|By Elizabeth Albert|
“Can I talk to you about something, Andy?” I ask. “I’ve had an idea.”
My husband takes a deep breath and waits. Poor man. What crazy scheme am I going to propose this time?
“I’ve been thinking,” I say. “Perhaps we should become minimalists. We could get rid of all our ‘stuff’.”
Andy lets out his breath. A broad grin appears on his face. “Finally!” he cheers. “For years I’ve been telling you we need to throw stuff out.”
Andy is right. I haven’t been listening.
Our house is packed tight with things. And our garage? You should see it. Or perhaps you shouldn’t. You wouldn’t believe how many things we’ve got crammed in there. There’s all those things we only need occasionally, like Christmas decorations and out-of-season clothes. The bikes and tools and lawn mower (and a buried table tennis table) are in there somewhere too. And so are many, many things I suppose we don’t really need.
Every time we ponder the lack of space around here, I say: “We need to get better organised. I must look for some more shelves, or a chest of drawers, or some storage boxes… Perhaps we need a shed.”
Whenever we need something we usually pray to St Joseph. He never fails to intercede for us. Once we needed a new lounge suite. We prayed to St Joseph and one arrived. Does that sound a bit strange? It’s true. He looks after our family perfectly. I could tell you more but it’s all in a story I wrote. It’s called St Joseph’s Sofa.
Yes, a shed would solve all our storage problems. Now sheds are rather expensive so we began praying. We’ve been praying for a long time, maybe two years. And one hasn’t yet appeared. Has St Joseph let us down for the first time ever? It has only just occurred to me that we have been praying for something we don’t actually need. There’s another better solution to our problem.
“Do we really need that?” Andy asks me. “Can’t we get rid of it?”
“You never know when we might need it,” I reply. “We’d better keep it just in case.”
Just in case? Do you keep things just in case? Do you think that ‘one day’ you’ll regret throwing something out? I wonder how many things we would really miss if we no longer owned them.
Last year, an out-of-control bushfire burnt on the edge of our village, threatening our home. We had firefighters in our road, and water bombing helicopters flying overhead. It was all rather exciting… and frightening. We were put on stand-by for evacuation. We had to decide what we’d take with us if we had to abandon our house and flee to safety. What would we miss if our home and all its contents burnt to the ground?
We each packed a bag of clothes because that seemed practical, and we added some blankets and food. We gathered together our computers and other devices which hold our electronic information and photos. We had our important papers such as birth certificates. And I packed all the things we associate with our son Thomas, who died as a baby: his photos, locks of hair, clothes… because these are irreplaceable.
But I’ve been thinking: Perhaps irreplaceable things aren’t that important either. Would I really be inconsolable if I lost Thomas’ things? I think I’d survive without them. They’re only things, not him. Thomas is an integral part of me. He is in my memory and in my heart. He changed me irreversibly. And he is waiting for me. None of that will change if I lose a lock of his hair, will it? Yes, I could survive without Thomas’ stuff. And that means I can certainly survive without many other less important things.
Of course, it would be silly of me to throw out everything. Some things we need to live life. There’s nothing wrong with having things which enhance our lives, which we enjoy using. But we definitely don’t need as much as we have. A lot of it has to GO!
So I’m going to cull our possessions. They’re going to be bagged up and boxed up and shipped out. And I’m going to be very careful what new stuff enters our house. I’m going to be asking, “Do we REALLY need this?” before letting something new pass through our front door.
There’s only one problem: Some occasions seem to demand the accumulation of stuff.
It’s Andy’s birthday today. That means birthday presents. Did a big pile of unneeded gifts walk through the door? Did we just add to the overflowing pile of possessions? Or did we say, “You don’t really need anything, Andy, so we decided to give you a hug instead of the usual birthday presents”? (Would we do that?) Birthdays can present a dilemma.
Actually, we bought Andy consumables: stationery for school, and also two pairs of much needed work pants, and a FitBit which he’ll wear around his wrist. It won’t take up any space at all. But don’t tell him. We haven’t given him his gifts yet. We’ll surprise him at dinner time when he gets home from work.
It’s not just stuff that comes through the door that can cause a problem. Have you ever thought about how we clutter our minds and our lives with so many non-physical things? I’m going to ponder that. Would you like to ponder too?
Does anyone else need to get rid of some stuff? Are there any things you can’t live without? And what do you do when yet another birthday rolls round? Please share!