ve had clothes in a bag to donate, but I have a hard time letting go of some of it even though I haven’t pulled any item out in the time that they’ve been sitting there! Thanks for this timely devotion!

  20. I’m Moving to NC in another 2weeks and I wasn’t aware of how much stuff I had accumulated over the years, stuff I hadn’t really used in years. Your lesson to me was we always have more than we need and instead of keeping it, someone out there is in need, give and know you are doing what God wants us to do and it will make your heart feel good, while supplying others with something they might not have. God Bless all of you at Proverbs 31, you make my day!

  21. Lorraine Furtner says:

    Either you ladies have a hidden camera in my home or God is trying to telling me something. Lol. Just this morning I was looking at houses because we are thinking of downsizing and I was mentally going through cabinets and thinking how my stuff would fit into a smaller house. I am sentimental and tend to hoard memories attached to “things”. God (and my husband!) are pressing on me to let go. I couldn’t figure out why this could be important to God. Now I know. Thank you so much doe writing!

  22. Thanks so much for this devotion. I have been so focused on stuff-vehicles, homes, clothes, and shoes- lately that I’ve allowed it to separate me from God and his purpose for my life. Last year my car broke down and we have been unable to afford to fix it or replace it. I feel defined by this, although I know it’s not important. God has proven that he will take care of our needs. I ask for prayers to help me get back to focusing on my relationships with God, my family, and others. Thanks again!

  23. kathy wyg says:

    Good Morning….this was the perfect devo this am…this mom Dolores…touched my heart…thank you…i would much rather be a servant than be served…i just semi- retired from the fast food industry after 18 yrs…& i loved seving the public…that was my greatest enjoyment…..

    To Vik….i had left a message yesterday on my post/comment; your encouragement
    remind me &/or parallels to that of 2 other ladies that comment almost daily…

    Nico Smith & Shirlee Abbott…thank you….if possible i would love to get in touch w/you…about your devos….& other ones like these that i read….i will include my
    e-mail….hopefully you will see it & contact me…..

    hope everyone has a great & blessed day……….kathy wygant

    And..thank you again Amy…for this sweet devo today…esp about Dolores……

  24. Jessica says:

    I remember a children’s song that goes along with today’s Bible verse. If I remember that song from years ago, I take it to mean that God intended for that verse to be important! It is important. It just took me this long to realize it. While that is sad, I am still Blessed for this revelation. Thank you Heavenly Father for your everlasting Love, Grace, Mercy, and Patience with me. I want to make connections, not collections.

  25. I needed to see this today. This very issue has been weighing on my heart for some time. As if God has been whispering to me – there is no value in “stuff”. Sometimes I wonder if us Christians have gotten it wrong in some areas…are we too consumed by buying things to make ourselves feel pretty, to make our homes seem pretty. I know sometimes I’ve fallen into that trap. God has a purpose for us here and we need to remember that earth is not our final destination….what if we took the money we used to make ourselves feel pretty and used it to help the needy, feed the poor. Matthew 6:19 tells us not to store up treasures for ourselves here on earth. I’ll admit sometimes I wish I had a bigger home, more money to do more things, but in it all I need to remember my family is healthy, I have a roof over my head and more than enough food to eat. I have all my needs maybe not all my wants, but all my needs. Some families don’t even have that.

  26. This is so true. We are distracted by wanting things to improve our image. It’s not about us. We are still on this earth to share with others the good news of Jesus. It’s easy to get caught up in material things. I recently decluttered every room in my home. I felt God was saying “keep things simple”. I prayed for time and motivation to finish and He answered. I’ve heard people say God will give you the desires of your heart. They think that it’s only about boats, big homes, fancy cars. If He is living in us, our desires will be His desires. He brings the heart change. Those desires are not selfish. Those desires put others first. We have to love who God made us to be without the material things. If we don’t love ourselves it makes it harder to focus on others. Thank you for this devotion.

  27. Thanks
    Beautiful piece

  28. Sonnie Jane says:

    This was so on point I’m chaleenged and need to take action ASASP- Thank you for sharing this devo.

