Posted by: Omar C. Garcia | July 13, 2009

The Junkaholic

   Our Sixth Grade Mission Team has worked hard over the past few days. They have blessed children and the elderly in Houston’s Third and Fourth Wards through many practical expressions of God’s love. Our young students have worked cheerfully and without complaint and demonstrated initiative and flexibility beyond their years. One of our assignments on Saturday was to clean the home of an elderly woman in a wheelchair. Our hosts told us that the woman’s home was filled with items that would need to be sorted and packed in boxes – lots of boxes! So, I purchased boxes and packing tape and markers for the assignment.

   We arrived at the woman’s home on Saturday after lunch. The modest little house looked like every other home on the block with nothing particularly distinctive to set it apart. It’s a white frame house with blue trim and a small yard enclosed by a chain-link fence. However, the well-kept exterior of the house was hiding an awful secret, one that even the closest neighbors would never suspect. Every room was filled with a lifetime of junk piled as high as my shoulders. A narrow trail led from the front door to the other rooms of the house. Piles of junk covered the windows and all of the furniture. When I walked into the house I picked up a can of outdated food and crushed a scorpion hiding next to the can with my hand – first-fruits of what this task would hold for our students.

   I am proud of our students. They did not back away from the challenge or the foul odors inside the house. We divided them into teams and sent them into the abyss armed with gloves, shovels, trash bags, and boxes. They salvaged any useful personal items and discarded the rest of the junk. They found one dead rat under a pile of mildewed clothes that reeked of the urine of the owner’s many cats. And, they found the brittle carcasses of countless roaches who could not survive in this hostile environment. After hours of work, we made a dent in the piles, but follow-up teams will have to finish the work. I am not sure that I understand how a person becomes a junkaholic or a hoarder. But, I offer the following observations about our experience on Saturday.

  First, indecision creates clutter. Based upon what we found in the house, I have concluded that the owner was unable to make decisions about what to keep and what to discard. Therefore, useful things and useless things took on equal significance. In fact, many of the useful things in the house were buried and ruined under piles of useless things. When we lose the capacity to make decisions about the worth of things, then treasure can be easily ruined by trash.
   Second, clutter creates chaos. The woman had no idea where things were in her home, only that she had them. She knew that she had family photo albums but did not know where they were. She knew she had awards and recognitions and favorite books, but could not find them. We even found bags of groceries with cans of food with expiration dates several years old buried under piles of useless junk. And, because there was so much junk in the house, the poor woman was incapacitated in her own home, unable to do anything more than navigate the narrow trail that led from room to room.

   Third, chaos creates hazards. The confusing and disorderly state of the woman’s home created several hazards. The filthy environment — piles of clothes and stuff soiled by cats and rats and roaches and vermin — created hazards to her health. The state of her home also created hazards to her relationships. She had long ago stopped inviting guests into her home. And, her home presented major threats to her own personal safety – fire hazards, foul odors, the prospect of being bitten by a variety of insects, and more.

   Perhaps the saddest thing of all was that the woman had grown accustomed to her clutter. In fact, she seemed almost blind or oblivious to the whole mess. She never rummaged through the layers of junk nor did she keep an inventory. She just kept tossing the latest stuff on top of the piles of old junk in each room. And, although she knew she had things she might need someday, she could not locate any of those things. So, instead of managing her junk, this junkaholic allowed her junk to manage her. She willingly gave up the limited square footage in her modest little house to junk! She allowed junk to rob her and to marginalize her existence, one pile at a time. And, in the process she lost sight of the things that really are worth something.

   It’s easy to shake our heads and to point a finger at this poor woman. Yet, while we would never allow our homes to fall into such a sad state, it’s easy to allow our hearts to do so. We can easily deceive others with our outward appearance. However, God sees what we are harboring on the inside. He can see the clutter and the garbage of moral filth, ethical failures, bitterness, grudge-holding, selfishness, excuses for poor behavior, blaming others, and the many other things that keep us from loving Him, loving others, and moving on toward maturity in Christ. All of these are things that can incapacitate us, hinder our growth, and marginalize our influence for the kingdom. It would behoove us to set aside time to take a personal inventory of our hearts and to allow God to take out the garbage. Don’t become a junkaholic by hoarding things that will keep you from becoming all that you are meant to be in Christ. Get in the habit of de-cluttering, one day at a time!


  1. Omar,
    My paternal grandparents were also junkaholics. I think living through the Depression left an indelible mark on their psyche. It is amazing how such things will effect the one, but not the other. My maternal grandparents, were not so inclined. But before he died, Granddad had amassed quite a collection of foam meat trays, all neatly rinsed off and stacked in the pantry. Also a nice collection of empty cardboard paper towel rolls. Not quite sure the reasoning on that one!

    They were also of a generation which saved pennies without knowing how to invest dollars. They were good stock, kind people, but it pained them to throw away anything.

    I am thankful for American youth who are taught to reach out and give the gift of time to others.

    *Now, if we can get those same kids to clean their bedrooms. smile

    Tammy Swofford

  2. Tammy…

    Amen. This experience sparked some good discussion among the students about cleaning their rooms and what their rooms might eventually look like if they stopped cleaning today. I am glad we were able to help this lady. Now, I hope she does not look at all of the extra space as an opportunity to start new collections!


  3. Omar-

    As I understood that, you all cleaned some one’els house, am I right? Is it very good to learn from you such a way to serve the people.

    We could do same practice in Bangladesh, to helping with work, for one another, there are lot of people have their farms, many people could help the man who had lot of works.

    I guess that, I would encourage our people to have helped one another, many difference ways.


  4. Mortuza…

    It is good to serve one another. There are 35 verses in the New Testament that contain the words “one another.” Galatians 5:13 says “…through love serve one another.” When we serve others we also encourage them (1 Thess. 5:11). Thank you for the many ways in which you love, serve, and encourage others in Bangladesh.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


%d bloggers like this: