I think it’s interesting that I have lived in two homes that burned to smoking ruins, and yet I never dream of losing everything I own to fire. I do, however, have a recurring nightmare about having too many possessions: I am required, on short notice to pack up my family (usually including not only my children but young versions of my siblings, too) and evacuate a house that represents everything I have ever owned. Every piece of clothing, every toy and craft stick and crumpled receipt; they are all there in a jumble, and I am hip-deep in it, and I am trying to sort out what is most crucial to take along.
I’ve had this dream for as long as I can remember. The only thing that changes is the sheer volume of stuff. I don’t know if it’s related to what I perceived as many spur-of-the-moment moves during my childhood–coming home from school on a Wednesday to a moving truck, and driving away on a Friday. I was always glad on some level; moving was a reinvention–of self and possessions and place. When I was sixteen, the moving truck was empty and Mom was working full-time. My brother and I filled three dumpsters with things we deemed non-essential in the still of the night–sneaking across the street to another apartment complex when ours were full.
I started dejunking my place this week. Not only dejunking, but de-everything-not-absolutely-crucial-to-survival-right-now. That means I am not keeping any car seats for that nebulous time in the future when I might have to transport a small person. I am throwing away the rosemary and caraway seed. If a recipe ever calls for them, I’ll pick another. I’m not keeping my fat clothes.
Just to keep myself honest, I texted my sister-in-law: Give me a number between 100 and 1000.
She answered: 647.
So that was my goal, the magic number of things I needed to part with–though I thought it unlikely I had that much to get rid of.
Said sister-in-law is now helping me out: I stack everything in my front hall, and she comes along and hauls it off. I don’t know if it will help with the nightmares, but at least when I’m awake I’ll be able to locate my cinnamon. And if REC ever explodes, or a rail car turns over in my backyard spilling toxic waste from Hanford, my life should be easier to condense into a space the size of my lap. I almost kept my crock pot, I admit. But then I remembered I have an oven-safe pot.
We’re way past 647, and I’m not counting anything made out of paper.
You remember that scripture in Malachi? About how if you pay your tithing the heavens will open and pour you out a blessing so great you will not have room enough to receive it? I must have been paying way too much tithing, because the excess is ridiculous. BUT, I must point out, that I am blessed–and always have been–to have everything I need, and more. I have never truly gone without, not even when our home was a smoking pit of ash or when I slept, five to a twin-sized mattress in a filthy apartment complex in Portland, Oregon the year I turned six. There was always enough, and always a lesson we needed to learn.
I know that God loves us. I know he wants us to have all the good things we desire. I also know that we don’t always want what’s best for us, and we end up with a hallway full of unneeded and unnecessary items that we once thought would bring us happiness. He knows this, but he allows us our agency, allows us the exquisite schooling of trial-and-error, and lets us try again. Thank God for all that, and for every spotless tomorrow.