On Four Things that Bring PeaceCHRIST. My son, I will now teach you the way of peace and true freedom.THE DISCIPLE. Lord, instruct me, I pray. I am eager to learn.CHRIST. My son, resolve to do the will of others rather than your own. (Matt.26:39)Always choose to possess less rather than more. (Matt.10:10)Always take the lowest place, and regard yourself as less than others. (Luke 14:10)Desire and pray always that God’s will may be perfectly fulfilled in you. (Matt. 6:10)A man who observes these rules shall come to enjoy peace and tranquillity of soul.THE DISCIPLE. Lord, in these few words of Yours lie the whole secret of perfection. If I could only faithfully observe them, no trouble could distress me. For whenever I am anxious- and weary, I find that it is because I have strayed from Your teaching. All things are in Your power, and You always long to bring souls to perfection. Give me your grace ever more richly; help me to keep Your word and advance my salvation.(From The Imitation of Christ, by Thomas à Kempis; my emphasis of words in bold)
Back from vacation, where everything our family of six needed fit comfortably into a minivan and pop-up trailer, I begin to study my belongings. What can I eliminate?
Browsing my bookshelves, I pluck a title and consider. Keep? Sell? Give away?
I toss it into the give away box.
One thin volume from a vast collection, but it’s one less thing. One less possession.
Always choose to possess less rather than more, wrote à Kempis. It’s one way, he claims, to enjoy peace and tranquility of soul.
I live in a land of acquisition, and those who acquire must store, protect, maintain, and repair the things acquired. When I survey all that I’ve acquired, I realize that it’s nothing but stuff. Stuff. And this stuff does not lead to peace and tranquility. Rather, it demands my time and attention: I’m frequently thinking about it, researching it, arranging my space to accommodate it.
I don’t want a life revolving around stuff.
My friend and I passed through the garage one afternoon as we headed to the pool.
“Behold, our junk,” I said, a hint of disgust punctuating the word “junk” as I waved my hand toward the stacks of boxes, piles of drain pipes, and haphazard collection of toys, bikes, rakes, garden tools and paint cans.
“Wow,” she marveled, “it amazes me how we can end up with so much stuff.”
So. Much. Stuff.
To be burdened by too much stuff. A first-world problem, for sure.
Embarrassing. Humiliating. Exhausting.
To enjoy peace and tranquility of soul, possess less.
I’m slowly letting go, emptying, possessing less.
How strange that I am looking forward to this tangible result to mark progress: the luxury of an empty shelf.
“Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth,where moth and rest destroy, and where thieves break in and steal.”(Matthew 6:19)
Are we on the same page! As one more son leaves the nest, I’m going through stuff, stuff, stuff. We do live in a land of acquisition, don’t we? It’s freeing to heave stuff sometimes!
A friend met me this afternoon to chat, and she said her married daughter just moved into her first home and my friend can now take over a van full of the things she’s been saving and storing: American Girl dolls, for example, and special things from childhood. Things that the daughter couldn’t house in a dorm room or even a first apartment. It was great to get that perspective, to store for a while the precious things, and then when the time is right to pass it along.
Your note does the same thing; you remind me that the fledglings will fly soon, very soon, and stuff can fly out with each departure. Thank you for your note.
Amy Sullivan says
Always looking to eliminate stuff in my life…sigh. Now if I can just keep others from replacing it.
We’re a family of six, so that has been a constant struggle.
(sharing your *sigh*)
Sheila Lagrand says
One of the hidden blessings of my smallish house with no spare closets (just one in each bedroom) is that it’s required us to think about what we acquire.
But there’s that little basement, and the garage….
A friend of mine with smallish space has said the same thing–that it is a blessing by forcing her to make decisions and live lean. We have the basement, garage, and…an attic. Gulp.
(Oh, and a little shed, too…)
When my mother moved out of the family home of forty years, I was completely overwhelmed by the stuff. She had such a hard time letting go. My husband encouraged her to think about how she could be a blessing to others by giving things away. I am on the brink of being an empty nester, and I look around at my things with an eye toward what I can get rid of now.
Nancy, that is so wise. Thank you for telling your story here, to make me think. And plan.
