Friday, July 27, 2012

I Am Done With Stuff

For the past fourteen months, the majority of our stuff has been in storage. Furniture, tools, kitchenware, books, sports equipment and most of our clothing are in a 10 X 10 X 20 foot space that costs us almost as much to rent as our first home.

I don’t miss it. In fact, I am embarrassed about it.

When I visit it occasionally to pick something up or drop something off, I always hope that someone came in the night and stole it all. I don’t know why anyone would do that, but that is where my mind goes.

For the past fourteen months we have worn the same two suitcases of clothes and dragged around a small box of books and odds and ends and a Rubbermaid of food. I think I would like to get rid of the small box, and the Rubbermaid is currently half full.

I am done with stuff.

Of course, right now we are in a situation where our accommodation and meals are provided. We expect that things will change this fall, not back to “normal” because we will be doing life in a large house with a dozen or so young adults, which may be crazy. The house will need to be full of stuff, I guess, and I wonder if we will still feel the same way about it. Here is what happened this year:

1. We became very appreciative of the stuff we have. It’s like it has to last forever, or at least until we get back from the most recent adventure, so we make sure it is put away, well-cleaned, kept track of. It is a little upsetting to lose things, and we usually pray hard to find them again.

2. We downsized at every opportunity. When you are in motion, everything has to come with you, so you regularly look it over and if it isn’t necessary, it goes. We recycled, gave it away or if we had to, chucked it. It felt as good as crossing something off our to-do list.

3. We wore it out and made it do. It’s the old Amish proverb, “Use it up, wear it out, make it do or do without.” Sometimes our experience reminded me of what God pointed out to the Israelites, “During the forty years that I led you through the wilderness, your clothes did not wear out, nor did the sandals on your feet” (Deuteronomy 29:5). As I write I am wearing sandals that I must have bought four years ago. I took them through two summers in a row in both hemispheres and they don’t even smell bad.

4. We looked and said no. We are not very good tourists, but we did sometimes end up in those places with curious things for sale. We appreciated them and were often tempted, but in the end we said no. Sarah brought back a few clothes from New Zealand; I have a hat she bought for me and some cool jade stones I found on the beach.

5. We always had enough to be generous. That was King David’s lifelong observation: “I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging bread. They are always generous and lend freely; their children will be a blessing.” Actually, our children are more generous than we are.

6. We enjoyed the simplicity. It has been fun to live in a place with no electricity, and you may have heard how I feel above my “cannute” across the water to work. Our dog Barkley is spoiled to death by the lake outside his front door and we find every opportunity to sit by the water. Sure, it is temporary but it is such a gift.

A few years ago a Vancouver couple, troubled by the stuff that cluttered up their lives, took on an interesting project: “For one year we will not buy any material goods. We will buy only consumables, and everything we buy must come in recyclable or compostable packaging” (see The Clean Bin Project). They weren’t even hippies.

I’m not sure if I am ready for that kind of commitment, but I like the spirit of it. I hope we will remain careful in our buying, simple in our living, open with what we have.

I invite you to join us.

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