June 21, 2011

So much STUFF

Remember when you were a little kid and you built a fort out of boxes? A barricade to hide behind? My bedroom feels like that right now. We are overly inclined to collecting books, and now that the packers have come and gone, the walls have boxes stacked all the way to the ceiling. From 9:20 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. two guys toiled away to fill box after box with our belongings. Tomorrow morning a separate team will come to load it all into the moving truck. Thursday (after a little bit of time in lab for Jrex and errands for both of us), we're off to the mountains for one last hurrah en route to Texas.

It's strange to be confronted with how much STUFF we own.

Compared to many people in Silicon Valley, we live simply. Compared to so many people in the rest of the world, we're already 'fat Americans' in terms of how much stuff we own. One of our intimidation factors in the Dallas house is that the stuff that filled this apartment to overflowing will only fill a guest room, a bit of an office, pieces of a living room, a dining room table in solitary glory, most of a kitchen, and part of a nursery. The list of things to buy is long and contains only the 'necessary' items, but what is 'needed' is profoundly more than most people own in the rest of the world. It's bizarre that being relatively well-off is one of the most confusing dilemmas I have.

One of our friends took vows as a secular Franciscan: voluntary simplicity. As much as part of me wants that, another part of me wants this house to look and feel 'finished' before the baby comes. I want a place where we can easily and cheerfully welcome visitors and Jrex's new colleagues. Not so much to show off, but for the house to feel warm, inviting and 'right'. I want beautiful art and wonderful (non-breakable) things for our kid to see, touch and explore. On the scale of "What would Jesus do?" I don't even feel like I'm on the radar anymore. I just can't imagine him looking online for a king-sized bed because it will 'fit' the master bedroom better than anything smaller.

Any ideas for how to be a grown-up who's been granted the keys to an amazing house while living in simplicity?


Anonymous said...

In my opinion - you have to have a king size bed when there are 2 people in it. So that one is a given...As far as the rest of the place - you are by no means extravagant, and you are very generous. I believe God is just blessing that, enjoy and don't feel guilty. One of my brother-in-laws just bought my parents a very large HDTV as a housewarming gift "from all of us" the next week his brother told him and my sister that he is taking them and their 3 kids along with his family and parents to Germany next year - God honoring his generosity, karma whatever, it is well deserved as is your home in Dallas. I can't wait to see it one day!

Snickollet said...

I struggle with this, too, and am eager to hear what people have to say on this topic.

I hope you enjoy settling into your new house. It must be nice to know that this is a place you plan to be for a long time, the place you will welcome your baby. I can totally understand why you want it to feel settled and warm and inviting and full.

Anonymous said...

I don't have any good answers for you. I've struggled with this same problem for years.

But Julie's reply gives a good, healthy, USA Christian perspective. Is it Biblical?


Anonymous said...

buy a smaller house.

not to dig on your personally, but when you look at the past 20 years, houses have gotten larger in square feet. we have a modest -cozy is what most people use to describe our house actually- home. at times it feels small, but rarely, just sometimes when the kid's stuff gets strewn. but over all we wouldn't have it any other way, it really has forced us to evaluate what we need vs. what we want.

Anonymous said...

and to add to my comment - I have no doubt that your house and however you decorate it - will totally be used to host friends, to welcome traveling friends that cross your path, and maybe even entertaining strangers and angels....I know that is what you missed when you moved from Baltimore. I know whatever you have will be used to show God and his love to all who pass through. You may struggle with feeling that it is 'too much' sometimes, but your heart behind having it is what sets you apart from most


Inkling said...

When we got married and my husband looked at all our special gifts - all-clad pans, wusthof knives, cuisinart and kitchen-aid appliances, he suggested we give some of it away. He felt guilty keeping it. Being new to this marriage thing, I freaked out and told him he was crazy instead of calmly having a conversation with him about it.

The thing is that those very tools are the things that allow me to do some really special things for tons of people from homeless to someone in mourning to a little girl who needs discipleship.

It has become fun to look at what we own as tools for blessing all sorts of people when they come to our home or when we know they have a need.

I remember being really envious of some friends who have this beautiful home with six bedrooms and beautiful furniture in every room. I was angry that they chose that security over working with us to build our wilderness business/ministry, and the fact that we aren't able to have a house like theirs, etc. But over Easter weekend, we stayed with them to save the cost of housing at this camp retreat in their town. And I realized that their attitude is all about using all that they have to welcome people and love on them. In fact, they are housing an entire family from South Africa for a few months as I type.

I think as you seek to fill your new house with things that are practical while being beautiful that you'll have a choice to make with each purchase. Do you buy the high end, statement piece that is considered the best of the best? Or do you keep it simple but sturdy, beautiful and lasting, etc.? Do you buy the art that is going to be worth a mint someday, or do you line your walls with creativity and memories and special things that may not have tons of earthly value but tons of heart value? Knowing you even the little I do, it's hard to think you'd get caught up too easily in the rat race of keeping up with the Joneses. Hope that makes sense.

Someday when you downsize for retirement or something, you'll be able to bless a whole bunch of young people by gifting them with what once filled the rooms of your home. My friend Mrs. Faithful did that and I've lost track of how many people now own furniture, her handmade wall hangings that have won awards, her books, her china, etc. Looking around my own little suite I can see so many things that once were owned by friends and family and then generously given to us to get us started in life together.

As I hear bits and pieces of stories of those I love who are older, I'm hearing how they financially blessed all sorts of people and projects unbeknownst to the rest of us. And I'm sure you and JRex will have lots of opportunities to keep up with that kind of thing, even as you're shopping for beds and chairs and tables and couches and artwork. You get to be Solomon or Joseph in a way.

And buy the king sized bed. With a good mattress protector. Even if you don't do the whole bed sharing thing with your kid, you'll be glad you did that. Trust me on this one. Toddlers with stomach bugs are equal opportunity sharers. =)

Anonymous said...

You are what makes your home welcoming, not what you have in it. You are the main souce of the warmth and good times, good memories, acceptance, care and love. Don't underestimate yourself and never, ever think that a piece of furniture is worth more than that.

Amen! xo