This past weekend was the 39th annual garage sale in our Orange County neighborhood. Some 120 homes participated and shoppers came from San Diego, Riverside and L.A. counties, as they have done for nearly four decades, to purchase other people’s castoffs.
As I sat in a folding chair in the driveway watching shoppers sift through items my husband and I determined we could live without, I couldn’t help but think of that expression: “You can’t take it with you.” I was also imagining our two sons one day deciding what items of ours they will keep and what items they will discard when the time comes for them to go through our belongings. This is the first step in an effort to make that project easier for them.
There is truly a cleansing feeling that comes from having less, I discovered after the sale. I walked into our bedroom closet for the first time since it was cleared of things that no longer fit or are no longer in fashion and there was a real sense of – I’m not overstating it – peace. Our walk-in closet just felt more tranquil. I could see more, because there was less. It almost felt as if I could breathe more easily.
I thought of Mother Teresa, of whom it is said that upon her death she only had a few possessions – a couple of saris and a pair of sandals. No need for her to comb through drawers and shelves to shed things that weren’t necessities; she kept her possessions to a minimum. I now aspire to be more like Mother Teresa.
So, if you can’t take it with you, why do we collect so much stuff? Why do we want more? And why do we save all of it? In the end, we don’t need any of it. Sure there are the macaroni necklaces made by little fingers that I’ll never let go of and the photos of my family over the years are more priceless now than ever. My rosary is among my most prized possessions. But the glassware, the mismatched plates, the books and the electronic devices … we never really needed most of them in the first place.
Not only did this annual ritual of purging items at the garage sale help clear out the house, it also helped to clear my mind. I will approach this year differently as a consumer, buying less and giving more. Next year, for the 40th annual neighborhood garage sale, I just might not have anything at all to sell.