Thursday, May 26, 2011

Ambivalence... then giddy with expectation!

Our garage is stuffed to the gills with our extras. Stuff for garage sales, stuff to give away, stuff to donate.  Some stuff to throw away, perhaps. This is the staging area as we clear things out of the house.

And in the back of the recently-added stuff lives all the stuff that was already in the garage...  tools, home care supplies. A nice toolchest filled with tools. Power tools. Paint and wallpaper supplies. A power jack, an electronic laser level thingie. The detritus of years of home ownership and home repair.  Stuff.

And it happens that very recently a family returned from Bolivia. They are very dear friends whom we visited in Bolivia in January. He used to be in construction here, before moving south, and they needed to return here.  I had a light-bulb moment... he could use those tools as he reestablishes his business efforts here. Ding! Problem solved!

He came yesterday with a pickup truck and a friend.  I was excited to see the back of the garage clear out as the pickup filled up. I was thrilled to know that this very lovely family will have a easier re-start with their life here, not having to invest in so many basic and electric tools. This was win-win - exactly what we have hoped for.  He was very grateful and delighted to reconstitute his life here.

Yet... it was also sad.  A part of me grieved, seeing these things leave, things that we had accumulated to care for our nest, our home. Somewhat, I grieved for the money we spent on tools that we used once, money we spent when there seemed to be so much of it.  But mostly I grieved seeing the Home-Dream as it was again, in more little cuts, deconstructed.

Then I remembered - yes, this is EXACTLY what we have dreamed.  The ability to lighten the load, to remove the shackle on our ankles, the shackles that have kept us here in Kansas and limit our ability to serve as Bible teachers in other places.  These things, this stuff, keep us from flying to our next dream, our next adventure.

I kept feeling like the stuff kept us padded, protected, somehow. Made us feel 'safe' as we had the ability to care for our own repairs, our own home improvement. As we clean out other home-stuff, it feels as if the padding is being removed - both a good and bad feeling. With the padding, we are less exposed and more protected perhaps, but also we are less mobile and flexible and free with all that padding!  The protection turns into a heavy shell that prevents us from moving freely.

I feel lighter and more hopeful as I look at the back of the garage, the almost-empty shelves. Yes, a bit ambivalent, but mostly excited with the hope of a big step nearer our real dreams.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011


I watch my granddaughter today as she runs, in shorts and a t-shirt, arms spread wide as if flying through the school yard. This is one of our first wonderful days of spring.

And I recall that I'd compared the deliciousness of that feeling to how it feels to free oneself of the junk that weighs us down in our homes.  That as I dispose of books and .... stuff ... that I feel this lightness. Air and sun on skin ... freedom. 

I watch her run, so magnificently free, and take it in as my reward for the difficult work I'm doing to simplify.  It is so totally worth it.  

Take it from a 10-year-old. Life is running unencumbered in the sun. 

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Feeding the gaping maw of the beast

I have been feeding the beast.  The 'gaping maw', as an expression from my childhood of anything that voraciously gobbled anything in its path.

The beast?  A future garage sale filled with all the detritus of unneeded stuff that we have collected.  The extra pie pans. A cute box.  An antique milk bottle. Clothes we no longer use. Glasses and cups. Candles that have sat for years, un-lit (or, lit briefly).  Pitchers. Books. Recipe books.  Baskets.

The maw?  My cardboard boxes that sit ready for me to put my future garage-sale finds.  And it is so magnificently freeing, to be able to see something useless and to just make it go away.  Poof - it's banished. Into a box that sits ready, waiting to be fed, and never to be stressed over (or dusted or moved or packed) again.

I now have cupboards that are mostly bare.  I can find the things I actually choose to retain.  And the house will sell so much better with spacious cupboards and closets.

Of course, my garage is stuffed with all this future-sale stuff.  I truly dread the sale, but love the results.


Only keep what is truly wanted, truly useful.

My friends the Santizos got down to one suitcase each.  My friend Irene has a single extra coffee cup for any guests that come, period; otherwise, she just has one dish, one cup, one glass etc.  It's not that there is anything really wrong with having more than is needed.  It's just that excess works against our present goals of being mobile, of having the potential to move at a (virtual) moment's notice.

