Tuesday, May 27, 2008


One's life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses. ~Luke 12:15

'Tis the garage sale-ing season and I like to participate in both ends of the deal making...that is I like to go out and hunt down that treasure as much as I like to sell my old stuff and make a little money. I need to qualify my last statement, though, by saying that I'm not one of those die-hard garage salers who are out there every Saturday at the crack of dawn. Really, I only go a couple of times a season and I've learned to go with a mission in mind.

This coming Saturday I am having my own garage sale with a dear friend and neighbor. As I'm preparing for this sale I am being ruthless (or at least trying to be) in cleaning out, purging, getting rid of stuff. I have a couple of questions I ask myself about my stuff.

1. (and this is one that you always see in magazines) Have I used this in the last 6 months to a year? I mean if it's been in storage for that long and I haven't had a need for it, do I really think I'm going to need it in the future?

2. Do I have more than one of this item or do I have a similar item I like better? I mean really, how many cheese graters do you need? Just one, to use when you grate the cheese.

3. Why am I holding on to this item? Is it sentimental? Is it a collectible and I think that I would really post it on ebay? Will I really repair it (if it needs repair)? Sometimes I hold on to things because of the person who gave it to me or because a similar item was appraised highly on The Antiques Roadshow. The trouble is I never look at it and it's just taking up space...in a box...in a garage...with limited storage. And if it's been in my garage for any length of time and still hasn't been repaired then chances are it will never be repaired. At least by me anyway.

These can be awfully hard questions to answer. Our culture does measure our success and value too frequently by the kind of and amount of things we own. We accumulate to show how well we are doing or for memory-sake. But in the end...it's just stuff...and you can't take it with you.

For example: Husband and I were in the garage yesterday pulling out a few things when we came across his Mom's old wooden tennis rackets. I'm not really sure how we ended up with them but they are rather nostalgic looking in their wooden brackets.

"Do you want to keep these?" I asked gently. Knowing that they may have some sentimental value to my husband. He pondered them for a few minutes, I'm sure running through some memories.

"If you want to keep them I'm sure I could think of some kind of nice way to display them for you..."

Finally he said, "No, I don't have any real use for them, I don't want them displayed, they are just taking up space out here and I can't take them with me."

Then there is the concept of enoughness. Recently in Our Daily Bread there was a story about author Calvin Trillin's wife, Alice, who believed that... " 'after a certain level of income, the government would simply take everything.' She thought there should be a limit on how much money people were allowed to keep for themselves. Writing in the The New Yorker, Trillin said of his wife, 'She believed in the priciple of enoughness.' "

While I don't hold with Alice Trillin's particular brand of enoughness I do understand what she is getting at. We mostly don't need all that we have.

So the biggest question I ask myself as I purge or as I go garage sale-ing is this:

4. Do I really need it? Whatever it is. Sometimes the need for an item is because of its usefulness, like a bookshelf. Sometimes the need is emotional, like the pair of soup bowls I bought once because they reminded me of my Grandmother. Sometimes the need is decorative, as in I'm going through a decorative phase that I know is a phase and I don't want to spend a lot of money on it or be emotionally attached to it (thus making it easier to get rid of later).

So there is the concept that my husband holds to of not being able to take it with you and there is the concept of enoughness. Both worthy of my consideration as I both buy and sell.

Having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. ~1Timothy 6:8

Oh, and by the way, here's another use for your cheese grater. Ever get melty cheese stuck to the bristles of your dish cleaner brush? Put a little dish soap on the brush and run it over your cheese grater under hot water. The cheese comes right off the bristles!

For more Works For Me Wednesday tips head on over to Rocks In My Dryer.


Gina said...

Its so easy to accumulate stuff and so hard to unload it!

Just tonight I was walking through Kroger and saw a display of cute coffee mugs at the Starbucks inside the store. They were marked down to just a couple dollars each.

I almost bought one and then reminded myself that I already have four "every day" mugs at home. Ward rarely drinks coffee so its just me and my one cup in the morning. Technically I only need one mug but I have three extra. My already cramped kitchen doesn't need another no matter how cute it is!

wendygram said...

It feels good to get rid of, and it feels good to find a "treasure"! So I'm with you on both!

ames said...

Purging is so refreshing! I got rid of more than half my clothes last year and I've never felt better about my wardrobe. What I have trouble with enoughness with is craft and sewing supplies...I'm always thinking "but I could make something really cool out of this...someday!"

Anonymous said...

What a great post. I love the title "Enough-ness"! I used to be a hoarder (ok, still am a little!) but it's so much better living a simple, uncluttered life!

Love, Tina :)

beth said...

Good wisdom! Thrift stores & garage sales are my downfall because I will often buy something that's a bargain even if I don't need it!

godlover said...

Great post! and I'm all for "enough-ness" but I still struggle with books. It's a lot like pulling teeth to me.

Thanks for the tip on cleaning the cheese from the dish brush. I will be sure to give it a try next time.


Niki said...

very wise post!


Audra Krell said...

This is a good post. As a writer, I have heard it said that all the stuff we accumulate is what gets in the way of writing. My office looks like a bomb went off and it stresses me to live like this. Now, when I want to buy something I wonder if it will just sit in the office, on top of other debris and that usually stops me.

Tara said...

Thanks for your post... Sometimes we think we have to have everything ... when really contentment for God's blessing and provision is quite sufficient! Thanks for the reminder:)