The Stuff of Life

“Stuff” photo by Effie-Alean

In one of my English classes recently, I asked my students to read an essay entitled, “Why We Keep Stuff,” by Caroline Knapp. She wrote about keeping ATM receipts, movie ticket stubs, and “cigarette” jeans from her anorexia days. Why hang on to the clutter of the past?

I can’t cast the first stone at Knapp, because I’m not without sin in this regard. Of course, when a person gets to my age, more of life can be seen in the rear view mirror than through the windshield. I look around the landscape of my house and see reminders of some person or some event. Everything has history…a story.

Knapp explained the reasoning behind keeping little seemingly insignificant things: insecurity and fear. I keep a photo of a younger version of me in front of a Dutch mural in Pella, Iowa, because my mother was with me that day. She used to take me to the annual Tulip Time parade as a child, and when I grew up, I took her there. Mom is now gone. She’s in heaven. If I put the photo out of sight, I might forget the good memories, tulip-lined floats, and my youth. I’m afraid of loss.

When I bravely moved to the largest house I’ve ever owned recently, I packed a lot of stuff…little nothings, really. Why do I care about a two-compartment coin purse with brittle leather all cracked with age? What does it matter that I own a silver quarter with the year of my birth? Silly things.

I’m reminded of how Jewish families packed their valuables in suitcases during Hitler’s reign of terror. Like sheep to the slaughter, they boarded trains to a destination unknown. Now we know. We grieve. In numerous cases, family members in recent years have been able to identify and reclaim stolen heirlooms…hardly “stuff.” We can’t forget the Holocaust. May it never happen again.

Maybe Knapp was wrong about why we keep stuff.  I don’t want to forget a life well lived, but some things are best left in the past. Like Lot’s wife, looking back at “sin city” reduced her to a pillar of salt.

So, with my dimming eyes on the future, I’ll look straight ahead to a city called, “The New Jerusalem.” The only thing I’ll take with me is the righteousness of Jesus. Upon arrival, He will hand me a wedding garment, pure and white. Valuable stuff, I’ll keep forever.

Forget Knapp’s fear and insecurity. Throw it out!

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11 Responses to The Stuff of Life

  1. Caroline Knapp was a writer, editor and contributing columnist for the Phoenix newspapers. She died at age 42 in 2002.
    The “Stuff” photo was taken in front of Burger King in Fountain Hills, AZ (and no, that’s not my stuff.)

  2. Floyd says:

    I regret all the things I threw out along the way. I traveled a bit too light for a while there and have no record of my life…. maybe I was trying to forget. The small things that remind us of what truly matters in life are treasures worth more than gold and silver.

    • God can restore the memories and even the “things” that He allows. After my husband died, an anonymous person mailed to Roland’s twin brother his high school graduation ring. Amazing. It had been “lost” for over 45 years. See!

  3. audrakrell says:

    Excellent post Effie. I’m the opposite of Floyd. I keep too much stuff and it is stifling my creativity. I’m a throwing out phase. May we all keep our eyes on the New Jerusalem. Floyd, ask God to restore your memories of the important things, that’s what I’m doing with some significant events from my past that I cannot remember. Good events by the way….

    • Thanks, Audra. I’m in the process of ridding my writing and teaching file of all sorts of stuff. Newpaper clippings that have turned yellow and crumble in your hands must go! Thank God for “google.”

  4. Very true. I try to remember that it is just stuff. Especially when someone breaks or ruins it. The people are more important than the things. We won’t be taking any of it with us when we die. So I try to use it or lose it.

    • Good answer, Mynita. You’re much better at detachment than I am. I’m just so sentimental…keeping the smallest bit of anything from anyone. It is an illness that I’m getting over. Thanks for your reply.

  5. It is good to decide if something is “stuff” or a valulable part of our lives. However, I do remember when I went with my family to D. C. for six months and my husband told us that each one of us could have only one duffle bag for our possessions how we managed. It was amazing how little we missed our “stuff” and how creative we became to make-do. Rosemarie

    • Yes, Rosemarie, I believe it doesn’t hurt us at all to “travel light.” We can all surely “make do” until our Lord returns. Thanks for sharing your great family experience.

  6. Betty Draper says:

    Effie-Alean…I skipped to your post from Floyd’s. I like the post about your Father but this one really spoke to me because it’s about stuff.

    We have traveled the world for years and finally coming back home to continue to minister with New Tribes Mission. Fifteen years we owned a house before we moved to Bolivia and I got my first real taste of getting rid of stuff. We kept things packed and stored all these years and just before this last move in March this year we had not sorted through them. It was quite an event and amazing how much stuff we did get rid of. Through the years so much of that stuff had lost it’s value to me. Relationships have gained huge value to me though, people who have touched our lives and those whose lives we have touched. Pictures I kept and have this project I need to start scanning them to save on disk for our grandchildren.

    Thanks for the good post…I will visit again. Blessings

    • Betty,
      First, I want to thank you for your service to our Lord. Being a missionary is not an easy call to answer. I’m glad that you know the value of life…and it’s not in “stuff” but in people…in relationships. Since my husband went to be with the Lord eight years ago, I have only two pieces of furnature that we had owned together: my Lazy-Boy recliner (for a bad back) and my china hutch. What did you keep?
      I’m with you on the pictures. I need to do the same thing. Are you sure we’re not related?
      All the best,

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