We started our life on Bainbridge Island in an 800 square foot cottage with three kids. We were going to build a larger home, but we built a larger family instead and then we were too busy to think about building a house.
The gift of that time together was that it completely changed our relationship to “stuff.” My rule was that it had to have a place. If it did not have a place, something had to go to give it a place. I know we have all heard something similar but I understand now why it was so important. It wasn’t lack of space for stuff, it was out of respect for the stuff we say is important enough to have in our lives.
During the summer we sold almost everything we own in our preparations to wander the world for a while. We displayed it all nicely and people came and left and all the stuff went with them.
I was stunned at my lack of attachment to things that had so many memories attached: the chair where we rocked our children to sleep, the collectible dishes that marked their births, the china we received as wedding gifts that symbolized our right of passage into adulthood.
As I told stories to strangers who were leaving with our stuff, I felt lighter. I know that it was not the chair that rocked my babies, it was me, and the dishes did not commemorate their births or our wedding but it was the people who gave them to us. All of these stories made me feel an overwhelming sense of gratitude for where we have been and the people and experiences that are giving us the courage to go where we have not been before.
What I learned about the “stuff” we did not sell is that we need to have enough respect for it to put it away. I realized why I always had that rule “a place for everything and everything in its place.” Yes, it is important to pick up the toys so I don’t step on them, but that was not why everything needs to have a place. The reason is, if you care enough about something to put it away carefully, when you take it out again, you see it in a new light and you appreciate it even more than if it lived on the floor or is slung over the end of the bed year round.
When it becomes a burden to re-wrap breakables every holiday season, or to put the summer clothes in the attic, listen to that voice that says they don’t have a place here anymore. It is when we keep too many things unintentionally that they lose their significance and their splendor. Putting things away, even if it is the dishes in the cupboard, makes them shine the next morning when we are ready for coffee.
It is not about stuff, it is about home, and the things that we surround ourselves with that make us feel loved. Our definition of home is not static, even if we stay in one place, so our stuff needs to keep flowing as well, or there is a sense of misalignment. The stuff moved on and I feel like there is more space inside me for this next adventure.
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