Friday, July 19, 2013
The Value Of Our Stuff
Early this morning I sat and wrote thoughts that just flowed from my heart. I am taking an online organizing workshop with professional organizer Aby Garvey (Simplify101). Over the past few years I have struggled to let do of ‘stuff’ – to simplify our lives. My heart said that’s what I wanted but when it came right down to it, I just didn’t do it. Something happened last night – really, maybe this morning as I thought about what happened last night. These are the thoughts I shared on the workshop forum this morning:
In the course of life, things happen that get our attention - 'wake us up'. That's what happened last night, maybe it really happened this morning as I thought more about the meaning behind it. I want to share it because it may impact someone else the way it has touched me.
What is the real value of our stuff? Not the value we think it has, but the real, true value when all is said and done. Let me illustrate with something that happened next door to our home last night.
We have lived in our home for over twenty years. Our next door neighbor was one of the nicest men you could ever hope to meet. He was a highly educated man - a man whose life experiences held your attention when he shared them. He was a veterinary research doctor doing research to improve the life of the animals his research involved, as well as the lives of human beings through what was learned. I could listen to him talk about his life's work for hours. He was a quiet neighbor, a friendly neighbor who treated everyone in the neighborhood as if they were family. He loved our children, applauded our accomplishments and enjoyed meeting anyone who passed by.
His parents built his home in the 1970's. He never married so he was free to move in with his father after his mother's passing. The day came that his father was gone and he continued to live there by himself. The house and the yard were kept in pristine condition. Nothing was changed from the day it was built. It was a vision of the 1970's, right down to the dishes in the cupboards. He planted fruit trees and gardens that produced fruit and vegetables for his delight. Then, suddenly, one day a few weeks ago, everything changed. He could no longer live alone. His eyesight had failed so much that it wasn't safe for him to be there by himself. In what seemed to be the wink of an eye, his nephew found an assisted living apartment for him, a for sale sign went up in the yard and soon he was gone! He's not far away and we will keep in touch, but it's just not the same without him next door. He took very few things for his tiny, little apartment. I'm sure family took some things that had meaning to them. Most everything was left behind. The house sold quickly and rooms needed to be emptied.
Late yesterday afternoon a truck pulled up and people began to work next door. In about an hour's time an 'Auction Today' sign went up out front and another one down the street. I was gone when the auction started. I came home to find that my hubby was not at home. I was certain he had gone next door to be part of the auction. Soon he came home with some tools he had purchased and what he told me has made such an impact on the way I view my stuff! There were things that went for two dollars and five dollars and entire walls full of things in the workshop that went for ten dollars and fifteen dollars. Not many attended the auction and those who did weren't interested in some of the things at all. Afterwards, my hubby and I went inside with the neighbor who was overseeing things for our former neighbor. The furniture was still there, things were still hanging on the walls. The kitchen was in tact - no one wanted anything in there at all. As I opened cupboards and drawers and closets I saw things that would bring some big dollars on EBay or Etsy - things that are 'hot' items right now. But no one wanted them. Vintage bone china teacups and saucers that had belonged to our neighbor's mother still stood on the shelf where they had sat for many years.
This morning it all dawned on me. The value I place on things isn't their real value. When all is said and done and I have no more use for them, the only value they have is what someone else sees in them! I have a garage full of stuff and an attic full of stuff. And cupboards and closets packed with stuff! When I begin to go through boxes and shelves and try to simplify my life, I just can't seem to let go of much. Some of my family members tell me I 'can't just give it away' - because it's valuable. It’s worth something! Today I would have to ask, 'to whom?' Yes, I could hang on to things and let my children deal with them sometime in the future. Or, I could spend hours and hours of time and energy to have a garage sale. But I can't stop wondering, 'what is the real value of all of this stuff?' Some has sentimental value. But it has been in boxes for years and years! Some has been saved 'because I might need it someday'.
After taking Aby's workshops through the last couple of years I thought I was getting it. But I was only just beginning to get it! This morning I think it has all come together - and I am ready to let go. I don't want an auctioneer to stand in my home, or garage, or yard and ask, 'does anyone want anything in this kitchen?' and then sell it for less than what he charges to ask the question. It's time to let go of the things that 'weigh' me down. The clutter, the things that I don't use or truly love enough to use or to give them a place.
This has been long but I wanted to share the big 'aha' moment that has finally gotten through to me. The things we value so highly may never be valuable to anyone. Over the next weeks and months there will be big changes in my home. My longing to simplify life - and stuff - will happen. For once I really understand the value of my stuff. The quote by William Morris will be my guideline: 'Keep nothing in your home that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.' I think I've got it! Finally, I think I really understand!
This morning the house next door sits quiet and dark. In a day or two everything left from a life lived well will be put in a truck and taken away. The new buyers will soon begin work to make the house their own and it won't be long before it is full of stuff again. I hope they treasure everything that graces the house and yard. If they don't, it really has no value at all!
There’s no way to tell you how deeply this has touched my heart. I have two beautiful teacups and saucers – a gift from our former neighbor. I think every time I look at them I will think about what may be left behind when no one sees value in the things that mean so much to me!