What’s in the heart is more than enough

“Keep only those things that speak to your heart.” — Marie Kondo, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up.

Spring cleaning is stirring up all kinds of dust this year, and my mind is whirling along with it. It’s difficult to focus amid all the disorder. Each box and bookshelf, each cupboard and closet I’ve opened has stirred a memory and an emotion. It’s not melancholy, though. Not even nostalgia. It’s more like wonder along with a healthy dose of gratitude. My life has been filled with more than enough.

What is enough? When we see the devastation in Nepal, we can recognize basic needs: food, water, shelter. Beyond that, just how much stuff do we need? Enough for a rainy day? Enough to share?

Over the course of our 42-year marriage, our possessions have increased to fill every nook and cranny of our large house. And like sediment layering on top of us, those years of accumulation have begun to weigh us down, to bury us. Among the flotsam and jetsam unearthed in the basement: a high school term paper circa 1966, a disintegrating set of century-old Book of Knowledge, a ream of erasable typing paper, and crumbling, faded photos of complete strangers. Those things no longer speak to my heart. They can go.

Recognition of enough is leading us as we sort through this mountain of what my dad jokingly referred to as our “material wealth.” We are simply done with the acquisition phase of our lives and are ready to begin distribution. A pre-emptive purge, a pre-estate sale is in order.

The save pile is smaller than you might imagine. As much as I love some of the old items passed down from my family, I’m fine with having fewer. Not every piece of my grandmother’s stem ware or cut glass needs to remain in my life, especially if it’s boxed up and packed away, out of sight. Usable books are going to Browser’s Corner at the library. More thrift shop donations and a garage sale are planned. The dumpster in the driveway is full. And still, we have enough.

My grandfather used to tell the story of the year he and my grandmother moved from Los Angeles to Atolia, Calif., to earn their stake. It was 1917. They lived in a tent while he worked in the tungsten mine. Grandpa said they packed everything they owned into one suitcase — and it rattled. Yet, the photo I have of them on the front porch of their tent home shows them smiling. Obviously, whatever they had was enough.

During that year, living in that small, remote community, they made do. They learned generosity, resourcefulness and cooperation. Unneeded items were passed along. Sharing surplus food, furniture, and children’s outgrown clothing remained common throughout my childhood. I remember no shame connected with being on the receiving end, as we often were. We too, had enough.

I believe just as physical hunger can be satisfied by a good meal, emotional hunger can never really be satisfied by possessions. Without a sense of belonging and a sense of purpose, it’s hard to believe we are enough. Without caring, without love, no amount of stuff will ever be enough.

So I’m letting go of a few possessions. Big deal. The important things I inherited from my parents and grandparents are not in the china closet anyway. They have been in my heart all along and that’s enough. More than enough.

Lorie Schaefer is retired, mostly.


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