Finding Hope in our Stuff

order - chaosMany 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.

Yet I am finding a strange pull to some objects:

  • My Dad’s Bible, favorite verses carefully highlighted with his scrawl in the margins. It reminds me of the faith legacy I grew up with. And some of Dad’s favorite verses are also mine — a strange way to bond beyond the grave.

However, I recently donated several 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.

  • I still treasure 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 de-clutter and what to hold tightly to? I’ve learned a few tricks.

  • If it gives you joy, keep it. Adulting is hard, and we all need joy.

I am keeping the twinkle lights on my mantel. Relinquish my piano or the older scores of music I still play? Never!

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 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. Then I realized I had given it away. Shucks !


  • 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. The royalties for my books will continue to bless my family long after my words cease. Like my dad’s Bible, 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 you really need more stuff? How can you better use your money? Could you 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?


Our lives are not primarily made up of stuff yet our stuff does define us. So let’s guard our hope with the stuff that’s really important and get rid of anything that drags us down.

A simpler life consists of what’s really important: hope, joy and the love we share with everyone.

©2018 RJ Thesman – All Rights Reserved

Keeping or getting rid of books is a constant challenge for a writer. If you’re culling your books, consider my Kindle list of books.


What is the Value of a Cast-Iron Pot?

It may seem a bit premature, but we have started dividing up Mom’s things. She no longer needs a cabinet full of Tupperware containers, because she no longer lives in her house or cooks and puts away leftovers.

In one kitchen cabinet, the cast-iron pot sits like a lonely sentinel of Sunday dinners past. Every Sunday morning, Mom put a roast in that pot. It sizzled and brewed in its own juices while we learned about God at the worship service. 20140410_220251_1

When we came home, Mom took the roast out. It was magically perfect every time. She had no clue that someday Alzheimer’s would rob her of the ability to cook.

When I thought of Mom’s cast-iron pot and how it might be destined for a garage sale, I asked my sister if I could have it. It’s amazing how a kitchen item evokes so many memories. Our family sitting around the table, discussing the sermon or the music from that Sunday’s worship time.

“Wasn’t that offertory by the organist amazing?”

“I loved that choir song at the end. Marilyn hit that last note perfectly. Was it a high C?”

“What exactly did the pastor mean about free will? I don’t get that.”

Dad would explain while Mom nodded in approval. We all added to the discussion, passed the roast beef around once more and made sure the gravy lasted for the final helping of potatoes and carrots. Cherry jello melted next to the hot veggies.

After dinner, we all helped clean up. Mom, my sister and I worked on the dishes and any leftovers, hiding them in those same Tupperware containers that Mom no longer needs. My brother and my dad pushed the chairs back under the table, then settled themselves in the living room with pieces of the Sunday paper. The sounds of a football game’s broadcast echoed throughout the house.

Back in my home, I lift the cast-iron pot to my face and try to smell the pot roast. But it has been many years since it held the meat from cattle my dad fed, then butchered so his family could eat.

The smell is gone, but the soul ties to memory live on. I slide the cast-iron pot into my own cabinet, wondering if I will use it – probably never put a pot roast in it as I rarely eat beef any more. Maybe I’ll try a chicken, season it with rosemary and lay tiny shallots around the perimeter.

Will my son remember our meals together with such fondness? Will he someday hold my pots and pans and treasure special meals? I doubt it. We have such different schedules, we eat together only once a week, our Sunday ritual that is usually take-out.

Is this cast-iron pot another remnant of a generation gone that spent quality and quantity time together? The soul of my mother’s preparations, of the farmhouse kitchen, cold winters and abundant harvests ̶ the joy of being family. I miss that piece of cultural history.

Mom’s cast-iron pot is now my treasure. Maybe I’ll take it out of the cabinet and place it where I can see it often, to remind me of the love of family and the importance of every day.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “The Unraveling of Reverend G” –