Every once in awhile, something becomes crystal clear. It may come after being clobbered upside the head, and it may take 50 or so years to figure it out, but some of those lessons are the clearest.
This week, while going through boxes of files, memorabilia, and stuff, I introspectively relived the past 15+ years of my life. My move from Oregon to California, in 1995, was orderly. I had time and energy to plan, pack, and organize. Of course, over the next few years, I acquired more stuff – but I got rid of most of my stuff before moving to Michigan. And now, three states, one wife, and two kids later, we have more stuff than anyone should be allowed to have.
It’s ludicrous. Our move from Michigan to Wyoming was done in haste. Newly married, fresh out of grad school, and needing to be in our new role quickly, we just through it all into the truck and drove cross-country. The move to Colorado was accomplished with probably less intentionality. But it was the five years in Colorado Springs, in a decent sized house, that caused our stuff to multiply.
In addition, we moved before, during, and immediately after our Smiling Son’s birth. In other words, we brought a crap-load of stuff with us. During all these moves, it is the papers that have haunted me. Files, bank records, old mortgage contracts, canceled checks, letters, photographs, and everyday paraphernalia that clutters our lives as we move through it. I knew I didn’t need bank records from 1973, but I can’t just toss them into the wind. I know that a lot of the cards and letters I’ve saved over the years needed to go.
Photos need to be organized and junk needed to be tossed. And there’s no better time than right as one moves, to trim the detritus from their life. Except, there are plenty of other things to do. The motivation almost always comes down to money. Since we don’t know where we are going to land, after moving out of this house, we plan to put much of our stuff into storage. A 6×10 storage area is $50/month. A 20×20 unit is about $150/mo. If we only needed this for a month, it wouldn’t be that big of deal, but if we need the storage unit for 10 months, the cost begins to add up. This could end up costing anywhere between $500 and $1500 dollars – or more.
When I look at our stuff, I realize most of furniture and stuff wouldn’t fetch more than a couple thousand dollars on Craigslist.com. So, despite the its personal and nostalgic value, it’s really cheaper and easier to sell everything and rebuy it later. Of course, some of our used furniture is really high quality and in the future, we may not be able to reacquire such quality. But it really doesn’t make sense to rent a truck for $2-3000 to move it cross country, or spend that much to store it for a year or more. And this is why we are preparing to sell, donate, or throwaway almost everything.
Now I’m the kind of guy who likes to have a plan. I scope out the options, examine the issues, investigate the problems, and develop a plan. Looking at our schedule, the weather, and when is the best time to have a sale, I decided that we should plan our big sale for the Friday before last. When that didn’t happen, we began to plan for last Friday. That came and went and I got discouraged.
I feel overwhelmed and stressed. We are losing our house, we have no income, we have to move, and we have no place to go. Hmmmm…. But I’m OK with losing the house – we’ve known this was coming for some time. The loss of income was a conscious choice made after much prayer. Moving? Well, moving always sucks. It’s just difficult. And having no place to go – that just makes packing and downsizing more difficult. It makes it difficult to prioritize keeping or tossing some items.
In the last week, I have converted at least 20 boxes of stuff into about three boxes; I’ve hauled about 15 boxes of photos and memorabilia to storage; and I’ve tossed much of my past life into the trash. This is a great process for an introspective person like me, but it would be better if there wasn’t a ticking clock hanging over my head. Given the time, I could sort, write, meditate, write some more,, toss, and reorganize. The possibilities are endless.
However, given that our short-sale closes in about two weeks, this is now just a chore. And that’s when my mind begins to process how we are going to get all the puzzle pieces into place by the deadline. This is where my planning begins to morph into a grouchy, stress-inducing dragon of responsibility. Suddenly, a task that should only take minutes, begins to feel like it will take hours to complete, and the perfectionist, procrastinator inside me wrestles my self esteem to the ground and kicks it in the crotch. I fall into the unholy triad of the pit of despair, discouragement, and a sprinkle of debilitating depression. It’s hopeless!
And that’s when the pieces began to fit. Going back to some lessons I’ve been learning over the past month or so, I realize what my job is – that is, to stay connected to Jesus. I go to Him for direction, hope, and insight. Last night and this morning, I was reminded to live one day at a time – it’s a great conccept.
So, I realize, I can only pack, sort, and toss so fast. I’m just going to do that until I’m done – then we’ll have the garage/moving sale. And yet… That sale has to be advertised and prepared for. One doesn’t just get up one morning and have a garage sale. There are signs to place, ads to list, and organization to be accomplished. So, I need a plan, right? Nope. My job is to listen to God. When He says advertise, I advertise. When He says organize, I organize. When He says move, we move.
My role is to obediently listen and obey. A plan, at least for me right now, is a recipe for stress and grouchiness. One foot in front of the other – that’s all I need to do. I don’t need to know the destination, the plan, or the process. I just need to put one foot in front of the other.