On Stuff


Like, items in your house, stuff.

 It started November 2015 after I read Mari Kondo for the first time. Tossing any and everything that does not bring joy into our home.

 I threw away, in the trash, 30 bags. I originally donated another 30 bags in a few weekend trips with my husband’s old truck. I’ve taken a car full (approximately 4-5 trash bags + miscellaneous other items) every month since. Every. Month. 

That, you guys, is a crap ton of stuff. From a 1600 square foot house.

I will admit that I’ve also spent that time scouring vintage markets and thrift shops for items that I love. I will admit that we have four kids. Plus an additional two that were living with us for 6 months. We live and work and educate here in our home so chances are we will accumulate a lot.

But still.

A few weeks ago I made my monthly trip to the thrift store. But this time it was different. I was sad.  I didn’t entirely know if I should take my stuff back and put it in the closet, wait to give it to someone or throw it in the trash. It’s the first time through this whole process of decluttering that I felt this way.

Some were mugs that didn’t”match” my new minimalist kitchen. Some were appliances that took up too much space. Or ones that we never used. There were a lot of girl clothes that weren’t going to get used with two boys coming up the ranks. And maybe that was part of the sadness. Are there really no more girls coming? Are matching white mugs that important? Why did we buy this if we never are going to use it ever? Will the new owners find joy in it or will it sit in a garage unused?

I don’t know when I’m going to feel done with this project. When will I stop trying to make our home joy sparking and acknowledge that the joy is, in fact, sparked?

I think my problem is that I keep thinking that at some point I will feel grateful for what I have and we can be done. And yet, 15 months down the line I still don’t. 

Some days I look around and see the stories in what I’ve curated. The signs made by old and new friends. The refinished chairs we bought from a sketchy neighborhood in Boulder. The free hutch and buffet that don’t match. From a grandmother of a neighbor. I wonder sometimes what she was like. What it looked like in her house. I look at the collection of items from hikes the kids find. The couch that took weeks to decide on even though it was the first one I saw. The vintage coat rack buried in a flea market in the perfect yellow that matched the mass-produced pillow cases I splurged on. The table my husband built. The pallet he hung in our kitchen. The cabinets he designed from scratch and fretted over for weeks. The beetle kill mantel that he magically hung with the right exact screws in the right exact way. The lighting fixture he designed that I didn’t know I wanted but now I can’t imagine being without.

And the books. I could write a whole post on the books. The Reading Primer from 1910. The copy of Daniel Boone I found for $1 in a pile of cheap paperbacks. The Burgess Flower Book I bought in Portland. The 1894 copy of Historic Boys I bought in Williamsburg. The copy of Heidi with all color plates from 1938. The 1920 Burgess Animal book my Instagram friend from Kansas found at an estate sale after I told her I had been looking for quite some time. The stories they must’ve seen.

The stories they still tell all these years later.

Stories apart from the words on their pages.

And yet, I still don’t feel it. The gratefulness. There’s too much stuff. Or maybe, better said,  not the right stuff. Clutter and mess and trinkets of no value.

I think that many times we see a lack of gratitude in the process of accumulation of items. Say, at Christmas when our kids want all the toys. Or at the mall when we just have to buy some random thing that we don’t have money for. But I’m wondering if what I’m feeling- what I’m describing- this lack of gratitude in the midst of giving- makes sense. I’m giving away more than I’m accumulating but I still feel burdened by a sense of ungratefulness.

Maybe, what I’m trying to say is, if I do in fact have a heart that is grateful, we would have run out of stuff to give away a whole lot sooner. Maybe my constant buying of things that bring me joy is missing the point entirely.

I don’t think I have much wisdom to depart on this subject other than stating here, in this space, that I struggle with gratefulness beyond what I have ever freely admitted. 

Tomorrow is the first time we will be practicing Ash Wednesday. Ever. We are spending the Lenten Season learning and growing and praying. Offering gifts of our time and gifts of our money. Feasting together in anticipation. I am eager to start and learn right alongside my littles. Struggling through these ideas. Of gratefulness and joy and making a home and stuff and money and contentment. Working through things of Virtue and Character.

I hope you’ll stick around long enough to see where we end up.


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