I spent last week helping my Mom try to prepare to sell her house. My Uncle is helping her by fixing things, cleaning out the garage, etc. But they are both in their 70’s, so they needed more help. My brother flew down, and we spent the week hard at work. We got the exterior of the house caulked and painted. We took load after load, after load, up to donate to Goodwill. We filled the trash can and recycling bin, along with the trash cans and recycling bins of nearly every neighbor on her street. Neighbors commented on how nice the house looks with a fresh coat of paint, cleared out garage, and maintained lawn irrigation system.
We spent an entire day clearing out closets and spare bedrooms, carrying unwanted items downstairs. Now that the obvious junk is gone, Mom is left to sorting through all the things. My brother and I tried to help her as much as we could. “Do you want this, need this, have anywhere to put this if you keep it?” If the answer was no, then we donated or trashed it. But there were so many boxes and bins of “I want to look through that to see if there’s anything in there I want.” Old paperback books and magazines, VHS tapes, knick knacks, etc., some of which had just been boxed up and brought over to her house when my grandparents had to sell their home and either go into assisted living or move up to Michigan to live with Mom so that she could take care of them. So much stuff!
And I get it, I really do. We attach memories and meaning to things, because we loved the people that they belonged to. But we cannot keep everything a person we loved ever owned or gave us. There’s just no room in our houses or lives for so many things. Too much stuff is just clutter, and leads to anxiety just having to look at all of it sitting there in our space.
After Dad died, Mom told all of us that we could go through Dad’s things and take any mementoes we wanted. I chose his old slide rule (for those of you under 50 years old, with a calculator on your phone, it was a tool to help you do calculations back in the days before calculators, but long after an abacus!), an old Timex watch and retractable keychain I remember him wearing during my childhood, and a pair of funny pajama pants he wore all the time during the last months of his life. Everything fits in a little 12″ x 12″ box. Mom kept asking if there was anything else I wanted, but I have the memories of the things we did, the time we spent together, the quiet conversations, of the person he was, and I don’t want any more things. I would like more time with him, but that will have to wait until I see him in heaven.
I painted the laundry room, cooked meals and cleaned up the kitchen, and started painting the door frames. But Mom is basically down to what is to her, the hard part. Sorting through the stuff and deciding what she wants to keep. My brother and I can’t help her with that, because as we joked, we’d just order a 30 yard dumpster and clear it all out so that she can sell the house and not have to worry about it any more! Once she gets to the point of actually packing things up, I’ll be able to help again. I can cook, clean, carry, pack, and paint. But I can’t sort through her memories and decide what has meaning to her.
How much stuff do we all carry around in life? Whether physical things, or worries and regrets. We can sort through the physical stuff, and get rid of the things that clutter our space. It’s even easier to sort through the worries and regrets, because we do not have to carry that burden alone. God has an ever listening ear, and wants us to share our problems and burdens. Talk and pray with Him, and lighten your load. Ask His forgiveness for any wrong you’ve done, and that weight can be lifted from your shoulders and soul. Open your heart, and let Him in. That’s the kind of peace and calm we really need in our lives!
It might seem overwhelming at first, but it’s easier than standing outside The Home Depot and choosing what color to paint the house! Let go of the things, and welcome God into your life.