When belongings take a front seat in our lives

The last two summers my husband and I have had a yard sale.  I love the purge process; making money off it is a bonus.  I feel so much weight lifted off me to have fewer belongings.   Each summer we make a dent in the room we store items to get rid of, and each summer I call around to see if anyone wants a perfectly good this or that we no longer need.  For a while we had no luck, but this past summer we found good homes for the bulky furniture items we had, which was a wonderful feeling.

Sometimes though, the burden is not on items that we no longer want or use but on things we don’t have.  It’s that gnawing feeling that this or that will make my life easier, will make the home prettier and more ‘homey,’ be a fun treat, or add value to my life.  It comes to me at Christmas mostly, when I think of a gift list.  I don’t need anything but once I start thinking of a wish list to help others in shopping for me I find that I get excited about these new things I could have.  The temptation to want what I don’t have frustrates me because I was fine before.  Focusing on giving in this season helps offset this feeling and makes Christmas have more meaning and emotion beyond the gifts.    

I think it’s easy to let belongings take a front seat in our lives: the tv, the computer, the phone, the well-loved copy of a particular book.  It’s like these items own us:

“Simplicity is not so much about what we own, but about what owns us.  If we need lots of possessions to maintain our self-esteem and create our self- image to look good to our neighbors, then we have forgotten or neglected that which is real and inward.  If our time, money, and energy are consumed in selecting acquiring, maintaining, cleaning, moving, improving, replacing, dusting, storing, using, showing off, and talking about our possessions, then there is little time, money, and energy left for our other pursuits such as the work we do to further the Community of God” (Christian Snyder as quoted in Plain Living, 24).  

It takes effort and planning to not have these items be a central focus and find something else to occupy one’s time but I’ve seen the difference.  I went on a writing retreat and didn’t use any technology or read.  I took early morning walks, sat on the porch swing, listened to lectures, and wrote.  This slow pace was so soothing and tranquil.  I felt like nothing else mattered and life was beautiful and simple.  I didn’t need anything and I wasn’t bored.  Cars drove past and I thought how sad to be missing out on this feeling and rushing through life.  Yet, after the conference life went on and I was one of those people driving by in a car rushing through life.  The tranquility of that weekend became a fond memory and not a daily occurrence. 

How does one get back to that feeling? It means providing yourself with more quiet reflection time and taking a step back and appreciating where you are.  It means being thankful for what you have because there are those who have a lot less.  It means a lot of what you have or want doesn’t matter in the grand scheme of things. 

Your house décor might be ugly and there might be things you’ve been saving to fix for years but in the end people come to your house for you and company.  It’s about the memories you make and even that stupid door that has been broken since you moved in can become a special memory, something quirky you share with those around you. Watching a lot of HGTV can make you think you need a new house, and question all that’s wrong about where you are, but no place is perfect and maybe some place else will have new and bigger issues to deal with.  That new closet or bigger kitchen might be nice, but is it necessary?  Will it make you happier and appreciate your life more?

The best things in life are not things: they’re memories.    Things can represent those memories and provide triggers to make us smile and remember, but in the end the memories would still be there without the mementos.  

What do you think the balance is between belongings and simplicity in order to find contentment?

May you find a balance on what to let go and what to keep in order to simplify your life and your heart, while still holding on to special memories.

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