They say we use the first half of our lives building up and the last half using up. That’s certainly true about how we accumulate stuff, at least the first part. Usually we don’t start the last half, using up, until we have to, way past when we should have.
When the parents of my friend Paul moved from their huge two story plus a basement farm house to a small apartment in town, he took so many loads of stuff to St. Vincent DePaul and Salvation Army that they barred him from ever coming again. He said, “I never bring anything into the house anymore without thinking first, how will I get rid of this?”
That’s probably a good mantra for any of us. I personally, in these using-up years, take the attitude of “One in, two out,” whether it’s a sheet of paper or a book or a t-shirt or an overnight sleeper. [The last one gets sort of tricky; some folks seem to think they belong here.]
It’s sort of pathetic, how much stuff we have, so much that our biggest problem is how to get rid of it. We need to start using up much sooner than we do.
When Helen and I got married, at the end of college, everything we owned, the two of us together, fit into Bill C. Brown’s big 1958 Chevy. We drove a tiny lemon yellow English Ford, slightly larger than a Smart car or a Cooper Mini, but not big enough for our stuff. Bill graciously traded cars with us whenever we needed to move. When we moved to a condo, 56 years later, we had to get rid of a whole Habitat for Humanity Restore truck full of stuff just to fit into a moving truck that would hold six or seven 1958 Chevys.
We have friends who have huge houses crammed with stuff. They are old, too old now, at least they think, to do the work of getting rid of stuff. “We’ll just let the kids do it,” they say. That’s really unfair to the kids.
Also, there are certain kinds of stuff you’ve been lugging around that the kids cannot get rid of for you. There is a lot of stuff you don’t need. Emotional and religious and relational stuff as well as physical stuff. Get rid of it!
Katie Kennedy is the rising star in YA lit. [She is also our daughter.] She is published by Bloomsbury, which also publishes lesser authors, like JK Rowling. Her latest book is, What Goes Up. It’s published in hardback, paperback, audio, and electronic, from B&N, Amazon, etc.
Speaking of writing, my most recent book, VETS, about four homeless and handicapped Iraqistan veterans, is available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, BOKO, Powell’s, etc. It’s published by Black Opal Books.