Stuff, What I’d Miss, and a Good Rule of Thumb

[It’s been a long time since I’ve posted here at Texas Schmexas, but in case you’ve forgotten what this is all about, the first two posts about the whole fifteen-hundred-pounds thing are here and here.]

So, fifteen-hundred pounds.

Let’s just say that it’s not very much. Instead of focusing in on just how much, let’s rephrase this in terms of one of those annoying ice-breaker questions you never get asked in real life: If your house were burning down, what would you want to grab before heading out the door?

After making sure your loved ones were safe first, of course.

In other words, what are you attached to? What would you really miss if you didn’t have it any more? What do you consider irreplaceable?

If I were packing only 1500 pounds of stuff, like my brother, or downsizing to live in 450 square feet, like my friend Rebekah, I think I’d try take my favorite cookbooks, my hand-me-down Pyrex bowls, my coffee grinder, and Grandma Wise’s green dishes. I’d be sure to bring my laptop, my Kindle, my vintage seventies leather jacket, and my slippers. I’d probably pack our board games, a hammer and nails, and a drill. Our nativity, probably. And lots of baby stuff that makes my life easier–a Pack&Play, food grinder, lots of footy pajamas. I might even pack the cloth diapers. I’m guessing I’d come up with a host of other seeming must-haves when faced with decision time.

But those aren’t things I’m really attached to–I just like ’em. I’d be kind of sad to have to replace some of them. The jacket. The dishes. The bowls. My More-with-Less with all the hand-written notes in it.

There’s another category of stuff though. For me, not much falls into this category. But some things do.

Like my grandmother’s hand-made quilts.

Yeah, I’m attached to those. For me, they’re irreplaceable. I’d give up a lot of other seemingly important things in order to make space for them in my 450 square feet of living space.

If my house were burning down, would I remember to grab them before I headed out the door?

Probably not. (And I doubt my grandmother would have wanted me to!)

But I’d regret not having them.

I loved my friend Rebekah’s comments on the last post. She’s pretty amazing because she lives with her family of five–three boys!–in a small rental house in Iowa. I mean really, really small. Smaller than my first one-bedroom apartment. And she has a small garage but they are so organized, they can even park their mini-van in it!

She is also wise.

She writes,

I’m lucky because I’m basically forced to donate or sell older items to make way for new things given our space constraints, but I wasn’t as good at that when we lived in larger spaces.

It’s true. When you’ve got space, you fill it. Easily. And then you add more space to your life to fill with more stuff. Additions onto our homes. Extra dressers in our bedrooms. (Surely you don’t have two dressers in your bedroom. Surely you don’t have extra suitcases of clothes under your bed or giant plastic tubs full of clothes for a different season hidden away in your closet.) We build sheds because there isn’t enough room in our garages and basements. We build extra shelves to make room for more books, more movies, more picture frames, more knickknacks.

Because we’re always accumulating more stuff. We buy it for ourselves. Other people buy it for us. Our kids bring it home from school. We make it with our own hands. We get good deals on clearance items.

But what if we tried to carry as many items out of our home as we carry into our home?*

Rebekah does it out of necessity, but it has gotten me to thinking. I’m not saying we need to be legalistic and create all sorts of rules about accruing stuff, but I am starting to wonder something kind of crazy: if I am unable or unwilling or simply don’t care to give away my old stuff at the same rate that I accrue new stuff, am I any different than the rich man in Jesus’ parable from Luke 12?

Then he told them a parable: ‘The land of a rich man produced abundantly. And he thought to himself, “What should I do, for I have no place to store my crops?” Then he said, “I will do this: I will pull down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods…”‘

You might remember that God does not approve of this make-more-room-to-house-more-stuff tactic. (I’m guessing God doesn’t approve of the extra tub of clothes in the closet either, but maybe that’s just me.)

If you don’t remember the Bible story, go check it out.


* We have friends who do this sort of thing with their kids at Christmas, by the way. For each gift the child receives, he or she has to give something else away.


2 comments on “Stuff, What I’d Miss, and a Good Rule of Thumb

  1. We did the toy purge around Christmas, too. And the kids loved it! We were able to fill up three garbage bags FULL to donate. That’s far more than they received as gifts. My hubby and I did clothing and kitchen purges, too. It’s so much easier to breathe after that.

    Thanks for sharing this, Elizabeth. It is refreshing for sure.

  2. Liz's Dad says:

    You always make me think and I appreciate it.

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