Stuff that binds

I am a minimalist by nature.

The walls in our home are fairly bare, the shelves without many trinkets or knick knacks. I’ve never been a big collector, so every material thing kept from my childhood fits neatly into two cardboard boxes.

My commitment to living with less could be attributed to a variety of things. I don’t really like to shop. My husband and I got married in college and started our careers employed in church ministry, so we scraped by with little and made do with what came our way via garage sales and hand-me-downs. Consequently, our home is filled with furniture, dishes and other household goods that have been lovingly broken in by others. In addition, we changed homes eight times during that first decade together, making it easy to clear out unwanted junk every time we relocated.

But I’d like to believe that minimalism is a choice I’ve made, an intentional habit I’ve adopted over time. I prefer simplicity and space over a full schedule or house, so I naturally take time each January to contemplate how I want to declutter the excess and establish rhythms for the coming months.

This year, however, I’m finding the desire to hold onto my stuff a little tighter. Maybe it’s because I’m growing older, becoming more sentimental, finding value in the details I previously missed. Whatever the case, seemingly common items have become mini-memorials, connecting me to my past and those who have shaped my journey.

My kitchen is overflowing with these relics. As I mix dough in vintage Pyrex bowls, I think back to its original owner, a saint in my childhood church named Ev, and wonder how many of her delicious rhubarb-strawberry pies were mixed in these very bowls. I regularly reference the handwritten recipes of my grandmother, remembering the many meals and gatherings she hosted at her home. As I fill my Mansur Trucking travel mug, I reflect on a past co-worker and friend whose generosity and fun-loving approach to work and life continues to be an inspiration. Pausing to focus on these items keeps the memories close to my heart, prompting me to pause and give thanks.

Many pieces tell a story, holding emotion to significant life experiences, past and present. The popsicle-stick napkin holder on our table was a wedding gift from my sister Kim, a replica of a craft made during childhood summer evenings spent in our church’s Vacation Bible School. On the window ledge sits a collection of shells from various beaches where our family has vacationed, along with a mini fish pitcher from a local pizza place. A recent gift from my mom, it reminds me of the many special occasions our family has celebrated… and how mom has shown up to support us in so many incredible ways.

Other items I use on regular basis keep me mindfully connected to those who are far away in distance. As I grab my LLCU canvas bag and head off to work each morning, I think of my dad’s long career in that credit union, sustained by his incredible integrity and deep service to others. The books I read contain bookmarks from family members and friends who have provided the example and encouragement to take risks and follow my heart. And the few items hanging on our walls include a yearly photo calendar compiled by my sister Amy, a sign from our Wisconsin small group family and a photo display gift from the Riveras – all holding special memories with those we deeply love. They are markers of my meaningful relationships, reminders to be grateful for people who have made a deep impression on my soul.

So for right now, instead of lamenting how I need to do a deep-clean of the house, I’m choosing to take time to enjoy the stuff (and relationships) I am privileged to be keeper of. The organizing and purging will eventually happen, but I’m pausing a bit longer to appreciate these items that bind my life with so many others.  

What mini-memorials do you choose to hold onto?
I’d love to hear in the comments below!

 

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