To keep or not to keep

By Denae Jones – 

My husband was looking for some plastic containers to pack his lunch in the other day. When we were packing to move, we let the kids be in charge of boxing up most of that stuff. When he found the box he was looking for, he noticed a funny smell. He opened it to find that the kids had packed some of the containers with food still in them. It was growing a cocktail of new things. We moved in August. Needless to say, the whole thing got thrown away. I’m not sure why he didn’t want to keep it?
It’s funny what someone sees as ‘keep-worthy’ and what they don’t. I have no idea what would make our kids do that, but it made me laugh. I thought of my grandparents and how they were so very different in that way. It didn’t make one any better or worse than the other, as I loved them all dearly. They were just different. I had one grandmother that kept very little, unless it was practical or had some real sentimental value. Then I had a grandmother who kept everything. Every. Thing. When they passed away, sorting through their belongings were very different experiences. The grandmother that had very little also had very little to give. Most of it was not valuable in a monetary way, but if she still had it, it meant something to her. I could see her in each of those things, and because of that, it also meant something special to me.
The grandmother that kept everything had so many beautiful and expensive things to give, and she had collections everywhere. I found myself looking around her house at all of those beautiful things, but I didn’t see my grandmother in any of it. It just looked like stuff. It made me sad not to keep things that belonged to her, but I had to remind myself that hanging on to everything she touched does not equal love. You know what I cherish the most? A voicemail from her that I found on my phone. She giggled. That was better than all the stuff she had acquired in a lifetime.
It makes me so sad to see families torn apart over the dividing of ‘stuff’ after they lose a loved one. Having nice things is nice, but after losing both of my in-laws and all of my grandparents in the last few years, I look at all of it so differently. Of everything they owned, all I really wanted were things like photos. The family Bible. Things they had made. Those are the things I see them in, and things that tell stories of how wonderful they were to future generations. I used to hang on to a lot of stuff too, but when we moved this last time, I gave about half of it away. I was hanging onto things for the kids, but realized they didn’t want any of it. If it’s not something my family would feel is ‘keep-worthy’, I probably didn’t need it. Life is so much simpler without all the clutter.
My little ones were looking through a magazine that came in the mail, with all of the ‘stuff’ they want to put on their Christmas list. I was talking to other moms about how they handle Christmas with their kids, and I heard a lot of anxiety in some of their voices. Some had very little growing up, so they want to give their kids everything they never had. Some feel like they have to out-do the gift they gave them last year. Some felt like they have to put a lot of presents under the tree in order to give their kids the ‘wow’ effect on Christmas morning. None of that is wrong if you do it with love and don’t stretch your anxiety and wallet way beyond control. I have done all of those things at some point in years past. But I wonder. How much of that stuff will be ‘keep-worthy’ a year from now? Will it be something that really matters to them, or will it just be ‘stuff’? One parent said they give the gift of an experience, such as tickets to go somewhere together. I like that. In our house, I tell them that Jesus only got three gifts, so they should not expect more than Jesus. And this year when we choose what to get for each of them, I want to give gifts that will be ‘keep-worthy’. But if I can’t think of anything, maybe I’ll just wrap up some Tupperware with old food in it. It should be nice and ripe by December. They could grow a new thing every day! We can just call it a ‘science experience.’
Have a blessed week, friends!