Finding Hope in Our Stuff

Many of the people in my age demographic are downsizing. We refuse to buy more stuff. At the same time, we are looking through our current stuff and assessing how to best dispose of it.

image of flea market / garage sale items. Grid board in the foreground. Multiple colors and textures of items.

Although I am trying to be proactive and wise, I am still finding a strange pull to some objects:

  • My parents’ Bibles, favorite verses carefully highlighted with scrawls in the margins. A reminder of the faith legacy they passed down to generations. Some of their favorite verses are also mine — a strange way to bond beyond the grave.

However, I recently donated several other Bibles. Who needs 20 versions when I can easily link to when I need it? 

  • Some of the jewelry Deb’s children gave me help me feel closer to her. I often wear the cross bracelet on Sundays and remember one of our favorite stores, her delightful squeal when she discovered it was 25% discounted.

The ring she bought in Santa Fe often graces my fourth finger. I remember our trip and how she pondered over buying just the “right” piece of jewelry to remember New Mexico. Oddly enough, it now helps me remember the value of our friendship and the sharp loss of her absence.

  • Many of the books I read to my toddler son:
    • Love You Forever by Robert Munsch
    • Moses the Kitten by James Herriot
    • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss

These books remind me of Caleb’s downy hair against my chest, the sounds I invented as we read together, those intimate and precious days so long ago. Hopefully these books will also find a home in the nursery for his children.

So how do we decide what to declutter and what to hold tightly to? I’ve learned a few tricks.

  • If it no longer gives you joy, let it spread warmth to someone else. If you haven’t worn it, used it, or touched it for a year — you probably no longer need it. However, be cautious. This week, I searched for a red clutch purse to perfectly accessorize an outfit. I had given it away. Shucks!
  • If it gives you joy, keep it. Adulting is hard, and we all need joy. I am keeping the twinkle lights on my mantel. I refuse to relinquish my piano or the older pieces of music I still play. The bowl my great grandmother used to serve creamed corn still occupies a special place in my cabinet. The terra cotta planters that remind me of New Mexico wait on my deck for spring’s promise. A framed handful of dried wildflowers my teenaged son gave me after a particularly hard day offers hope to this aging mother.
  • If it passes on a legacy, let it do its work. Boxes of my journals wait for my son to someday read them or posterity to decide they may be important. My nieces now own the finer pieces of jewelry Mom gave me. Royalties from my books will continue to bless my family long after my words cease. These objects prove I lived and hopefully will bring a smile to those I leave behind.
  • Consider the function. Every house has its own personality and décor. If that turquoise vase no longer works or that autumn tablecloth clashes with your kitchen cabinets — get rid of them. Our homes need to reflect our lifestyles and offer a safe place of peace.
  • Be disciplined with what you buy. Every store and online ads tease the compulsive shopper. Do we really need more stuff? How can you better use our money? Could we save those funds or give them to someone in need? If it’s going to end up in next year’s garage sale, why buy it in the first place?
  • Can the object be replaced? This is the most important key as I roam through the house and make decisions. Photographs of my son, especially the baby album. Irreplaceable. The wedding album I put together after my son and daughter-in-love were married. Keeping that. The cradle my dad made for my infant son, his first grandchild. Not ever giving that away.

Our lives are not primarily made up of stuff, yet our stuff does define us. So let’s guard our future hope with the stuff that’s really important and get rid of anything that drags us down. A simpler life consists of what is really important: hope, joy, and the love we share with everyone.

©2024 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Image: jackmac34 / Pixabay

Check out my latest Bible study: It’s All About Trust: How to Grow Your Trust in God. Available on Amazon.

4 thoughts on “Finding Hope in Our Stuff”

  1. There are some things I cannot throw out (though I am far from disciplined). Mike’s Bingo game. I have so many memories of him going to Bingo and loving it. Some things bring me sadness. I gave away the thing they wanted him to pull up his socks with. I used to do that. It made me feel good to be able to help him. I’m still going through the process with every member of my family. A lot of things touch my heart but overwhelm me. I have to leave the process. The hardest things to get rid of are from Mike. I have a little piece of colored glass he made. I often pick it up and remember him. He is like that glass, full of colors bursting forth. My heart hurts sometimes. I don’t know if I told him how much I appreciated him.

    1. Yes, we do need to keep some of those precious memory-laden mementos. I’m glad you find comfort in some of Mike’s things. May the Spirit of grace cover you with comfort.

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