A little more than four years ago, Pete suggested we go through a few of our things before moving from our two-bedroom apartment in Minneapolis to our three-bedroom-plus-lots-of-storage-space house in Duluth. I agreed it might be a good idea and worked alongside him as we opened boxes we hadn’t touched the entire year we had been in that apartment. We laughed and shared memories from our high school year books and summer camp photo albums, put on old sports jerseys and a shirt I sewed in college. Many things went back into boxes, while we were satisfied to simply take pictures of other items instead of continuing to actually move them from house to house. The boxes took days for me to sort. I felt emotionally tied to everything held in those cardboard containers. Pete encouraged me to do as much donating, photo-taking, or tossing as I could manage. When the movers arrived a few weeks later and said we had noticeably downsized since the move twelve month earlier, I was proud. I had parted with enough items to feel we were going to begin a touch lighter on Lake Superior.
We settled into our new house and, well, you know what happens when living comfortably in one place for an extended period of time. Kids grow through multiple sizes of clothing, they collect toys and games and mountains of books. As a family we gather tools and trinkets, kitchen gadgets and hobby supplies. Furniture moves in and collections of all sorts grow. After being in our cozy house for three-and-a-half years, I started to feel I needed a change. Not huge, but a little organization was definitely going to be necessary. So last winter I started reading blogs on how to get organized, I put together a Pinterest board, and I found an inspiring book that helped me feel like I could get things in order. I was tired of constantly putting things away and spending valuable time apart from my kids while trying to make my house look nice. Looking back now, I see that my need to organize was only the beginning of something deeper.
After spending weeks attempting to get my house in order, I still felt like it was out of control. If only I could get it organized and keep it that way! It felt like an impossible task, though just months earlier I had very little trouble with it. I realized that I was spending just as much time before the big organization binge trying to keep things neat. And it was starting to get to me. I began to feel anxious looking at the baskets of toys and piles of clothes surrounding me. I felt guilty knowing I had boxes of untouched craft supplies and unfinished house projects that I couldn’t seem to find time to squeeze in.
And then, two or three weeks ago, I started to feel an urge to separate myself from all the material stuff around me. I brought it up to Pete, who has always desired to live fairly minimally, by asking if we could get a dumpster for a week or two. (Can I tell you how happy he seemed with that question?!) We couldn’t start right away, though, because I was working on my sister’s wedding. While waiting the couple weeks until the wedding, we got to pray a lot about what exactly God was doing in my heart. We both felt that this wouldn’t just be another organizing stint. This would be much, much more.
We’ve known for years that we would have an estate sale before our big move to Africa. We don’t want to put piles of our things in storage and not have them used for years at a time. We still have a year or two before that move, though, so imagine our surprise when we strongly felt God telling us to prepare for the estate sale NOW. What?! That doesn’t make any sense! But we couldn’t shake the thought. I felt like the sale was confirmed in the fact that I got really excited about it. Such a change from my sorting in Minneapolis when I emotionally could not part from more than a few items. By the time we were able to start last Monday morning, I was actually giddy. All I can say is that was not from my own will. I have always loved my stuff and wouldn’t even consider tossing or selling something that I might be able to use in the next couple years. I know that God is preparing our hearts for Africa, but the timing of this is not at all what I expected.
I’ve had a few friends ask, “But an estate sale means you sell everything in your house, right? Why would you do that already?” My answer: yes, and we don’t exactly know yet. We do hope to sell nearly everything. If you see it in our house, it will likely be for sale. Book cases, books, dishes, pictures, bedding, toys…everything. We’re not leaving for another 18-24 months, so we’re praying about how this will play out. We may use the opportunity to clear our belongings and put the money toward a few items that we need and will really use. God has revealed a few details that we will share when the time is right, but for now, we’re trying to listen carefully to what God has for us. We know that His plan and purposes are so much better than our own. And that makes me incredibly excited.
I usually consider Jeremiah 29:11 far overused and fairly cliche, but I’m trusting what this verse says right now. “I know the plans I have for you,” declares the Lord. “Plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.” We already believe with our entire beings that God has a great plan for our family. I absolutely trust that this place God has called us to – living minimally – will not harm us, but that it will bring us peace and that it will draw us closer to Him. And the prospering part? I’ve felt deeply that God is freeing me from the guilt and busyness of my material possessions so that I can embrace each moment with my beautiful family. Ella will love having more of my undivided attention before and after school when she begins kindergarten in September. Sam will thrive when we’re able to have more of our day together to do fun and developmental activities. Pete will be able to rest in our home after stressful shifts in the ER and I can be more of the attentive wife I know I was created to be. And for me? I will be able to soak in life. Not the life that my material things give me, but the life that He has already given me, free from so many unnecessary distractions. I tasted this life for two months in Kenya when we had only a few of our things with us. That taste was incredible. What an amazing thing that we will be able to experience something similar here, in this city we so dearly love, right now.
God is so good! I am humbled to be chosen for this life. I truly am.
Later this week, I’ll be posting a few tips I’ve learned on getting organized and making the separation with our material goods a little easier. Also, if you’re interested and live in the area, I’ll announce when the estate sale will be as soon as we know. Please pray with us on this as we’re still working out the details with a few local companies.