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Stuff Stuff Stuff

by Going Slowly

With my grandparents settled in their new home, we've moved on to the task of cleaning out their old one, and it's been an eye-opening process. As we sift through the accumulation of sixty years in living, we are reminded of when we went through all of our "stuff" just a few years ago. Over the last few days it's become very clear: If we don't remain vigilant, intentionally culling the important from superfluous, we'll end up buried in belongings again.

There are boxes in my grandparents' house that haven't been opened in 30 years. An innumerable collection of artifacts have been passed on to them from aunts and uncles and cousins and mothers and fathers and grandparents… the list goes on and on. It's been stowed away for decades in every corner of their house, under the assumption that everything old must be kept in the family.

Our life is frittered away by detail… Simplify, simplify.

Henry Thoreau

And yet, my grandmother seems so much happier, now that she's free of it all. She's been whisked away to a clean and simple space, leaving a lifetime of possessions behind—the responsibility of being the keeper of all things old has vanished. No longer does she have to fret about what to do with everything; no longer must she worry about getting it all appraised, sold, or given to the right person.

What a lighter load she must be carrying! How sweet it is to hear her exclaim "there's not a thing from home that I miss!" The truth is, we can't take it with us. Each of us will die, and before that, we may move from our homes into simpler places. In the end, we can't take the stuff we've collected with us. Why, then, do we tend to cling to it so tightly?

You can't take it with you, Mr. Kirby. So what good is it? As near as I can see, the only thing you can take with you is the love of your friends.

You Can't Take it With You