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Finding Harmony in Advent: Day 11

December 11, 2013

Do You Really Need More Stuff?

Our yard sale advent calendar

Our yard sale advent calendar

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich. 2 Corinthians 8: 9

The year I helped my parents downsize, I had a crash course in dealing with all their accumulated “stuff.” One man at my parents’ auction said, “You know, when I left for college, I put all my stuff in the trunk of my car. When I left college it all fit in two carloads. When I got married, we were able to put all our stuff in a pick-up. When we moved from our apartment, we needed a U-Haul.” And then late in life you need an auction to take care of your accumulated possessions!

You probably have a similar story. But it is worthwhile to note that today kids can hardly go to college with all their stuff in the trunk of a car. Today it takes a van or the back of a truck. What will this generation accumulate by the time they’re 80?

So, while scaling down is sad, and the process of going through stuff stirs up roomfuls of memories, this is part of the rhythm of life, like a tree losing its leaves. It can actually feel good to travel lighter through life. In the end, even the most cherished photo albums won’t go to heaven with us.

I like the tradition of many older folks from my church. As they get ready to move to a retirement facility, they invite us to their home and say, “Take something to remember us by.” In one case, a woman brought me a beautiful casserole dish and said, “Here, I want you to have this.” Another couple picked out a number of things they thought we would like and designated them for us, including some thoughtful and valuable antiques. In another situation we could make donations towards moving expenses if we wanted.

So why do we accumulate and give more stuff every Christmas? Maybe you have some on your list who would actually appreciate a gift given in their honor to their favorite charity (not your favorite). Most elderly parents, instead of any gift, would value much more the gift of time spent with them: either during the holidays, if you live at a distance, or specific plans for a time when you will get together. If you live nearby, setting up a weekly visit might be just the gift your mother would like. Small children too, often would rather have your undivided attention for an evening or a day than just another toy.

Don’t be bashful about passing on gifts that have been given to you that you know you will never use. Take them to a white elephant gift exchange with a group of friends—usually quite a hoot if done in a spirit of fun. Even if you don’t have the energy to be creative and “meaningful” with your entire gift giving, try it with one or two people. You’ll be glad you did. Blogger and family counselor Harvey Yoder wrote recently of being ok with careful regifting, here.

Prayer: Lord, help us to keep our eyes on your gift to the world. Amen.


From → Faith, Family Life

  1. Caro - Claire Wiles permalink

    We moved last year after 37years in our former home and although we did not have an auction, we got rid of a lot.
    However,in our new home even though we have been here for a while, we still have boxes to be unpacked and it seems we still have more than we need or at least have the room for!
    With the exception of our daughter, our family do not really want anything and yet I would like them to go to someone who would enjoy them .
    I like your idea of setting some things up and inviting friends to come and chose something that they might like as a keepsake.
    I will think about this as we prepare to go onto a New Year

  2. I’m glad if this gave you some new ideas about how to help disperse your “stuff” meaningfully. The idea came from my church friends so I need to give them credit for sure. Love your comments!

  3. Great to read this. Our study is still overloaded because it received the books and papers of both sets of parents, the last of whom died 5 1/2 years ago. And not buying gifts for grand kids is such a challenge. The younger ones (5 and 2) want to open a package, but have way too much stuff on the floor at home. Since the older 2 (now 11 and 13) were about 6, we’ve given them a card with a promise to spend a day in a shopping mall where we treat them to lunch and they can buy what they want up to a certain amount. They’ve been great 1-1 experiences and they’ve learned to be wise shoppers. Now the 13 year old prefers to go to the mall with a friend, so we’re back to the planning board. Any suggestions?

  4. I just talked with an EMU student about the fundraising auction that took place in 1970 at EMU. Such a win/win/win. The students built a new library and gained leadership experience and an amazing story to remember all their lives. People gave material objects they didn’t really need. And a new library was built.

    This same principle could leverage so much good work. The Gift we celebrate this season is so much more with less.

    • Nice to recall this and focus on how “giving things they didn’t really need” built a new library. What a monument to that whole idea (which I need to remember as I walk that campus from time to time). Love this!

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