  29. What a perfect devotional! This is something that my husband and I have learned first hand. When the housing market crashed, my husband was in the middle of restoring homes in our newly adopted home in Virginia. We lost literally everything, our home, all our investments, savings. All of it was gone! It was then that I finally learned to trust in God for everything and not depend on the blessings He had given us. My life verse interestingly is Proverbs 3:5-6. God knew way back in my 20’s when I chose it that I would constantly need to hold onto that truth. We are not young, in our 60’s, so rebuilding all that we had saved over the years will probably not happen. The two biggest lessons I learned were to hold things lightly with an open hand and to put my trust in the Lord. Our God will provide; He has and He will.

  30. Love this. Makes me rethink when I complain.

  31. Thank you so much for today’s article, it has hit home. I have a tendency to place to much value on my “belongings” which means that I belong to them. I am slowly but surely learning to release and dispose of items that have plagued my life in these past few years. Learning to let go, not just physically but emotionally and spiritually is an exhausting job, not mention the effort and energy that this entails. I need to remember that our God, is a God of order, and as you wrote in your article of the simplicity of the people of Ecuador has thought you, it has thought me as well. I truly believe that the Holy Spirit is convicting me, via your article, that I have much to do in my humble abode and in my life!! Thank you for your honesty, I very much enjoy reading and learning from your Proverb’s 31 Ministry and I thank God for awesome women as yourself.

  32. Jessenia Lavin says:

    The man creates more neccesities for himself, I could live without a cellphone BEFORE I had my first one. Better a dry crust with peace and quiet than a house full of feasting with strife. Peace is what you experienced in that house.

  33. This went straight to my heart. Thank you for sharing this. I’m in a transitional phase of life and trying to get “my house in order’, literally and figuratively. Printing this as a daily reminder that our relationship with Him and with others is all we have when we leave our eartly home.

  34. This devotional touched my heart deeply. My eyes were opened!

  35. This really has come at a perfect timing. I have so many clothes that not all of them even fit in my closet. I was thinking the other day of saleing my clothes for really cheap and donating all the money I receive to my church.

  36. AMEN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! : O)

    Beautiful testimony! I love this. The woman’s heart is so humble and pure, I can’t even find the words to say. My husband and I live in a tiny house and I drive an old car, but one thing that I think I let define me is my “clearance” Banana Republic clothes. I love getting them when they are an extra 50% off the already sale price. So it’s possible to get a nice pair of regular price $130 pair of pants for $19 or $29. 🙂 Maybe it makes me feel rich, I don’t know.
    One thing I have to bless others is Jesus in my heart, His river of love pouring through me to others to let them know of His awesome love. 😀

  37. Wendy McKenzie says:

    Great Message about “STUFF” and as I have been getting ready for a yard sale and realizing that it is hard sometimes to let go of some things and just like you I wander how in the world did I collect so much stuff!! We cannot take the stuff with us when we leave this world and we cannot store up treasures on earth to take to heaven that I have forgotten that I have much more than I need to survive on this earth and I take my stuff for granted! My goal is to work on myself and stuff because the only thing that matters in life is my Jesus and not stuff!!!

  38. Amy,this is my first-time doing something like this but when I started reading Proverbs 31 this morning I thought I was going to get an answer and a solution to my ongoing issue with my stuff and why I can’t let go of it
    For me I think it’s an abandonment situation rather than a defining myself or relationship issue.I don’t know how to get past the feeling of loss of people in my life(for various reasons) so I buy stuff to fill the void . I’d much rather have the people.I Really Love the sign “We’re made to Connect ….I would put it right smack in the middle,on top of all my stuff,right at my front door if I could.I need a way out of this stuff without feeling the pain of abandonment(me feeling like I’m abandoning or throwing away a relationship)I would love to have a copy of your book Breaking Up with Perfect. ….for myself.Maybe there’s some words of wisdom/encouragement to get me moving on clearing my space and my head of all this stuff. Also I’d give my daughter a copy because she REALLY needs to breakup with Perfection or I see her burnt-out on life and there goes another abandonment situation for me ……more stuff…Amy,I may have sounded all over the place but thank you for the opportunity to sound off.Have a BLESSED day. …

