Downsizing mental inventory

I have been entertaining the idea of Minimalism. Not the ‘no furniture, white space void of any possessions’ style, but rather a form of owning less or being owned by less.

I have finally concluded that every material possession in my home requires time and commitment that I would rather be giving to something more important-like my family, my writing, and my relationships.

I like to listen to YouTube videos on minimalism while I clean. A message that struck me recently was this:

As women, moms, wives; whether we have careers or work at home, we are somehow the keepers of the stuff.

We hear our spouse rattling around in cupboards and drawers. At first, we ignore it. The rattling gets louder, and soon there is sighing, mumbling, and boxes flying around. What are you looking for? That thing? Why didn’t you ask me instead of making a mess? Hands him the thing.

Our kids do it too: Mom, where is this? Where is that?

Why do our family members expect us to know where everything is?

Because we have a mental file in our head that lists the inventory of everything in the house.

I volunteered as the costume director for the school where my children attended grades one through twelve. The costume department was a large space that included thousands of costumes, accessories, shoes, props, and everything in between. I had a complete file in my mind about every item in that space. I would get calls from teachers who wanted to use pieces and tell them by route exactly which area to look in, which box, bin, or cupboard to open. When I moved on, I did a mental purge of that file.

The file no longer pertained to my life.

My husband and I are empty-nesters now, and I’m finding that I need to decrease the size of the stuff we have in our house. I have donated six boxes to charity in the last few months and have thrown away three garbage bags. If you ask me what was in those boxes, I will have to think really hard, because I don’t remember. All those material possessions occupied space in our home, space in our minds, and space in our spiritual lives.

There is so much more that needs to go.

While I was simmering on what to include in this article, I remembered a description of a house in a book I read:

She has preserved in shelves, in cupboards, under beds-a box of marbles, half-filled colouring books, a red, white and blue rubber ball. The items are endless. Every short stub pencil, every cornflakes box stuffed with paper bags and old letters is of her ordering. They rest in the corners like parts of her body, hair cells, skin tissues, tiny specks of memory. This house is now her blood and bones.

Obasan by Joy Kogawa, 1981, Penguin Random House, p. 15–16.

This could be any woman, yesterday or today.

Apparently, this has been an issue for women for a very long time since we can even find it recorded in the Bible in a story from over two thousand years ago:

As Jesus and his disciples were on their way, he came to a village where a woman named Martha opened her home to him. She had a sister named Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet listening to what he said. But Martha was distracted by all the preparations that had to be made. She came to him and asked, “Lord, don’t you care that my sister has left me to do the work by myself? Tell her to help me!” “Martha, Martha,” the Lord answered, “you are worried and upset about many things, but only one thing is needed. Mary has chosen what is better, and it will not be taken away from her.”

Luke 10: 38–42 NIV

Martha had an idea in her head of how she wanted her home to be perceived.

If the same scenario were applied to my life, every serving bowl, pickle dish, and antique platter in the kitchen would have been brimming with food. Yet, in the passage, we see that Mary’s choice was more honouring to the Lord than Martha’s choice.

Jesus didn’t stop at Martha’s because he expected to be impressed by her hosting abilities. He went there because she was his friend, and he wanted to spend time with her while he was in the area.

Just like how the many hours that I spent organizing and caring for the costume department took time away from doing other things, so does organizing excess stuff in our home in this season of life. To be honest, I no longer want to do this. I’m tired of spending endless hours sorting through stuff that no longer serves the person I want to be, which hinders me from doing what I really want to do.

The reason for purging is unique for each of us.

For me, I want to be able to sit at Jesus’ feet and soak up His presence more than fuss over things that do not matter in the end. I want visitors to feel comfortable in my home and to be welcome to stop in unannounced. I want to treasure the time I spend with my husband as we grow old — talking, laughing, exploring the world. I want my children and grandchildren to remember me honouring the Lord, and the people around me, by giving them my full undivided attention-sitting still in their presence and enjoying spending time with them.

These are the things that are more important to our lives than the things contained in the overstuffed inventory folders in our mind.

Originally published at on March 29, 2021.

Writing about life lessons learned from nature, adventures, and mistakes.

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