Before I begin, I want to preface with saying that I’m in no way against or judging families that do 40 bags. In general, I think cleaning up clutter and trying to live more intentionally and less materially is really, really awesome. So, dear reader, be warned – I’m sharing my personal reasons for our family and not trying to make anyone feel guilty or bad about how they clean up at home ;).
Alright, so what is 40 bags? If you haven’t heard of it, it’s basically a method of decluttering started by a prominent blogger that tons of other bloggers and individuals popularized. I’ll give my over-simplistic version of it in a nutshell: commit to 40 days on the project, each day declutter an area of the home and fill a bag with the excess stuff to toss or giveaway, then at the end of 40 days enjoy the freedom of some cleared up space.
There are a lot of GOOD reasons to try this method, like…
- Intentionally organizing various parts of your home/life (some people consider email a space to declutter which is cool).
- Practicing a spirit of detachment.
- Being more conscious of how much you allow into your closets.
- Having more space after clean up is done.
- Giving to charitable organizations all of the stuff you don’t need.
So what’s my beef with 40 bags, then?
Well, let’s start with when I
tried attempted to try it. Minus living very simply (you can read more about why and how here), we’re pretty average in terms of American families. We have our areas of the home that are really functional and well organized, and then we have some areas that are hidden behind a door with who knows what just waiting for the magic cleaning lady to show up. It’s life, am I right? The thought of focusing on purging some of the clutter was welcomed in my brain.
But as I researched a bit more and started some of the cleaning processes at our place, I quickly decided I didn’t it just wasn’t for us. Here’s how I came to that conclusion…
- It focuses too much on material things for too long. I regularly go through our closets and drawers to organize and keep things tidy (with three boys, two parents, in a two bedroom apartment it becomes a necessary part of life so we all fit). But something about feeling like I have to fill a bag for 40 days straight feels materialistic to me. (Or, I could just be antidisestablishmentarian about the cult of some of these popular trends… who knows). But I’d honestly rather take one day a month to make sure we have just what we need, tidy up, then get on with life. 40 days is a long time – anyone who’s ever given up coffee for Lent knows that.
- I don’t like that it becomes a yearly thing. (Okay, so here’s where I might need you to scroll up and re-read the very first paragraph so we can stay friends if you’re someone who does this.) We try really hard to make sure we aren’t seduced by the consumerist culture of America by buying things we don’t truly need. Sometimes we fail (like the time I bought two brand new swimming suits in one week because one was on sale and I just had to have it and then one didn’t fit me and I wasted our money), but mostly we are very deliberate about what we buy and how much we buy. When I read that people are filling 40 bags or more EVERY SINGLE YEAR I was left with a really bad taste in my mouth. How is this okay in a world where there are children that literally have no clean water to drink? Have we become consumers before Catholic? Call me hypersensitive (or not, because you’ve read this book and know where I’m coming from), but I feel like if we can get rid of 40 bags of stuff every year indefinitely, we’re doing the principle of subsidiarity wrong.
- The 40 bags culture language bothers me. Alright, this is highly subjective and probably nit-picking, but I kept seeing people calling it a way to “de-crapify” and then get really pumped they were donating the stuff to charities. To me, it just felt off. If I really want to help relieve the suffering of the poor, can I call it true charity if I’m just dropping off my “crap” and then patting myself on the back? At least for our family, we felt it was probably more virtuous to create a habit of using only what we need, then regularly donating items we no longer use without the fanfare. It’s decidedly not our thing to create a big project out of it like we are doing anything special or more than we are already called to as Christians.
- I want to try to give more thoughtfully. This point is kind of a mashup of the others, but I feel strongly about not just giving from our excess, but also from our need. This quote by Dorothy Day says it best:
The mystery of the poor is this: That they are Jesus, and what you do for them you do for Him.
For these reasons, I never finished the 40 bags project and I doubt I will in the future. I don’t think it’s inherently bad whatsoever, so by all means, if this is a way to really help you give from the heart, please keep it up! But for those that care to know how we do things around here, now you know 🙂
I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences with the 40 bags in 40 days project! I read every single comment and love to know what you’re thinking.