We organized (or more like my wife did) our neighborhood garage sale this year and it concluded yesterday. We call home a small rural town of 7000+ but live within a "development" that normally has an organized sale like this annually. No one was stepping up to organize and our "garage sale pile" in the basement was reaching new unforeseen proportions so my wife took the reigns and volunteered. She created a flier a few months back and we stuffed paper boxes, we created a Facebook event page, we put it on CraigsList, we put it in the local paper for 3 days this week, we put it on the new digital sign in the center of town for the past two weeks, we rented a $50 large marquee-like sign for the main entrance that caught the traffic's attention for the past week, and I made a small sign for the lesser-used entrance. Whatever "could" be done, was done.
Come Friday morning, we were busier than ever before...and we've done LOTS of garage sales. Unfortunately, I had to "abandon ship" for an hour mid-morning to attend the 5th grade graduation but I came home to even more stuff (e.g. crap) gone. You've heard the saying...something like "what your garbage is, is someone else's treasure." I don't know how many times I said this weekend to my girls: "You just watch...someone will buy it"...and they did. We also had fantastic weather. Mid-70s and sunny. We really couldn't ask for better weather.
As the first day wrapped up, we were blown away. My wife did not expect much of a return from our sale. Not a single item was priced over 10 dollars yet we brought in double what she expected. Most items were a buck or less, with the occasional $5 item...like that huge, obnoxious green trash can. So glad it's gone! As day 2 dawned, I got my morning sunrise run in, and as the 9am start loomed again, we made a run through the house again for anything to get rid of. I brought up a few shirts and sport coats as well as a pair of jean shorts. They fit...they were in good shape...but after reading this article, I took the advice and got rid of them. (they sold around 10am!...see?????) Day 2 was certainly slower and less traffic but we continued to move stuff on out. I even brought up every last Christmas light string I owned. I stopped stringing the lights a few years back and have no intention of ever doing it again...so why continue to hold on to them?
As the day concluded yesterday, I grew more sick and ashamed of it all. Let me explain: I know we did a good thing here. I know stuff has got to go. But I'll be honest, I hate "stuff". Last night after the sale, we got into hard-working mode. We have a rule about stuff coming to the garage from inside the house...it doesn't go back IN the house. It all goes to donation. TWO full car loads later, we took 6 cases of books to the local library that accepts all donations and tons of clothing and household goods to Goodwill. We did hold back a few winter coats, actually. Our church does a winter coat drive in the Fall and we're going to donate them then. So as we boxed up all of the stuff that didn't sell, I kept wondering to myself "How in the world did we accumulate so much crap? We hardly buy anything but consumables anymore? We have a sale every year, have a full garage every year, so how do we keep producing SO MUCH????" In there holds the reason for the today's blog post's title..I'm ashamed of that, no doubt. Nearly 22 years of marriage now and this is what we've done. I was stumbling over my words in the car last night en route to Goodwill. With boxes nearly about to hit me in the head behind me from the "stuff," I couldn't adequately explain my frustration (and a little bit of anger) over my lack of leadership and facing what I and we have done. I rattled off the things that I do buy now: running shoes, Hammer Nutrition products, ground espresso, the rare and unique t-shirt...but not a whole lot else of anything. I have two pair of shorts that I wear all season long and I can wear them for 3-4 years (unless the fashion police arrest me!). So, I know we're no longer accumulating but our house continues to vomit all of this "stuff" (and I'm putting it nicely). It's frustrating and it angers me.
My hope is that we can communicate what true "value" is to our kids and they "get it" before they venture out into life. I think we're on the right track, though. Many days, my wife sent them to their rooms or the basement with directions on finding more for the garage sale pile and they did. Honestly, there aren't many toys left in the basement any longer. We've hit that mountain enough times now to really break it down. Their closets are not stuffed, their rooms aren't piles and piles (well, one daughter is still a bit of a pack rat...but we're working with her!), and they continue to show a little more initiative on their own to de-clutter and choose on their own what to pass on to others. Even Christmas is hugely different. No longer is there a mountain of presents. There are a few meaningful items and one big item from "Santa." Guess what? Our girls and everyone else continues to live. They don't die from a lack of "stuff" under the tree!!
My wish? Simple living. I don't crave stuff any longer and haven't for quite awhile now. A small home or condo, some clothes on my back, a pair of running shoes (with road/trail nearby), and my bride on my arm...that's all I really want. I am tired of being suffocated by stuff and do NOT care about what I paid for it and how much I'm losing by selling it for 50 cents or giving it away. What am I gaining by keeping it? Ask myself/yourself THAT?! Seriously. We, as a nation, have become such a huge consumer-heavy nation that it's sickening and drowning. If we only could flip that on its head and put that energy and funding into greater intangible things and helping each other, our communities, our nation, and the literal world around us...wow, what power that would hold.
I have a very difficult time with the past. I know, I know...the past is the past and we cannot change it. I still struggle with it and regret so much. To me, the "stuff" of the garage sale represents it. This morning, our vehicles sit in the garage and a lot of open space surrounds them. In the basement, the pile is no more. With that stuff gone, I feel like I've expunged some of the past with it and what it all represents. Like the stuff, the past is gone and I'll never see it again. Like the past, the stuff will only come back if I welcome it back in. It's on me to bring it back or seek out new ways to live, serve, and breathe in every second, hour, and day of life. I get but one chance to live each day and this life and I/we never know when that is going to end. May the shame of the garage sale be turned into something good and maybe even some motivation to get out and do something good today and pave new paths and blaze new trails. The choice is clear...now to make it.