I’m away from the online world this week, so here’s an awesome post from Revanche at A Gai Shan Life. She and I have only met in real person once so far, but I consider her one of my closest friends. If you don’t already read her blog, open it right now in another tab and check it out after you’re done here. Revanche lives in constant pain, she lives supporting others, she lives for her family and friends…key word here…she LIVES. And she’s been blogging about it all in heart-wrenching and uplifting detail for more than 10 years.
Our Spring Culling
I maintain a strict policy on JuggerBaby’s (JB’s) toys. I refuse to break my neck in an unintentionally hilarious pratfall dancing over the seemingly inevitable mountains of two-year-old appropriate possessions.
The one challenge to this rule is one that I can’t, in good conscience, say no to. We see my aunt twice a year and without fail, she has a pile of used toys, books, and clothes, carefully cleaned and curated for JB’s health and education. She’s not wealthy, she’s the self-described “poorest of the whole family”, so she’s gotten good at rescuing abandoned things at the church and rehoming them. Naturally, her favorite grand-nibling always gets the best of these rescues. The love that goes into this is obvious and it takes a far harder heart than mine to decline her generosity.
As a result, JuggerBaby is rich in books. Baby Me would been every shade of envy-green over it. I wanted nothing more than to live among shelves upon shelves of books, not emerging into the light of day until I’d consumed them all, but we were too poor to buy books. Unfortunately we don’t live in a sprawling Southern California house with extra rooms that could be filled with such luxuries so they have to be pruned and sent on for some other child’s enjoyment.
We also pruned our good clothes that didn’t fit anymore and, at the start of the new year, took them to our local homeless shelter.
As we left the shelter, I took in the scenery.
A woman, sitting on the curb, smoking.
A young boy, playing in the parking lot alone, quietly whipping a jump rope around his head.
A middle aged lady, smoking. Going through the crammed trunk of her car, holding up a sweater and t-shirt as if to check fit.
A young couple with an infant heading out in their car with peeling paint.
This was familiar. Growing up, I saw much of the same. Adults smoking. We kids played on the sidewalk, on the street, unsupervised. Old, rusting cars, maintained as best they could be. Things crammed as tightly as you can pack it. I always struggled to open the closet doors of our second bedroom, it was so full of things. Old clothes, I think. Odds and ends. Things that might be useful one day, and you’d be grateful not to have to spend the money on them.
Grateful for the Luxury of Minimalism
It’s easy for me to go through our abundance of things and cull them up for the luxury of space. If we lost everything in a fire, we could personally replace the important stuff and have a place to lay our heads, be warm and dry. We don’t have the safety net of nearby family or friends to give us shelter but we do have money to buy that shelter and safety for a while.
Twenty five years ago, we held onto everything we had tightly because that was all we had. Our family was once a group of refugees with no more than the clothes on our backs. We shared what we had with those who needed it but the idea of purging things simply didn’t exist. You didn’t get rid of anything that could still be used – you could ill afford to spend money on it the first time, much less a second time if you purged something and needed it later.
It’s a luxury to give. It’s a luxury to choose to live with half empty closets. It’s especially a luxury to contemplate the manner in which we live, and choose to change it. Not everyone gets that chance, or sees it when they come across it. For that, I’m most grateful.