Tuesday, 22 January 2008

You can't take it with you...

"He who dies with the most stuff...still dies."
"You can't take it with you."
" Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal."

Have you ever noticed how much stuff we have? And how we never seem to feel like we have enough? And how much worth we place on things?

I have a pot at home, that we call the "Mrs. Mennill Pot". It was given to us at our wedding by one of James' high school teachers. It is a fantastic skillet: thick, heavy, and obviously of great monetary worth. It has a solid handle and a glass lid, and I have made some really great stir-fries in it. From the beginning, I took great care of this pot. I never used any metal utensil on it and never fried anything in it like eggs or hamburgers. I always rinsed it immediately after using it, using only a soft cloth, never a scrubbing pad.

Then yesterday as I was washing out hamburger grease that had been caked on for at least four or five hours, I chuckled to myself at how "low" this pot had come. The bottom of the pot was scratched, and I haven't tightened the handle in quite a while. I didn't get a new one, neither had this pot lost its charm or use. It just didn't hold the same position in my value system as it once did.

I find the same thing happens with many different things: a new book, a new sweater - for the first while you try not to bend the cover of the book back, or you hand wash and reshape that sweater. But then as time goes by it becomes just another thing in a house full of things.

Having children has taught me many things, but one of the biggest lessons I've learned is not to place so much value on "stuff". My clothes are going to be thrown up on. My books are going to be coloured in. Plates are going to be broken. Carpets are going to be stained. Things get torn, broken, ruined. If I have no attachment to them in the first place, the disappointment from their eventual and inevitable demise is significantly less.

It also makes it much easier to part with things I no longer need. I learned a great lesson about this from my grandmother. I am one who holds onto things forever, knowing that "one day I'll need this". My grandmother, however, has a good hold on what is worth keeping and what is not. The other day my grandmother called to offer me a crockpot. "I bought it last month, and it has just sat in its box since then. Would you like it?" A month! It takes a least a year of not using something before I reluctantly wonder if I'll ever need it again. I've been trying harder to be more ruthless now - both parting with the old and refraining from buying the new. Maybe clearing my house out a little will give us a little more breathing room, literally and figuratively!

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