  39. Over the holidays last year I did the Seven devotional. It was amazing, and gave me a whole new perspective on how we collect. It’s more than the number of shoes or dresses. Seven helped me to see how I can simplify all areas of my life, from my closet, to my use of electronics, what I keep in my refrigerator and pantry, etc. I will be doing the Seven devotional at least once each year now.

  40. Rokhshie Malone says:

    I loved this devotional – but more important, I forwarded it to my husband. Would love him to practice the ‘art’ of giving away – after all it is just stuff! You are spot on. A friend of mine told me years ago, “if you have not used any of your possessions for a year, you don’t need it. Let it go”
    Thank you

  41. Last week as I was spending time in the Word, I was experiencing this overwhelming weight of all the stuff that we have acquired living in this home for 30 years. My mediation was that I was sometimes giving the Lord the leftovers as I was spending way too much time taking care of all the stuff. I asked myself, “what do I value more, my relationship with the Lord or all this stuff I’m surrounded with.” I value my relationship with the Lord more than any item in my home. I also felt God has truly blessed this home with family and friends but it was time to let go of the stuff and simplify our lives and focus on relationships. So I made a list of stuff that is weighing me down and began sorting and donating from closets, pantries and kitchen. There is still more to do but it feels great in giving, it is freeing. Your devotion and the comments was like a validation of what I had been meditating over. Thanks all.

  42. Amy, your post is so timely! I am preparing for a move from Colorado to Texas and the Lord has shown me how much UNneeded “stuff” I have. It’s weighing and I also feel the burden of needing a large house to accommodate the extras. So I’m culling and giving/selling so much. I want to be known for the Christian I am, the books I write, and the way I treat others. Not by the possessions I have. Thanks for sharing. It was well needed.

  43. Sally Ann Price says:

    This was a great story. I agree with you Amy.

  44. Thank you Amy! This was wonderful and very timely for me. I’ve been looking around my house and wondering why I need all this stuff. Time to simplify!

  45. This devotion was truly for me!!! If we all let our fleshly needs take over, we will never see God’s beauty through this journey.We can live on so much less than we allow ourselves too.Thank you for your beautiful words it really spoke to my heart. Time to clean out the closets:)

  46. leona ross says:

    thank you so much have been wanting proverbs 31 and felt that I was doing something wrong, what a gift. We all gather so much STUFF. I am older and cleaning out a lot of things, God

  47. Thank u for this wonderful story of Dolores and devotion. It was really helpful.God bless u all.

  48. Thank you for sharing. My daughter went on a mission trip to Guatemala and she has some similar experiences that she shared with our church. Growing up in the US with all the material messages all around, perpetuates collecting STUFF and defining ourselves by them. I meet people all the time from other countries and their love/dedication for serving Jesus and the health and well-being for their families over material things help keep me grounded and reminded of what is really important.

  49. Cathy Maxwell says:

    thank you so much for your timely words today . I have just returned from a 4 week mission trip to a small rural village in Uganda . Relationships are valuable in 3rd world countries and a long hand shake or sharing a cup of afternoon tea could be the highlight of ones day . We here in America could learn volumes from this simple life .

  50. judy perrigo says:

    Right on!

  51. Judy Seefeld says:

    This resonated so deeply with my heart. I have had simplicity and minimalization on my heart and mind for the past couple months. I really want to pare down the excess and extraneous triva of my life. I believe I can serve my Savior more fully without the distractions of “things” not to mention the money that can be put to better use.
    Thank you for this reminder of what’s really important in life.

  52. Carolyn Harder says:

    I have too much stuff as well, Thankyou for your encouraging words,
    about keeping a loose hold on earthly things, my identity is rather with Jesus Christ.

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