Over the last few years, Linda and I have been spending way more time than I could’ve imagined going through the remaining possessions of relatives who have downsized their living space or have died (the ultimate downsizing…). What I’ve seen time and again is that accumulated belongings possess an inordinate power over their owners to the point where it’s more important to them to sit amidst their stuff than be with the people they say they value more.
So much time and energy was spent boxing, storing, and otherwise keeping things which would eventually be sorted and trashed by us or others instead of doing something more meaningful that would leave themselves or others better off.
My Aunt Frances slipped into my grandparents’ house after my Papoo died and took a bunch of furniture and other things before her sisters arrived. She locked the stuff she’d taken into a storage building behind her house which eventually leaked and ruined almost everything she had poached. What she left behind has either been thrown away or is now being held in a storage facility at an expense of several hundred dollars to her estate to wait for her remaining relatives to sort through.
To what end?
One effect it’s had on us is to examine the accumulation of our own stuff. We’re in the process of cleaning out our own storage spaces. We’re donating or discarding stuff we don’t use. We’re examining the way we spend our time more closely.
I have been greatly moved by a quote from Annie Dillard, “The way we spend our days is the way we spend our lives.” I’ve been reading and meditating on that thought for several weeks.
Our days seem to pass in a flash with little to show for many of them. But added together they become the legacy we leave. I don’t want the sum of my life to be closets and storage units full of meaningless stuff somebody has to sort through. What’s the point?
I want my legacy to be something I wrote or said that made someone else’s load a little lighter or at least more bearable to bear. I want you and others to know that you’re valued. What we all need are more experiences that shape us into our better selves. Not to become vessels of stuff that other people waste time discarding.
How about you? What are your thoughts?