Saturday, October 9, 2010

What can you live without?

Going Green Mama ponders our priorities...

Ever have one of those days when you're feeling down on yourself? And then God slaps you back to reality?

I've had more than one of those moments lately. But one in particular I want to share. It's about an employee at our company I've never met.

This person had the misfortune of losing every possession in her home last week. Every item, as her family watched their home burn to the ground.

The cool part was watching how employees came together to help this family, people that they've never met. They brought diapers, and clothing, and shoes. An empty office stored items that were being catalogued by a coworker to make sure the family's needs were being met. It was an amazing thing to see, and I felt humbled and apologetic for my two bags of baby gear, plucked from the stash for my sister.

But the whole experience got me wondering. If I was in her shoes, what did I really need?

My library of books crammed on the shelves? Fun, but truthfully collecting dust. My stamp collection from when I was 11 that I've kept for years? Stealing space in my storeroom. Those extra clothes in my closet, waiting for a size change? Held captive from a person who could use them.

In the end, it's about keeping my family safe from harm. The other things are just ancillaries.


panamamama said...

Makes you see what is important. I want to do a major purge. Told my hubby I'd like to move just so I can do it, but think I'll do a room at a time. I normally keep a box at the door and give it every Saturday to charity, but want to get down to basics.

Shona~ LALA dex press said...

I co-worker I have known for 10 years recently lost everything in May when Nashville experienced devastating flooding + her house was under water to her roof line. Yeah, my co-workers are really amazing when it comes to one of us being in crisis (this is not the first time they have pulled together + given generously) + feel fortunate to work with them.

Being safe is the #1 priority, I would worry about my dog if I no one were home. If I had to actually be pinned down to naming an object, I would grab (with great difficulty because it weighs 250 lb) is my tabletop platen letterpress.

Anonymous said...

Old family photos. We just found (in going through my inlaws' things, and believe me that their house resembles something that could be featured on Hoarders) a huge collection of 50+-year-old photographs of family members, many of them organized and labelled into photo albums so it's a whole history of the family, where they lived, what they looked like, when and who they married, and from that, so much information from between the lines, like who was born and who died between big milestones, and stuff like that. It's just magical, being able to go back in time like that to times from way before we were even born. It's one of my fears with the plethora of online photos, and the comparatively tiny number of people who actually print photos any more; when the online sites are gone, the picture histories will be lost forever.

I think if, I pray I never know for sure, something like this happened to me and our family lost all our possessions, I wouldn't weep over the Stuff itself, but the things with history attached to them, like the bed my great-grandmother slept in that's now my daughter's, or the skirt I made myself when I was 8 that's now in my daughter's dress-up box, or the photo of my late grandpa giving his sort of sideways grin at the camera. I know the memories do not rely on the Things, that the memories are always there, but to me that's where the value in the Thing lies.

Love this post. The beauty is, things like this make us realize, we don't really NEED much at all. Something in me always loves that week or so before and after I move (easier before kids!), when I'd just have that one box with one place setting for everyone, one pot, a couple of towels, a bar of soap, and a couple of changes of clothing? And we'd live out of that box till things were organized? Once I did a move where everything but 1 mattress and That Box had to go onto the truck a few days before I could actually vacate to the new place, and it was sort of amazing and cool, how little I actually needed...

Wendy said...

I went through a complete life transition many years ago, during which I lost nearly all of the "things" I had accumulated in my life. Then, I lived for many years with just what would fit in a space that was, roughly, 200 sq ft. I found that I had more than enough stuff and more than enough room for all of it.

Then, I moved into a 1500 sq ft house and started getting more stuff. There are many days when I long for that austere 200 sq ft ;). I'm currently in the muddle of a downscaling of stuff. It's such a chore, and I keep asking myself - where did it all come from?

It's awesome that your community came through for your co-worker. Even as I lament about having too much stuff, I can't imagine what would happen if it were all just taken from me. As others have mentioned, there are things that simply can not be replaced that are a part of my history and are just kind of nice to have around.

Chile said...

I would hate to lose everything involuntarily, such as in a fire or flood. However, we are voluntarily determining just what we can live without. We are in the process of downsizing from a 3 bedroom house (with 200 additional square feet of shed space) to a fifth wheel trailer. I don't know what the square footage of it will be, but I'm assuming under 300 square feet.

We've lived in a variety of situations, ranging from a 3700 square foot house to a 25 foot RV, and I am here to tell you that STUFF is not what makes you happy. Yes, we need some stuff, but not nearly as much as we think.

Melissa @ HerGreenLife said...

When I was 16, we had a house fire that was mostly contained to my bedroom. My biggest losses were two childhood items: a musical doll from my grandma who died when I was very young and my bunny that I'd slept with every night since I was a baby (I was still sleeping with it at 16).

Though it was traumatic, sometimes when I'm having a hard time getting rid of stuff, I kind of wish for a fire so I can have a clean slate. Weird, right? Not to mention wasteful.

Anyway, I agree with photos being a big "keeper." We keep back-ups of our photos on DVDs in a fire-proof box, along with important documents like birth certificates and passports -- these can be replaced, but it's a pain.


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