John 15:17 – So this is my parting command: Love one another deeply!”
Each fall, I make a little pack with myself. This will be the fall/winter I’ll finish this project.
For once and for all, I’ll get through these boxes and totes of “things” I’ve been gradually making my way through.
This project began years ago when we moved my now-since-deceased Mom from her house into an apartment. I brought home with me boxes of things that needed time and attention. Old photos, records, documents and tons of mementoes that would require more than a quick pass through while being sorted. When we moved my Mom into the nursing home awhile later, I acquired more boxes. All told, at one time, there were at least 40 boxes of these “things.”
I’ve moved these boxes more times than I can count. From one house to another; of my Mom’s and of my own. Within our current house, I have had multiple “stations” set-up where I sorted and sorted. When I run across a special item, I sent out information and inquired who would want it. I have given hundreds of pictures and other items to family members around the country. I’ve kept back plenty of items to use in future Deaton Family Christmas celebrations. I’ve donated items to charity. And yes, I have thrown plenty away.
Those original 40 boxes have been whittled down to less than 10. The remaining items are the ones that require more thought in deciding what to do with them. There are tons of photos. I have given so many photos away, I no longer remember who has received what photos. My Mom was notorious for ordering two copies when film was developed. It takes hours to sort through the photos, group them in categories or by event before deciding who should be the final recipient.
Countless times, I have thought it would be easier to put some items in the garbage and be done. But what if just one photo or item would be very special and meaningful to someone? It is impossible for me to know what would be special to someone else. And so, I keep sorting, eliminating, whittling down.
For years, I knew that my Mom had a lot of “stuff.” I cannot begin to imagine how many hours I have spent sorting through her things. Because my grandmothers lived in the nearby nursing home at the end of their lives, it’s not just my Mom’s stuff. At times, I have been going through four generations of people’s stuff.
It was very hard for my Mom to let go of her “stuff.” She held very tightly to things that were no longer useful, in poor condition or did not fit her. She had collections of various things which, quite honestly, are not in high demand these days. She and I had more than one discussion about her trying to sort some of this stuff while she was still able. It never really happened.
When someone is emotionally attached to items, it is very hard to let go of this stuff. More than once, I suggested to my Mom that I felt she was more interested in her stuff than having a relationship with me. Am I embarrassed that I said these words to her? Yes. Unfortunately, it is how I felt.
These types of conversations tests our ability to love someone even when we do not fully agree with their choices. At times, I am disappointed my Mom left all of this stuff for someone else to go through. I wonder if the time I am putting into sorting would be better served in nurturing a relationship with someone important in my life. Will someone be super excited to receive something I set aside just for them? Or would it be more beneficial to have a real conversation with them instead and be done with the sorting?
This exercise has re-enforced my need to minimize all the “stuff” I have. How many photographs do I want to keep? Is it important to keep mementos that only have meaning to me? How much time do I want to invest in maintaining and keeping “stuff” in my life?
How much do we need in our houses, garages, attics and lives? What do we do with the things we no longer need? Is there someone else who might appreciate something we have or is it best to simply get rid of?
I know that I spend too much time managing the “things” in my life. Yes, I LOVE to have things in our house that bring me joy and happiness. I love walking into a room that feels warm and cozy. And yet, when the “stuff” owns me, I have too much stuff.
When you love people more than stuff, then you will be intentional about limiting how much stuff you have to manage. Sometimes creating an experience or special time together is more important than having more items to manage and care for.
I pray that we are far more discerning about getting rid of things that distract and consume us rather than letting an important relationship get set aside. We need boundaries with many things in our lives; how much we have as well as making sure our relationships are healthy. Choosing stuff over creating space and time to be together with those important to us feels like an unhealthy decision to me. And one that I hope I try not to make.
For remembering that people are more important than stuff, I am grateful.
Holy God – Jesus was clear in his directive to the disciples: love one another deeply. He didn’t say we should love stuff. He said to love the people in our lives. I pray we keep perspective of the things in our lives and put more time and energy into nurturing relationships with those we love. Amen.