Among the great mysteries of the universe (Why are we here? Why do we have earlobes? Why do men have nipples? What is the purpose of spiders and mosquitos?) is this:
How can one family of five, having moved three times in eight years and executed massive purging with each move, still have SO MUCH CRAP?
I mean, seriously. I am so not a hoarder. I regularly clean out and clean up, and we have thrown away/given away boxes and boxes and boxes of unneeded, unwanted, unused stuff almost every year—especially when we move.
Yet, great mystery of the universe, I still managed to fill my mid-sized SUV floor-to-ceiling FOUR TIMES with garage sale fodder. After the garage sale, I STILL found more stuff we could (and should) dump. Where did all this stuff come from?
It felt SO GOOD to get rid of it all. I went through every room, every closet, every cabinet and pulled out the things we don’t use and don’t need. Y’all. The Purge was extraordinarily exhilarating. The more I pulled out, the freer I felt.
Once upon a time, two stupid early-twenty-somethings decided to get married. Not yet knowing themselves and who they would eventually be, they rode the coattails of their parents’ ideas of what they would need to live and entertain. So they registered at ninety-seven different stores (hyperbole, folks) for all kinds of
crap pretty things. Silver serving bowls, platters, candelabras, candlesticks, water pitchers, and utensils. Ditto in crystal and glass. Ditto in brass. (It was 1995.)
(Bride’s very southern mother may or may not have advised, “You are going to be a doctor’s wife. You will be hosting dinner parties. You must register for nice things!” Insert gagging and retching.)
Number of invitations mailed: 800. (Sadly, that is no hyperbole.) And, of course, invitation = gift = thank you note, which is another blog post for another day.
So we ended up with a lot of pretty stuff, for which we were very thankful.
Number of times (most of) above items have been used: ZERO. In eighteen years, my friends. That’s a long time to be entangled in the Devil’s Snare of silver and crystal crap.
It’s just not our style. Silver and crystal worked well for our parents, but it’s not us. We love white ceramic in clean, simple lines. We really love our wooden plates from the Florida Gulf Coast. We have been known to serve from a pot on the stove. With a plastic spoon.
The heart of our home is not fancy, pretty serving pieces and expensive decor. The heart of our home is you are welcomed and celebrated and valued here, just as you are. We want you to see us in all our glorious mess so you don’t feel pressured to wear a mask. Leave your armor at the door. No pretense, no fuss. Simply you and us, and savory morsels of food and conversation.
Now please don’t misinterpret my meaning. Some people love fancy dinners with fancy dishes as a way of honoring their guests. Bravo, I say. (When can I come over for dinner?) If silver and crystal is your thing, by all means, polish it up and place it carefully on your buffet. Celebrate your guests and affirm their value by treating them like royalty. Nothing wrong with that.
It’s just not my style. I gravitate toward the dishwasher-safe and disposable. But that’s just me.
So most all of our pretties went to the garage sale. We saved a couple of pieces, but not much. Along with all the other crap from all the other rooms, plus additional crap we collected from a couple of generous friends, we raised $465 for Meghan’s trip to Vietnam this summer. She, along with Michael and her best friend Alex, will work alongside other students from our church to love on the kids from an orphanage there—one our church has served several times a year for the past fifteen years. I’d say that silver is put to much better use in Vietnam than sitting in my dining room cabinet collecting dust and tarnish. Bonus: since the money was designated for Meghan’s trip fund, guess who got to organize, tag, and polish all the silver lovelies? That’s right, my darling, polish away. You missed a spot.
Let’s talk garage sales. We borrowed a friend’s driveway in a large neighborhood since our house sits somewhere between Nowhere and Timbuktu, and getting garage sale traffic would be a challenge. So, admittedly, driving all our stuff across town (four times) added a little bit of stress and exhaustion. The sale lasted all weekend—Friday morning through Sunday, though I arrived Friday after dropping off my kids at school, and we wrapped things up Saturday after lunch. I had to grab a Hello Kitty blanket from the sale to wrap around my legs because it was FREAKIN’ COLD. IN APRIL. IN TEXAS. (Until, of course, the last twenty minutes when we were packing up. Then the sun came out and turned my neck a precious shade of magenta.) But we sucked it up for the sake of offering treasure to the suburban gods of crap. And for the Vietnamese orphans.
Garage salers are hawks, man. You don’t mess with them folk. They know how to hunt and kill and walk away having paid next to nothing for their glorious treasures. And the ones who came to our sale struck gold. Not only did we have all kinds of stuff to
give away sell, I would take any price for any item. By the end, I was (almost) willing to pay them to take our stuff.
Garage Saler (holding a pair of 3T pants): How much?
Me: All clothes are a dollar.
GS: You take fifty cents?
Me: Here’s a bag. Fill it with as many clothes as you can. Three bucks.
GS (holding a silver candelabra): How much?
Me: Ten bucks?
(GS puts it back on table.)
Me: Five dollars! One dollar! You can have it for free! Wait! Come back!
After it was all over, I took one carload directly to Goodwill, and a second carload of clothes back home. The clothes will all be donated to different charities who will give them to people who need them and will wear them. (Dropping off clothes at Goodwill or Salvation Army with good intentions is fine, but the reality is that most of their donated clothing gets shipped overseas to be shredded and/or stuffed into carseats or landfills.)
Then I went upstairs and watched six hours of mindless television while eating chocolate. (So much for that “media fast.”) Have mercy, that was exactly what I needed. No one dared talk to me or bother me because, you know, all the words. Two days of chit-chat and bargaining and begging does one weary mama make. I don’t remember much else about the weekend.
When I peeled myself off of the recliner, I looked at my empty shelves and closets. Glory. It made me so happy. I slept free and content that night. And here’s the crazy thing: I’ve been to Target twice since then (Meghan needed clothes), and walking through all the aisles of shiny, colorful gadgets and pictures and doo-wops, I had exactly zero desire to buy any of it. Can I get a witness? Seriously! None of it! I so delighted in my empty spaces that the thought of filling them back up with more stuff (that would end up at a garage sale in three years) was…meh. Didn’t want it. Don’t need it. Didn’t buy it.
This is the place I want to stay, to make my permanent home. I can’t guarantee that I won’t take an occasional vacation to the Land of Useless Crap, but I hope I’ll be warm enough and content enough and free enough within the walls of my new dwelling that I won’t leave it often. It’s nice here. There’s room to move, room to breathe, room to relax—uncluttered, unencumbered, unstressed.