“Better is a little with the fear of the Lord, than great treasure with trouble.” Proverbs 15:16

Tuesday nights brighten our week. For about an hour, we FaceTime with our grandchildren (and their parents). It starts off with Poppy and Mimi gushing over Joel while he finishes his dinner. After a few minutes, he pops off and on to the screen, showing us his toys, stuffies, and guitar. Sometimes we sing with him or ask him questions about his day, and maybe even read a book to him. Eva is new to this routine. Being held in the arms of one of her parents, she gazes into the screen. Again, we gush with sentiments that sometimes make her smile. This modern technology connects us with our grandchildren who live 7.5 hours away, making us more familiar to them.

As a child, I wanted to be an archaeologist. Books and movies informed my view of archeology, a life full of adventure, mystery, and treasures. But it was more than a life of intrigue, digging up artifacts to learn about an ancient culture that truly fascinated me. What did they use as utensils, and how did they cook their food? Did they really sleep on rock platforms as beds, and do we have any indication of what kind of natural fibers they used for clothing? As archeologists discover more about ancient cultures, we learn more about what they valued.

I often wonder what my grandchildren will think about my life and the artifacts that they may find in my home. Will they look at my collection of cake stands and fondly remember holidays with cookies and cakes sitting upon the pedestals? Will they look at some of my books and wonder what in the world was Mimi thinking when she read about the hunt for the Imperial woodpecker? Will they read the letters and cards I kept and see them as historical evidence of a life that valued relationships? Will they look at some of the things that I deemed precious and see it as junk?

My stuff, and my relationship to it, is something that I have been unpacking over the past year. It’s so easy to see my collection of cake plates as valuable while I look at another person’s collection as useless. What sparks joy in my life may not be what sparks joy in another person’s life. But that leads to a bigger question, why do I value what I have? Does it add or take away from my life? And what does it reveal about my priorities?

We once planted a few packets of wildflower seeds in a garden bed. We decided to let nature take its course, with no weeding, just waiting for the pops of color to bloom. By July, we did see a few blooms, but mostly what came up was a tangled web of weeds choking out the wildflowers. One day, I was outside playing with some children when out of the corner of my eye I saw a long creature scrambled into the garden bed. Bravely, I grabbed a rake and started poking around, and I saw it move again. I dropped the rake and ran in fear. I have no idea what the creature was, probably an opossum, but I was not taking any chances. Later that evening, at my insistence, Terry started cutting the bed down, and eventually mowing it completely. Weeds and unidentified creatures made the few pops of color no longer important.

When Terry and I started downsizing our stuff, I feared my home would end up stark and drab with no personality. When I set aside the Valentine signs that seemed more country than my style, I was uncomfortable. When I got rid of almost all the Christmas wall décor, a tinge of anxiety twisted my stomach. And when I discarded old oil pastels and charcoal art supplies from my children’s early elementary years, I felt like an era had ended.

But the holidays have passed without discomfort or anxiety. Instead, the items I kept seemed to make a bigger statement when not “caught up in the weeds.” Getting rid of the art supplies gave me more space in my desk for the items I use in my own creative endeavors. Additionally, all the myriad of stuff I have gotten rid of informs future purchases. I think longer and with more clarity about what I want to add to my home today. Do I really need that cute basket, or is it something that, two years from now, I’ll add to my growing pile of stuff to give to Goodwill?

I am also more conscious of the messages about stuff that I pass onto my children. I lovingly passed on a collection of books that my son loved as a child. These books enchanted him as a beginning reader. But as a young father, he is conscious about what kind of books he is putting on his shelves, and these books no longer seemed as important to him. I had a moment of sadness, but reminded myself that this is his choice, and I will always have the pictures in my mind of him and his books. Without guilt, I took the books back and passed them on to my niece and nephew. The jury is still out whether they will love the books, but there is no pressure. If they don’t, my sister can pass them on to another family.

I know that everyone has their own idea of what kind of home they are trying to create. Some want a home that exudes tranquility, with neutral colors that calm and soothe. Others may want a home with beach vibes, reminding them of vacations. But I think all of us want a space that brings joy. Even minimalist guru, Marie Kondo, asks you to evaluate and store your stuff in a way that “sparks joy”. For me, Tuesday nights bring me joy, and what is in the background is less important.

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