The auctioneer called and said he would come by next week. My stash included old chairs, boxes of ceramics and pottery, assorted artwork, yards of fabric, a nearly new basketball that the children had outgrown, Cabbage Patch dolls with their original certificates, framed mirrors …… and a few pieces of furniture.
I had carefully wrapped breakable items and placed them in boxes; the garage was nearly full when my daughter pulled up with extras from their basement. “People will buy anything at an auction. You never know…” said her husband. One unusually heavy piece took me by surprise: a long burlap-covered cabinet painted a pale yellow.
The redeeming factor was a beautiful piece of marble cut exactly to fit the top. It had been found in the barn! One of the cherry Windsor chairs had a rung missing, but the wicker child’s dressing table and bench were glistening white with their fresh coat of paint.
Now, this may all sound like fun, a growing menagerie of used household items, each with a story of its own, but my back was aching from carrying boxes up the stairs and pushing furniture around.
More difficult was the decision-making. “Shall I send this old chair too? It was my mother’s favorite, and I can envision her relaxing here, reading or napping. How can I get rid of it?”
Decisions continued at every turn, and I found it best to turn off the familiar music in the background, as it made me feel sentimental. This was business!
I needed to keep the process moving along without stopping to think about memories.
The day arrived, and the auction truck appeared right on time. I had decided to smile and take it all lightly as my “treasures” were crated out the door, one piece at a time.
There was a moment of tears when I realized how beautiful my classic old dressing table looked, all polished up and with no clutter on top. It was simply lovely!
Why had I decided to send it off?
The jewelry and scarves that had been tucked into the drawers now lie in shoe boxes in a closet. How could this have made sense?
Well, there were reasons. I had somehow accumulated too much. Always taking care of things, I was not a throw-away consumer. As a result, the basement had become a storage vault.
Closets were places for stacking whatever was not needed but had sentimental value or might be useful someday. The living spaces were also crowded, as I had added a piece here or there over time. It was time to purge this stuff.
There was a refreshing sense of freedom in the newly gained space, an open corner here and an empty shelf there, as treasures made their way into the garage.
An entire bookcase vanished. With fewer places to display things, it will be easier to keep order and life will be less complicated, I kept telling myself.
Now, this was a bittersweet task.
While doing the physical work, I realized that what I wanted most was for someone to enjoy these possessions as much as I had—-the oil painting of seaside dunes purchased one summer at the beach, the box of canning jars I had used summer after summer to put up jams and sauces, the travel books that had sparked my imagination and guided itineraries when on the “loose” in the world,……
I wanted someone to appreciate these treasures, polish them and enjoy them, arrange them artfully, learn from them.
This is all a matter of trust since one has no idea where such things will end up. I decided to pray while deciding what to put into boxes and which pieces of furniture to give up.
It turned out that the movers were kind and understanding. One told me the story of an older lady who cried when he started to remove her dining room table. He sensed her sadness and reminded her that a new family will enjoy her table, just as she and her husband had.
This was just what she needed to hear, he related to me, and soon her tears were gone. I took comfort in the story.
At the end of the day, I was sure that God had answered my mumbling prayers. I had tried to be attentive to the thoughts He put into my mind with each new decision and had survived the event with little regret.
There was joy in the thought that others would find delight in these things that were mine for a short while.
And, I was thankful for the items that remained, especially my grandfather’s corner cabinet that displays pictures of family, pretty china, and favorite cookbooks through the window-pane doors. That piece and its contents will linger here a while longer.
It’s a new year—a perfect opportunity for a fresh start regarding material stuff. We can learn to get by with less, share by donating or sending a truckload of items to an auction, and simplify our homes. After all, we have abundance in our lives that is unknown to most people in the world.
Here are some “purging tips” that may be useful:
- Keep several empty boxes handy in the basement or garage for putting aside unnecessary items each time you clean. After a few days, you will know if you can get along without these things.
- No need to buy boxes; just inquire at your local retail stores.
- Label boxes as you fill them, keep an inventory if you want a record, and have packing tape handy for sealing the boxes when full.
- Schedule a pick-up truck with an organization, i.e. Purple Heart, Salvation Army, or a local veteran support group, that accepts donations, or schedule an auctioneer to come to see your items.
- He will have to agree in advance to take your things to his warehouse and market the sale of them. Proceeds from the auction can be donated to charity or saved for a special family outing.
- Check your area for a “free-cycle” website that gives instructions on how to offer your disposables to someone who can use them. This is not for profit but rather a kind of gifting. Decide in advance where a safe pick-up place will be, preferably not your home.
- Regarding family members who may like some of your things, tell them specifically what you have available with a deadline for responding. Be clear that they must retrieve their items by that deadline or the treasures will be removed.
- Make it a point to not purchase unnecessary material things for your home. This takes discipline but is well worth doing. It’s also good for the bank account.
- If you enjoy shopping and have the means to make frequent purchases, be sure to remove used items in advance to make space for the new. Otherwise, stuff will pile up, as we probably all have experienced.
- Tech savvy people may decide to purge by selling household items online. This can be smart and efficient for those with time and know-how.
- Be cautious, however, about turning the project into online shopping, a habit that contributed to the overabundance of stuff in the first place. It is easy to acquire something while sitting on the sofa at home and not so easy to find a place for the item when it arrives at the doorstep.
- Engage the family, no matter what age, with the clean-out project. Children and teens can learn useful life skills about organization, values, and generosity.
- If you experience a major exodus of cherished items as I did, treat yourself afterwards to something special. I got a pedicure! It was delightful to pick out a beautiful color and to relax with my feet in warm bubbly water, the massage chair working its magic on my back.
- If young children are involved, an ice cream excursion or pajama day with their favorite movies and popcorn would let them know you appreciate their help. Now they will have more space for romping around!
And so, we celebrate a New Year—-a fresh start, an opportunity to unclutter our homes and share with others, a new outlook toward simplicity in our lives. It is all very good. Happy 2019, my friends!
Prayer: Lord, guide us in the direction of simplicity. Help us to let go of possessions, knowing that all that we have really belongs to you. We are the stewards of things for a time. May our bounty of treasures bring joy to others who have more need for them. And bless us all this year, Heavenly Father. Amen
Cynthia Knisley, After years as a “stay-at-home” mom, Cynthia enjoyed a fulfilling second career as a high school language teacher and curriculum developer. Recently, she took a leap of faith and left the classroom in order to devote more time to family—aging parents, adult children, and lively young grandchildren. Her home is in West Chester, PA, where she plays classical music, bakes bread, and tends a “secret garden.” A novice blogger, she welcomes you to her posts at firstname.lastname@example.org.