If your house was on fire and you only had time to grab one item, what would it be?
For me, the answer is pretty easy: my grandfather's Masonic lapel pin. It was a gift from my great grandmother to my grandfather when he became a Mason in 1941. Twenty years ago, it was given to me when I followed in the footsteps of all other Engel men and became a Freemason.
But.... if I had time to grab two things? That second item would be a head scratcher. My first guitar? The box and bottle of JW Blue that The Hotness gave me for graduating from Columbia? The harnesses from Dasher, Carson and Garrett? The 1950's era road sign that says, "High Hill" that reminds me where I came from? You can probably tell, but I'm kinda sentimental about some stuff.
All these things have meaning, no doubt... but these things are still stuff. Just material possessions. And, being kinda sentimental, I have a lot of these types of things that are valuable to me... but probably only me. Like many Americans, I have too much stuff.
A few years ago, one of my best friends, Josh, sold or gave away practically everything he owned. He had to. He was moving into a tiny, tiny boat that he then sailed down the Kansas, Missouri and Mississippi Rivers to the Gulf. A few weeks ago, The Hotness and I got to sneak away to Cancun to do a little sailing with Josh and his girlfriend. Days on the open water, reveling in salt air and sunshine made me believe, if only for a moment, that I wanted to live like this too!
Now, Josh's boat could truly fit in my living room. Understandably, living on a 25-foot sailboat is a permanent experiment in minimalism. You can't have a closet full of clothes, you have two or three shorts and shirts an underwear and that's it. You sure can't stock up on Costco toilet paper. Same with food, snacks, drinks, cleaning supplies, toiletries, etc. Everything you own must have a function and a place. It's absolutely necessary when you're out at sea for days and days on end.
After a few days of being with Josh and talking (and laughing!) about the things you "give up" to live this uber simply lifestyle - I was challenged to clean out my own closets. I was, I admit, horrified to look at the mountain of things lurking there that held no purpose for me. The t-shirt I LOVED 14 years ago but haven't worn, or even thought of in last decade. The shoes that are so uncomfortable I wear them about once a year - only when I forget what a pain they are. The "skinny" jeans I am holding firm to the belief I'll fit in again one day. And so the list goes.
Standing there, wondering how I even have emotional attachments to clothing, I realized something about my mental closet. It has, at times, gotten really over packed, too.
Ya know, living in the past, holding some long ago grudge that serves no one, simply focusing too much on some arbitrary goal, ego, self. All that stuff. These things are the emotional skinny jeans - something I should have had the good sense to throw out long ago. It's stuff like that which makes me forget the greatness of today.
These days, I'm trying to rewire my brain. Instead of wanting more, I'm trying to want less. Rather than looking for "busy," I'm focused on slowing down. And I'm intentionally cleaning out the emotional junk drawer. If it's not moving me forward - it's gotta go.
Faithful Reader, it's so easy to turn around and discover our lives have become filled with the "wrong" stuff. And the things of value might be buried under the muck.
Thanks Josh for the inspiration to let go of the rest, in order to find the beauty.