It’s Not the “Stuff…”

Shortly after Sandy and I married, she asked me if I might be interested in moving out west for a year or two. Sandy is a nurse, and there’s a thing called “travel nursing” where a company hires a nurse, puts her in a furnished condo, and pays all the bills except for the Internet. With my career, I only need an airport…

What’s to think about?

So we decided to sell our home and put all our “stuff” in storage. We put a new roof on the house, had it painted—both inside and out, and had it completely re-carpeted. Then, we started going from room-to-room taking anything that we hadn’t touched in a year or so, gathering things together for a yard sale.

We had the biggest yard sale I’ve ever seen. Two days—and we were busy. We got rid of tons of “stuff.” We had Goodwill come out a couple of days later and take away all that wasn’t sold.

About four months later, we went through the house again, and had another yard sale. Again, huge! We filled the two-car garage, the whole length of the driveway, and it even spilled out into the lawn. Two more days—tons of “stuff.”

On the second day, towards 2:00, we still had a bunch of “stuff” left. Years before, I had paid hundreds of dollars for some of this “stuff.” But on that day, I was telling people, “Give me a quarter, and you can have it!” “That one just $10 cents!!!”

Just get it out of here…

Sandy and I ended up selling the house and began our trip in early 2009. We still had so much “stuff” in our home that when the movers came to take it to the two storage units we’d rented, it didn’t fit. So we had to rent a third unit!

We packed our two cars with the “stuff” we thought we might need for a year, and took off on our adventure. Two cars—filled with “stuff” we might need.

Our first stop was Mountain View, CA., about 20 miles south of San Francisco, in the heart of Silicon Valley. We lived there for six months. Sandy worked at Stanford Medical.

The first apartment was a one-bedroom, one-bath, small living room, kitchenette place. It had a beautiful little deck overlooking Eucalyptus trees and tons of flowers. It was like living in a resort! But it was tiny compared to what we were used to. I think it might have been about 800 square feet—Maybe!

It was furnished, so all we had to do was bring in all our clothes and the rest of our “stuff”—towels, toiletries, etc. We did go buy a cute little painting and a fake tree from a Goodwill Store in Palo Alto, CA. That was it.

And it was awesome!!! Within just a couple of days, I had fallen in love with our little place. You could walk in the front door and practically see the whole thing. There was no clutter. We could clean the whole place in a half-hour, top-to-bottom.

We had both lived in what some would call “big” houses. Why? I don’t know. Cut the grass, fix the furnace, stain that deck—you get the drift.

As I looked around our little bungalow, I thought, “This is plenty. What more do we need?” I’ve got the most beautiful wife imaginable, we live in paradise, there’s nothing to take care of… Life is good!”

In Matthew 5 of the Message, you’ll find this verse:

“You’re blessed when your content with just who you are—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

Jesus said those words. I think he was on to something.

I’ve taken the liberty to change that verse just a little bit. “You’re blessed when you’re content with just what you have—no more, no less. That’s the moment you find yourselves proud owners of everything that can’t be bought.”

I like that…

Over the next year, we made this decision: “If it doesn’t fit in the car, we don’t buy it.” And you know what? We didn’t miss one thing!

I keep thinking back to all the “stuff” we sold at our yard sales. Years before, we had spent big money buying this “stuff.” Had to have it. Couldn’t live without it. I literally don’t remember what any of it was. Sandy and I have laughed that we don’t miss one thing that we sold or gave away.

It was just “stuff.”

Sandy and I learned a huge lesson while living in Mountain View and then later on, in Portland, OR.:

“It’s not the stuff that you have in your life. It’s the quality of the relationships that really matter!”

You can have all the “stuff” in the world, but if you don’t have great relationships, you won’t be a happy person. Period!

We made a lot of friends while we were on the road. And we kept the ones that are so dear to us back home.

For years I had been chasing “stuff.” It seems to be what we do in this culture of ours. None of it has meant much to me. Now I’m taking that energy, and chasing the relationships.

Please don’t get me wrong. I still feel the “pull’ of the “stuff.” But now I fight it. I know that the short-term happiness I get from buying “whatever” is just that—short-term happiness. Next week it would have to be something else.

“It’s not the stuff that you have…”

So my two questions for you are these, “What are you chasing?” and, “How much is enough?”

Sadly, there’s never enough. That’s a hole that just can’t be filled…

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