It's simple.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Slogging through it all...

During this past six weeks since returning from our Peru/Bolivia trip, my time has been overwhelmed with caring for my mother.  She had to be moved to a nursing home, then after their miserable care for her, we moved her a second time about ten days ago.  During that time I've been sick ... and trying to stay active in my ministry ... then sick... eeks, behind in everything now.  But my mother is now settled in an excellent situation, and I can turn back to my priorities.

I've been working in the office, and achieved a lot.  But the office has been the most difficult for us.  We have so many papers that need decisions - keep? trash? shred?  Some are business papers, some are sentimental, like old vacation memories.  I'm trying to get rid of 90%, and just keep a few things that capture the memory of the trip.

I went through boxes and boxes of old photos. It was amazing, how many photos of flowers blooming I had.  And it told me, again and again, that it truly is only photos with PEOPLE in them that matter, really.  Even vacation photos of beautiful lakes, mountains - they are lovely, but meaningless.  I can see even better photos in books or in the internet.  But of family or friends - those are treasured.  I will scan them and then decide - pitch? store?

We also had boxes of old 8mm video.  The British Museum, Paris, Alaska.  I pitched them all.  (Just writing that gives me a bit of heartache...  was I wrong?)  I kept family videos, and will see how I can get them transferred to digital media.

So, in our office we had two desks, both piled with "to-do's". I managed to get rid of one.  The other is still piled with Stuff, but I'm making progress.  Shelves are coming off the wall, and we'll paint soon.

Gotta run now.  I'm going to go through another file cabinet, to sort and pitch.

Monday, February 7, 2011

We nearly slipped backwards...

Backsliders.  That's what we (almost) were.

After our trip to South America, we got back to a mess with my mother's move to a nursing home, to piles of laundry, not feeling well, enduring a snowstorm, and just having overwhelming malaise.  I just couldn't get into the idea of selling the house in just a few months.

I really started to think ... maybe we could just stay here as long as my mother needs me here. Maybe we should stay in the house, stay comfortable, take it easy.  Maybe I don't have to go sort through piles of papers in the office, kitchen detritus, linens, photos, and on and on.  Maybe I can wait for some future date, and just sit back and relax.

And drown in it.

We did a pro-and-con list, and talked and prayed about the question of when to sell the house - sooner? or later?  And we realized that we have a golden moment right now to simplify, to lighten up. To free ourselves of the stuff that is choking us, that is burying us, and keeping us from reaching our goals.

If we prepare to put house on the market in April or May, we could move into an apartment with just our essentials.  I wouldn't have to go back to work. We wouldn't have stairs and piles of stuff to sort.  We wouldn't have 3 generations' worth of heirlooms to safeguard.  Just the necessities.  Simple.  Easier to manage.

So we're back on track.  I spent today in the office, and while it was daunting (and I'm not done...), it is do-able and in the works.

I can't wait to be free.

Monday, January 31, 2011

Lessons learned

I just finished (with help from my siblings) a move of my mother to a nursing home where she has a semi-private room.  Half a room.   She moved from a two-room apartment in an assisted-living home, Three years ago, we had moved her from a full apartment to assisted living, and five years prior to that, we moved her from a house.

Lesson 1: Simplify and clear out detritus.  Only keep things that are truly treasured or else useful.
Lesson 1.1:  Only treasure the things that connect us to people we love - not 'stuff' that has some supposed market value.  

Lesson 1.1a:  Of the things we keep and treasure because they connect us to loved ones or great experiences - only keep a sampling.  Do not try to recreate the person or the experience by virtue of an abundance of memorabilia. 

Of all the things that seems so important to preserve, many end up being discarded or donated as they become irrelevant or un-useful.  So, those shoes that no longer really fit well - let them go sooner rather than later, when perhaps someone else must move them out.  Piles of papers - go through it NOW to select only what is of enduring importance.

It would horrify me to think that my family members may need to go through my possessions and make the decisions that we had to make this past weekend.