I heard once that the first half of our life is spent accumulating things, while the second half is getting rid of those very same things. In our case, time has been more heavily weighted to accumulation, while getting rid of them has been a more sudden and quicker event.
As most of you know, we are at a time and age where we are downsizing. We’ve spent the last 26 years in an exceptionally large home on 40 acres and are downsizing into a significantly smaller place. The move requires that we sell, donate, give away or dump, 80% or more of our belongings. In the beginning, the thought sounded arduous and painful, but it has been quite the opposite. It has been a “freeing” experience. It has lightened our load and relieved a fair amount of pressure.
As we’ve sorted through 45 years of marriage in boxes of our belongings, I wonder why we ever bought most of it to begin with. It’s as if we were on a search for meaning in things, that we later found to be meaningless. I believe I bought things to make myself feel better and when I didn’t, I bought more. The more I bought, the more of a burden it became, so to relieve the stress, I bought more.
I think it’s a vicious cycle that most of us go through. We all become burdened at some point with boxes of stuff. We either deal with it or leave it all to our kids to deal with after we are gone.
So, we decided to have an estate sale, which turned out to be the right choice for us. It went well and I’m guessing half our stuff sold. It was an interesting experience. I thought I’d be able to hang around, greet people, answer questions — but I was wrong. An hour before the sale began, George, the owner of Cait’s, the estate sale company, asked me where I was going during the sale. I responded that I planned on staying and he began emphatically shaking his head and said, “No. You cannot be here. Go hang out with a neighbor or find another place to be.”
It was a mixture of feeling insulted and hurt. It was my stuff, in my house! How could he tell me to leave? Arlene looked at me and smiled. “He didn’t want to see you holding on to someone’s ankle as they drag you out the door, while you are crying and pleading, ‘Please don’t take my stuff!’"
“You think I’d do that?” I asked.
“It didn’t take long for him to figure you out.” She took me by the hand and pulled me toward the door. “Let’s not stay and find out.”
We got in the car and instead of leaving, parked under a tree near the entrance to the property and watched people come in and later leave with our stuff. It wasn’t a sad experience but just an odd sense of curiosity. Why did they want that? Where are they taking it? What will they do with it?
The next day was different. I decided to hide in the bedroom and stay close, but my personality and curiosity didn’t allow me to stay in hiding long. I slowly ventured out and had a fun time greeting friends, meeting new people, and seeing smiles on faces as I watched our stuff bring joy to others.
I also smiled, knowing someday, sooner or later, that same stuff may be in someone else’s estate sale as they wonder, “why on earth did I buy this?”
My advice, for whatever it’s worth: Don’t put your faith and happiness in material things. They eventually end up being burdensome and rarely deliver the expected pleasure. First and foremost, look to a higher source. For me, that is in Jesus. For you it may be something different. Then, find your earthly joy and satisfaction in family and dear friends.
Stuff ... is just stuff. I don’t miss any of it.
Neither will you.
Gary W. Moore is a freelance columnist, speaker, and author of three books including the award-winning, critically acclaimed, “Playing with the Enemy.” Follow Gary on Twitter @GaryWMoore721 and at www.garywmoore.com.
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