Hazel I Moon says
We keep saying we must have a garage sale. I must confess my home is full of things that I enjoy and hate to part with.
Maybe if your home is full of things you enjoy, then you don’t have “stuff”? Because my STUFF feels like a burden, and your “things” don’t sound like a burden at all. 🙂
Simply Darlene says
Now that we are embarking on our 4th move in less than 2 years, all our “stuff” is giving me fits and spasms.
It all started with letting the moving company pack & move our household the first time. They packed the junk. I wouldn’t have packed the junk. Now, here we go again and it’s another moving company. Since this place, Lord willing, will be where we can actually unpack and settle, I aim to sort & toss & donate as I open each flap.
I must say that the grandparents are mostly to blame for my son’s personal accumulation though. I’ve made new rules in that arena: no plastic, nothing with batteries, and something old goes for every new thing. (it’s working and he’s even asked them not to bring new stuff)
My mom’s rule: “If I cannot eat, slather it on my body, or drink it, I don’t want it.”
Ooooo…I like your mom’s rule. Basically, it s a consumable and will go away in time. A great way to redirect the way people think. Something I might add: an experience (concert, night at the movies, etc.).
We have been in this house for many years, adding tiny little junky thing after tiny little junky thing. And big things. And medium things. And neither the Belgian Wonder nor I are good at tossing. We need new habits. A new mindset. Or…we need to move to a smaller place. 🙂
Possess Less. Yes…
Too much stuff? Tough… 🙂
Debbie Young says
I’ve been in a purging frenzy after my mom passed away. I determined that I really only needed a few keep sakes to remember her and that it wasn’t sacrilege to let most of the stuff go.
Many of my own “belongings” just don’t “belong” either and need to go away. My mental, spiritual, emotional and even physical health seems to depend on it. Indeed a “first world problem”.
“Less is more”.
Love your thoughts here, Debbie. Thank you for taking time to write. I’ve got a big box of books I’m taking to share with some friends and will donate the rest. We’ll do another round of that until we have whittled down…it feels good and right.
Michelle DeRusha says
This, Ann: “I don’t want a life revolving around stuff.” But yet it’s so easy to fall into that trap, isn’t it? I am pretty good about giving stuff away — we have a smallish house…old-fashioned 1920s closets — not a lot of storage space. My problem is that for every item I give away, I pick up something else. I am a acquirer and a consumer more than a packrat.
My husband grew up as a missionary kid with very little to call his own, so he likes to acquire and save. I grew up with parents who were born in the Great Depression, so they were brought up with a save-reuse mentality that they passed on to me. So, you see, the two of us bring this mindset for different reasons. The result? A house full of stuff.
Patricia @ Pollywog Creek says
Many of us have come to this conclusion…especially in light of the many needs of those around us. I’m all about giving my stuff away and/or sharing it. There’s much freedom in living that way.
A river runs through the rural community where we live and a few years ago we met a family with two children from France that had docked their sailboat here for a season. They lived on the boat, homeschooling their children, while traveling the world. They would stop along the way from time to time when they needed to make a little money. The mother told me that at Christmas, the children knew they would always get just two gifts because that was all they had room for on the boat. They would get an article of clothing and a book. I admired how their lives were not controlled by stuff.
Have a wonderful “stuff-free” weekend.
Patricia, thank you for your wisdom. I love the story of the sailboat family living so light. And your own example of generosity, freely sharing and giving. I want to live like that–open-handed from an open heart.
On October 3, thirty high scoohl students from Mount Si’s Key Club visited the homes of two elderly folks in North Bend. Armed with gloves, garden tools, and determination ..they set out to offer assistance to these homeowners where the labor had simply become too big an obstacle. The students split and stacked firewood, trimmed overgrown bushes and hedges, brought garden beds back to objects of beauty, raked leaves, and filled an enormous trailer with discarded and rotting lumber that was taken to the dump. The best part of this endeavor was the smiles and hugs given by the homeowners to these high scoohl Key Clubbers. That so many showed up at their homes to Pay it Forward was overwhelming and one of the most heart-warming experiences I have seen. Way to go Mount Si Key Club!