I wrestled with choosing the best title for today’s post. At times, “The Burden of Stuff” seemed appropriate. At other times, “The Pleasure of Stuff” worked. But, for the most part, “stuff” and what to do with it has proven to be quite a dilemma as we face our upcoming move.
We did all of this to a drastic extent a mere 15 years ago. During 2002, we went through every room, closet, drawer and box. 100% of our worldly goods were either thrown away, given away, sold, stored for an indefinite amount of time or crated (using our VERY meager crate allowance) to be shipped to Ecuador. That was a gut-wrenching ordeal. The 3 Pearson children were the benefactors of quite a bit, and it’s fun to visit their homes now and see items they were given during that year. Some friends got great bargains of furniture, because we didn’t even get “the good stuff” until the year of our 25th anniversary, only 6 years earlier. The Salvation Army and Goodwill-type places received a lot, and we carefully boxed up some treasures, such as my mother’s wedding china, because we knew we’d want them again at some point. But, basically, we pared down to absolute minimum essentials.
Truthfully, once it was done, the feeling was very liberating.
When we got to Ecuador, we bought a few of the necessities of life, and the funny stories of doing so with limited Spanish and curious shopkeepers still make us smile. For those 4 years, we lived simply, and the accumulation of “stuff” was at the bottom of our list of priorities. Before we moved back, I even gave all but about 3 changes of clothes to the nuns who lived next door to be used in their ministry to the poor.
Then, we moved back to the States, to Alabama, and to the intoxicating lure of TV ads, beautiful stores and online bombardment.
I smiled a few days ago as I packed this dish that was a precious gift from my cousin and very dear friend Ginger. She had heard me say that I didn’t have any “stuff” (such as decor items and knickknacks, etc.), and she wanted me to get started accumulating once again. Thank you, Ginger. This represents your thoughtfulness every time I look at it and use it.
Now, we’re moving again, and in the meantime, our oldest child has even written a book on decluttering (Making Room for Jesus by Laura Baggett). She’s cheering us on while we pack our boxes. “Have you used that in the last year?” “Do you have a place to put it in your new house?” “Does it “spark joy” or does it bring back unpleasant memories?” “Does it even fit anymore?”
Would you believe that a stack of old Southern Living Magazines was a big hurdle I needed to face before I could get my mind in a good place for this cleaning out/sorting/packing challenge? Yes. I LOVE Southern Living Magazines. My MOMMA had loved Southern Living Magazines. I remember one I received in the mail while we were in Ecuador from my friend Martine Bates Fairbanks. I read every word, including the advertisements, at least a dozen times. It was written in my “heart language,” and it sounded Southern. So, of course, within days of moving back to Alabama, I was a subscriber once again. And, they are still very hard for me to toss, but I (and my determination to declutter) prevailed.
Certain things do indeed spark joy. I watched my momma set a pretty table and entertain many guests using the china she and daddy received when they married. She even washed each piece by hand afterwards, being so careful to avoid breaking one. I hated to lose her suddenly at the age of 55, but it gave me a lot of comfort to inherit her china.
Family pictures reminding me of “the way we were” always bring a smile to my face. They will always be keepers if I have anything to say about it. There are other worldly treasures — my grand piano and my Dickens Village, for example — that I hope to have in my world, at least until I’m no longer able to enjoy them. And, yes, we’re to the age when we have to entertain such thoughts. And, after burying both my stepmother and my dad last year, the dilemma of stuff has been in the forefront of my mind.
We ARE making progress, though. There are things that I most certainly want to see, use and enjoy again, so those are being carefully boxed up for the next 5 or 6 months while our house is under construction.
And, this morning I even had the JOY of bagging up a bunch of clothes that no longer fit me. Woohoo!! Hopefully, someone will be glad to have them.
We’re building a smaller house with limited storage space. I think I’ll need to re-read Laura’s book several more times before it’s time to unpack again. I’m already convicted by this passage of Scripture.
Luke 12:13-21 New King James Version (NKJV)
The Parable of the Rich Fool
13 Then one from the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, tell my brother to divide the inheritance with me.”
14 But He said to him, “Man, who made Me a judge or an arbitrator over you?” 15 And He said to them, “Take heed and beware of covetousness, for one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses.”
16 Then He spoke a parable to them, saying: “The ground of a certain rich man yielded plentifully. 17 And he thought within himself, saying, ‘What shall I do, since I have no room to store my crops?’ 18 So he said, ‘I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build greater, and there I will store all my crops and my goods. 19 And I will say to my soul, “Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years; take your ease; eat, drink, and be merry.”’ 20 But God said to him, ‘Fool! This night your soul will be required of you; then whose will those things be which you have provided?’
21 “So is he who lays up treasure for himself, and is not rich toward God.”