The church I am going to serve does not have a parsonage, but a housing allowance. So, we have purchased a house, which is smaller than where we just lived. It is perfectly suited for two people. As we packed over the last few weeks, we told our children that we were downsizing because we simply did not have the room to take everything we have owned, nor can we no longer store their stuff for them. They needed to go through everything we were getting rid of and take what they wanted. The rest was going to goodwill.
As they decided what they wanted, I was a little dismayed by some of the things they did not want-- items that had sentimental value for me and I thought for them-- but it turned out they did not feel the same way about some of the stuff I did. So, we packed up everything that was left and hauled it off to Goodwill where some of it will end up in the homes of others, and other things will be discarded to end up in the landfills of moments long past.
Carol and I decided a few years ago that when it came time in our life to downsize (which is a process over time) that we were not going to die and leave our children with the mess of having to deal with what to them will be our junk. Before we discard anything, we will see if they want it, but we are not going to keep it because we cannot part with it, only to leave them by default with the decision.
Life is certainly not about things, but so many of the things we come to own remind us of the times that give life meaning-- the boogie boards our children used during our vacations to the beach, the porcelain dolls we bought for our two girls every birthday for years, and the model boats we purchased for the boys that used to sit on the book shelves in their bedrooms-- things we value for the times they remind us of but are no more. We value such things precisely for that reason, but the present moment quickly becomes the past, so such mementos fade away into boxes in the basement, waiting only for the day when they will be given away. There can be a sobering sadness to downsizing, but it is a reminder that life continues to move along and simplicity ultimately is the direction in which life travels. Our children, now in their earlier stages of adulthood, will accumulate while we begin and will continue to divest. There is indeed a sobering sadness to downsizing, but it also brings a sense of liberation. The most meaningful moments of life, reflected in our stuff, remain with us even while the stuff sits on the shelf of Goodwill, if we're lucky... or buried in the landfill.
And life moves forward toward simplicity.