In Shakespeare’s comedy, The Taming of the Shrew, when Petruchio was loudly and arrogantly listing all his possessions to his new wife, he included her in his litany of “stuff.” She blasted him back with “Oh, go stuff your stuff.”
I feel the same way. I’ve been parting with a lot of things I once just had to have. Some of it was quite nice and expensive STUFF, but filled every niche in the house, most of it gathering dust. I’ve also been giving cherished items away to my children. They find it morbid and think I have a death wish, but the truth is I just want to downsize at this stage of my life. Besides, I remember the vicious fight Frank’s four sisters had over a silver bread basket after their parents died. I don’t think my kids would argue over my possessions, but you never know.
Now that Frank is gone, I’m more at liberty to de-clutter the house and garage. It’s odd how simplifying my environment gives me a sense of purpose and comforts me at the same time. I’m not sure he would approve of me reducing his collection of weed whackers from four to one or giving away several of his 12 gas cans. But I also know he has no use for earthly belongings any more.
The Saturday Evening Post addresses this situation in “Time to Downsize.” The writer tells a story about Anna Krueger, 85, who wanted less stuff in her life. She held a family conference and gathered each of her children and grandchildren around a room full of things she wanted to give away. She shared the family history or accompanying story attached to each piece and gave to them as they responded. When she died, there was no problem over the crystal cake keeper, the Hummel figurines, or the assortment of bric-a-brac. Estate attorneys say it’s those non-titled personal property items that create the greatest division among family members.
Some of my trappings hold no nostalgic significance for my loved ones. It’s just STUFF, so off it goes to charities who will sell it to other folks to add to THEIR collection of stuff, which they will, in turn, get rid of for the same reasons I did.
Another story on this subject comes to mind. Rachel Remen in her book “My Grandfather’s Blessings” tells of a little boy who loved playing with two little metal cars. Seeing how much her son enjoyed these Hot Wheels cars, mom decided to collect them for him. Soon the toy box and every windowsill in his bedroom and the living room held an impressive variety in all colors, shapes, models, and sizes. Then he stopped playing with them. Puzzled, she asked why. He answered simply, “I don’t know how to love these many cars.”
Most of us have more things than we can love, use, or appreciate. And all the time we may have been feeling unhappy because we think we don’t have enough.
I’ve been much happier since I realized I don’t need a gazebo, a claw-footed bathtub, a mink coat, a Grecian urn, or a 1959 pink convertible Cadillac. Meditating further on the matter, I decided many of us are unhappy because we already have way too much. And having too much always makes us feel that something is still missing, something we think will give us contentment at last. Thus, having too much is never enough. Does that make any sense?
I have more purses than any woman should be allowed to have by law. And since none of them are exactly what I need, I keep looking for the “Perfect Purse,” as devotedly as the knights of ancient times searched for El Dorado. I just took a box of imperfect handbags to Harvest House. I hope one of them will be perfect for someone else, but I doubt it.
Many years ago, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in one of his poems, “Things are in the saddle and ride mankind.” I think he was on to something. When the acquisition of possessions only leaves us feeling emptier than before, then we know that our stuff is in charge of us.
A final test for keeping it or getting rid of it: 1) Do I use it? 2) Do I love it? If the answer is “NO,” then it has to go. Yard sale, eBay, Craig’s List, charity, or offer it to the kids. There are several options.
Not many of us would follow the wisdom of Jesus Who said, “If you want to be perfect, go, sell your possessions and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” He spoke those words to a man who wanted to know how to have eternal life, but “when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions.”
May our possessions not make us sorrowful.
Mary Ready of Destin is a twice-retired English teacher and long-time area resident. Her columns are published on Saturdays.