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The dumpster

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Who knew that the thing we had avoided for so long could have been taken care of in a single day?

Jaymie Stuart

Junk happens. There's no getting around the fact that people accumulate stuff, and stuff eventually evolves into junk. We've needed to clean out the garage for a long time. Years. Sure, we've managed to reorganize it some, a couple of times. And, we've talked about cleaning the garage out almost every summer. There just hasn't been the time or the money or the motivation necessary to actually accomplish the task.

Mostly, it's been due to dread. Dread is that awful mixture of fear, distaste, and overwhelm that makes it almost impossible to do what you know you really need to do. Dread is the feeling of not knowing where to begin that keeps you from beginning at all. It's worrying about the possibility that there may not be life on the far side of getting it done because you may not be able to do it. Dread is exactly how our family has felt about the garage. We avoided it, hauled more and more stuff into it, and frankly, just gave up.

Enter the dumpster. Getting rid of stuff doesn't happen by itself; it's a lot of work. Admittedly, that's one reason we hadn't done it sooner. Both Andrew and I anticipated a full weekend of hard decisions, backbreaking labor, tension and exhaustion. That's not, however, what we got when the dumpster arrived in the driveway last Thursday.

With everyone helping in one way or another, we were able to do it all in less than 12 hours! We got rid of lots of broken things we'd hoped to repair and never did, things we'd outgrown in one way or another, and all the you-never-know-when-you-might-need-it items. Everything we're keeping was repacked, organized, and put back into the garage just before the first raindrops started to fall. What's even more important, we actually know what it is and where we can find it.

Who knew that the thing we had avoided for so long could have been taken care of in a single day? Sure, there are piles of things that belong to some of our adult children. That's just how it seems to work in most families. But the dumpster is full, the floor is visible and swept, and we've been able to accomplish one of the biggest tasks we've been putting off for as long as I can remember. I imagine there are a few more things inside the house that may well find their way into the dumpster before it gets picked up at the end of the week.

This experience has given me some real food for thought. Perhaps I need to take the rent-a-dumpster approach more often in life. It is a blessing to pare it all down and live a bit more simply. Charity only begins where justice ends, and the unbridled consumerism most of us fall prey to isn't anything like justice.

But there are challenges in the spiritual life a dumpster might well solve too. I know I've held onto all sorts of things that aren't working for me anymore, and that makes me question whether they ever really worked at all. I wonder just how many of the things I've avoided aren't anywhere near as insurmountable as I imagine them to be. I'm considering whether if I've been trying to get rid of the things I don't want or need on my own, instead of asking for the help I need. I'm also realizing just how willing I've been to store things that really aren't mine, things that belong to other people, things they -- and not I -- will need to go through.

The good news is that God gives us all a dumpster, a place to put everything we don't want, need, or care about anymore, a bin for our brokenness and pain, a destination for all the things we did and shouldn't have: Confession. The Sacrament of Reconciliation offers us a dumpster for what burdens us, the things that take space in our souls that would otherwise be open to God, available to others.

It may have taken years to accumulate, or just a few weeks. It may be something you've avoided, or something you just can't stop thinking about. God's grace is there to help us sort through it, and his mercy is there to haul it all away. There's no need to put it off. The dumpster you may need most can be found in every Catholic parish.


Jaymie Stuart Wolfe is a Catholic convert, wife, and mother of eight. Inspired by the spirituality of St. Francis de Sales, she is an author, speaker, and musician, and serves as a senior editor at Ave Maria Press. Find Jaymie on Facebook or follow her on Twitter @YouFeedThem.

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