Last week, I resigned from my position as Stuff Manager of my household. This decision has been long in the making, yet there was one, specific incident that put me over the edge and caused me to get real about letting go. It was not earth-shattering or personally alarming (like the time I discovered my four year old hoarding actual garbage), but it caused something to shift inside me and I wouldn’t be telling the whole story if I left this part out.
A couple of weeks ago, I went to see the production of OLD WOUNDS that I shared about on this blog. After the show, my friend and I went across the street to Pi Pizzeria for some pizza and beer and to discuss what a phenomenal job Mollie Amburgey did in both the storytelling and execution of this production, her first as a writer and producer. The conversation led to a discussion of our admiration of such a young person so resolutely following her dreams and how many obstacles and distractions we allow in our path each year as we get older. There’s the real-world responsibilities that layer on over time, but then there’s the additional layers that we add on ourselves in the form of new activities, new hobbies, new stuff. I shared with my friend the best example I could think of in that moment about the stuff that was weighing me down — my sewing machine.
I got this sewing machine a few years ago for my birthday from Jason. But before you think I’m about to callously cast off a gift from my husband, this is how it really went down. I thought I needed a sewing machine, so I went to Target and bought one and then informed my husband it was my birthday present from him. My birthday falls in early October, which is a huge month for sewing and crafting and construction of all kind in our house. We’ve been spending Halloween with the same group of friends in themed costumes for eight years now. But that’s another story entirely, and one I’ll share in the future. The point is, I put that sewing machine to immediate use, knocking out several wizard robes and a Dumbledore costume.
But here’s the thing. I’m pretty bad at sewing and more importantly, I don’t really like it.
After Halloween, the sewing machine sat dormant for the most part until the next October when I’d attempt to wrangle fabric through it, cursing my inability to thread a bobbin or sew anything that resembled a straight line. Every year, my sewing machine sat in a lonely corner of my basement for eleven months out of the year waiting for October, only to be abused.
So, I admitted to my friend that even though I know sewing is not my thing, and that I have no intention of ever learning this craft, I couldn’t bring myself to just drop the sewing machine off at Goodwill. I told her that I was sure there was a woman out there who really wanted and needed a sewing machine, a woman who both could sew and loved to sew, and that if that woman would just magically appear, I’d happily give her my sewing machine.
And then our waitress who was walking by with a pitcher of water stopped dead in her tracks and said, “I really need a sewing machine.”
Long story short, she had held a job as a seamstress and embroiderer for five years, lost it when the company relocated, and needed a new sewing machine to continue the work she loved. She shared that just that day she had spent almost an hour hand-mending a co-worker’s pants, a job she could have done in five minutes with a sewing machine. Numbers were exchanged and the very next day we met and I gave her my sewing machine and every bit of sewing paraphernalia I could find in my home, scrap fabric and all. I left feeling lighter and happier and inspired to identify and let go of the rest of the things that are not for me.
There’s this moment in Little Women (the movie version) after Aunt March passes away and they are touring her large, drafty house when Marmee says, “Her blessings became a burden because she couldn’t share them.” That line has always stuck with me. Our blessings become burdens when we can’t share them with others. We live in a this relatively affluent culture and stockpile possessions in such quantities that we need entire basements or external storage units to store them but how many of those things do we use on a regular basis? How many of them are we allowing to actually bless our own lives? And if those things are relegated to boxes for some potential future date when we might learn to sew or take up camping or make that scrapbook or learn the tuba, could those same objects find life right now in someone else’s hands?
Now, I realize that there are some underlying issues with this story. The fact that I could not just let go of the sewing machine, that I needed to know where it ended up, that certainly speaks to some control issues on my part. In fact, it’s one of the excuses a lot of us use to hang onto things we don’t need, and I’ll be back in a few days with a separate post about some of the other excuses we use and a few ideas to overcome them. I’ll also be back to talk about creative ways and places to donate your stuff for those of you who share my control issues.
But for now, I’m taking a personal inventory of the things I’m hanging onto that just aren’t for me. I love a lot of different things, which can make this process difficult, but I also know that we only have so many days on this earth. Since I didn’t come with an exact expiration date, it makes it a little difficult to plan for the future. If I want to pursue the things I love the most, I have to let go of the things that simply aren’t for me. Joshua Becker of Becoming Minimalist refers to this as rational minimalism which allows space for our own unique values, talents and purposes to influence our choices on what we keep and what we let go. For me, that list extends beyond my sewing machine to a fair amount of crafty objects in my basement for which I had big, Pinteresty dreams. So, until I get my control issues under control I’ll be looking for the perfect new home for hundreds of beer bottle caps for that table I’m never going to make. (Any takers?)
How about you? What are you hanging onto that simply is not for you? Could you find someone to share it with? I’d like to challenge you to choose one thing in your home that you are not using and have no plans of using in the immediately foreseeable future and give it away to someone who will bring it to life. Then come back and tell me about your experience, because I can’t wait to hear it.
This post is part of a series on quitting your job as a Stuff Manager. Drop back in to read more about my journey over the next forty days, or subscribe by email if you don’t want to miss a post! I look forward to hearing about your own resignation.
3. But I’ll Need That in the Zombie Apocalypse (and Other Excuses) – On excuses for our clutter
4. Donating Outside the Box – On finding a great place for your donations
5. 7 Ideas for Managing Digital Clutter – On minimizing distractions and clutter on your devices
6. Is Organizing Just Well-Managed Hoarding? – On the difference between organizing and purging
7. Getting to Know Mr. Jones: An Antidote to Consumerism – On exploring where we got all of this stuff in the first place and a communal antidote to over-consumption
8. Taking Back Your Square Footage – On creating space in your home that reflects your intentions and values