The alarm goes off, there’s a frantic knocking on the door, and you blink the confusion from your aching, sleep stretched eyes. “Fire!” They call again. You have less than a minute to grab everything you need and get out. In all honesty, you shouldn’t have grabbed anything–but you can’t help grabbing this one, significant item. You stand on your lawn and hold it in your shaking hands as your husband drives you and your five children away from the house you’ve lived in for years. The house you thought you’d always have.
This story isn’t mine, but it does belong to a dear friend of mine–someone I aspire to be like and admire. But their experience stirred a question I’ve had in mind ever since: what do I allow to define me and my home? What would I grab, if I only had a few moments? Children and a husband, obviously… if I was married with kids. But I don’t, so my first thought was for my books. I worked hard for them and really enjoy learning, so I’d grab those first, right?
Fast forward a few months. I stand in the doorway to my room, staring at the giant piles on the floor. Shirts, jeans, dresses, artsy drapey things that I haven’t worn in years. Some of them fit, most of them don’t–but they’re still usable and I don’t want to get rid of them. Slowly, the mountain whittles down to two small stacks: just enough to fit in a dorm closet. I turn and swallow as I face the real challenge–the bookshelves. How do I give away my children?
I’ve thought a lot about what I allow myself to value and get attached to– but I still collect so much stuff. It’s not important or sentimental or even all that useful when I think about it–but I don’t want to throw it away. There’s a chance, maybe, that someday I’ll need this exact item. I don’t want to have to re-buy it, right? Wrong.
Another good friend of mine gave me the answer to getting rid of a lot of my stuff: does it bring me joy? There are different levels of use, sure, and you can analyze something’s value until the cows come home (home where? what home? why were they gone?) but if when you wear it, use it, look at it there isn’t a sense of joy–then it’s time for it to go.
I think collecting too much “just stuff” leads to a false assumption that it is the items themselves that have worth–that their worth somehow attaches to yours and others’ as humans. And while I understand that some people feel love best through gift giving/receiving (5 languages of love, anyone?), nobody’s worth is tied to how many plates and cups they have. Or if they go on vacation this year, or where they shop for clothes. It makes me wonder how much of the stuff I’ve collected over the years was really worth it–so much of it has no sentimental value at all, or any memories attached to it. Hopefully my moving experience will be an exercise in just how little I can take with me to still feel like “me”. (All I really need is a roof and an internet connection–something for the rain and Kdramas. ^^ I kid.) I’m not dependent on things for who I am, hopefully. Sometime next week, I guess we’ll find out.
Just a thought–thanks for reading!