January 31, 2012


Have you ever heard or thought about that question, "If my house were on fire, and all the people/pets were safe, what one thing would I want to save?" I've thought about that question many times over the years. Partly because I feel that it helps me to deal with the idea of something horrific; it's not as scary if I think through what I might do. Partly because I want to check up on myself to see what is truly important to me. It's one way to arbitrarily take stock of what I'm putting my faith/attention into.

Most of the time, I don't come up with many/any things that I feel I would HAVE to have. Pictures of past events would be nice, but if I have the people themselves, then I don't really need pictures to remind me why I love them. Mementoes from people I have lost, or that I find special for some other reason, like my first Bible, given to me by my grandmother (who died 13 years ago); my husband's, children's and my own baby books; maybe jewelry because some of it is meaningful or worth enough to get at least a little bit of money if we needed it. That's about it.

Honestly, most of the time I end up thinking along practical lines. If I had a bit of time, I would grab clothes, shoes, wallets and a toy for each kid so they'd have something to comfort them. And blankets/coats if it was winter. Then I think of grabbing things like birth certificates and other documents that would help us rebuild.

This exercise usually makes me feel like I'm doing a decent job at combating materialism in my life. My lack of attention to objects is genuine. I'm not manufacture a lack of concern for my stuff to trick myself into thinking it's not important when it really is.

However, the way you'd react in a difficult situation is a pretty arbitrary test. The harder test is in the here and now, the everyday. Am I reflecting a lack of materialism in what I buy, keep, and pay attention to? I have to admit that too much of the time the answer is no. I'm guilty, like many others, of buying things to make me feel better and buying things I can't technically afford. Nothing extravagant. I've never been a big ticket spender.  A new shirt here, a new toy for the kids there, an extra meal out. It isn't about how expensive or how often, it's about my heart. And too often my heart wants to spend money for the short term endorphin rush, or to avoid making a meal, or make me feel like I'm giving my kids a good life by creating a memory or making them happy.

But it's all short term. And too often I feel crushed by the weight of my stuff, which is the biggest indicator of all that I have too much.

To be completely honest, there are times when I go through my mental fire exercise that I almost wish something like that would happen and take all my stuff away (though I don't want the damage or risk of injury to myself or others). I wish for freedom and I often don't feel I can get it without it being forced upon me!

With all of the times our family has moved, we have been able to really pare down our stuff. When a move has to be done quickly, especially, you get pretty ruthless with it. "Do I really want to haul this 1,000 miles across the country?" So we haven't held onto as much as we could have. But I still see a problem. I still want to stop buying new stuff, and stop putting too much sentiment into the stuff we have by holding onto it when it is no longer needed. I want to feel free of the burden of too much and focus more on what is important. That's the part of my life journey I find myself walking in lately.


  1. This really made me think, Sarah. I think for me it would be definitely pictures and my Bible I study from. I use to kind of envy Grandma (Vivian) Miller when she went to assisted living then the nursing home. Her belongings had been given to family and auctioned off. She didn't have to worry about where things were, cleaning stuff, etc. Max Lucado says we should hoard less, and share more!

  2. I'm in total agreement with Sarah. We've made some great paring down choices in recent years, but still have to come to terms with so many little household stowaways that really don't serve a purpose. Except for books. Books are always the right thing to have.

  3. Oh man...google just lost my msg! So frustrating when that happens! I liked your thoughts and was just talking to someone about this subject today. Some people from my parents generation have attics full of 'stuff'. I don't have a problem with keepsakes, I have some that are very special to me, but at the same time, the things in life that mean the most are our families and the people we love! It's so calming to declutter, and not get caught up in the materialism that we are bombarded with on a daily basis! It's also a daily exercise to remind ourselves that living simply does have rewards and makes for a peaceful life!

  4. Books are indeed always the right thing to have! That's why we have shelves and shelves of them.