GOOD-BYE TO STUFF Part 1  By Lori A Alicea

From the outside looking in among the skyscraper of boxes towering to the storage ceiling, you surrender to the fact over time it’s just stuff.

You can’t take it with you as moving trucks don’t deliver to the doorsteps of eternity.

The shelf life of stuff expires on a daily basis, yet a storage bill continues to be paid by the month.

To locate anything is a mini moving day event, dragging out bikes and furniture and boxes of “who knows what anymore” so one can hike over mountains of barely labeled stuff on a search and rescue mission without a map.

Yes, at the end of the day, it’s just stuff.

Well…until you start opening the boxes again.STORAGE 1 Full

A walk-through of my house lends you to believe that everything has its place.

Where clutter is an unwanted guest;

Counters are cleared and appliances sparkle;

Beds are made and pillows fluffed;

Yes, everything has its place, until you dare to venture into the closets, a mini storage unit where this collection of stuff begins.IMG_9340

Storage space and stuff was never a problem when your country three bedroom home and attached garage nestles hidden under the lofty trees of two acres.HOUSE Wheeler

Stuff didn’t follow or crowd our closets after moving to a three bedroom double-wide trailer either.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES
SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

But somehow during a seven year period and two more moves, stuff from our four children, ten grandchildren, crafts and centerpieces from all the events I decorated for accumulated under the radar into a small city of boxes, an abandoned neighborhood waiting its turn to be torn down.

Tired of paying a storage bill for stuff we weren’t using or enjoying or had any room in the house for was a decision elementary to make; at least when looking from the outside into the skyscraper of boxes.

STORAGE 1 Full

A Christmas morning of opening boxes though you discover why you kept its contents in the first place and wonder how a mother / grandmother will have the will or heart to finally let them go.

Memories and moments from our children growing up are unearthed beneath the packing paper and bubble wrap; school day accolades and accomplishments thoughtfully kept for their remembrance one day. As parents now themselves, I suppose that one day has come.

Weddings and baby showers are celebrated once more through the kept centerpieces in Storage Unit Number 56.

Blessed with ten grandchildren who each have uniquely stole her heart, I’m reliving their firsts and young lives while quietly seated on another box yet to be unveiled.

Only a grandmother would sigh under her breath while holding her babies once used bottles, Toy Story plates, locks of hair, special outfits, scribbles of artwork, old toys and blankets I once swaddled them in.

What to do with those first birthday decorations a grandmother created just for them; and every birthday beyond?  What to do with their tables and chairs perfectly sized for a child.  The meals and playtime sitting and fighting over their colored chair.  But now they sit at the adult table yet we miss seeing them at their table.8C133E6A-8902-4AF1-A07F-4E99D77F8256

So many boxes were re-taped and re-shelved for another look.

But the pain of letting go had to begin, with the sharpest of pain ever to my heart was saying good-by to all their bikes.

Their collection of bicycles began with a Spider-man tri-cycle and a Batman four-wheeler. The vivid memories of little feet first learning to pedal or navigate a battery-operated vehicle still replay in my mind, capturing the laughter of child play and cries in their spills.

BIKES brodie brystol ethan on little bikes with noah

As the grandchildren grew, so did their bicycles, each passing their hand-me-downs to their cousins next in line, cousins not caring or noticing the weathered condition of their used transportation.

All those morning trips to the park in their pajamas;

All those trips to Papa’s Store (Dollar General) for a two dollar bag of treats for each;

The grandchildren have all outgrown their wheels most rescued and re-purposed from trash cans of others.

Now living where we do, there’s no place to ride or store them anymore.

My tears followed ten bicycles of all sizes complete with helmets and baskets being loaded up on the moving trailer, wanting desperately to keep them all behind.

Rest assured though these trikes and bikes are now loved by children living at a motel converted to low income housing we delivered them too.

The delight and smiles of children flocking to a trailer and picking out their new bike; immediately donning their helmets and trying out their wheels for the first time; a gift worth giving to see them light up like a Christmas tree in October.

Thank you God for the miles of riding memories we created together.

Then are the difficult good-byes to stuff bequeathed from my mother’s house in her passing one year ago. While salvaging a few special tokens of my mother’s life, including the table we sat around during the holidays, the remainder of her estate at Lot 232 was donated to the local Goodwill.

Thankfully, the pictures I took of my mother’s house still intact before its dismantling into a million boxes will be a sweet reminder to reflect from.

Christmas Eve at my father’s house will continue to be celebrated in my kitchen through the bake-ware he created his holiday pastries with.  But sadly, the remainder of memories I set aside from his house was donated to Goodwill also.

Hardest ever was letting go of my Hobby Lobby storage craft store.  Group text messages of crafters surely went out, sounding the alarm  of Black Friday finds at the local Goodwill.  Stampedes thankfully weren’t reported.

Good-bye to stuff Part 1 is officially complete.

All the boxes we opened and closed from those lives who call us Mom and Dad; Papa and Gaga; stuff once bound and taped in boxes have found their freedom in other homes; well, not everything.

All the joy and sadness reminiscing the seasons of parenting and grand-parenting, now part of our past.

Yes, at the end of the day it’s still stuff.

You can’t take it with you to heaven.

But trapped in this stuff are moments and memories of our children’s lives from their school days and wedding days.

Trapped in this stuff are our grandchildren’s lives when they were little, first bursting into the scenes of our hearts and how we long to keep them there.

For me at least, it’s painful to let these seasons find a proper place in their scrapbooks.

But like stuff, you have to give them wings to fly into the winds of their destiny.

I’m not completely there just yet.

Stay tuned for Good-bye to Stuff Part 2 in Storage Unit Number 1 sometime next spring.

STORAGE 2

YOU CAN’T TAKE IT WITH YOU  By Lori A Alicea

Judgment Day has finally come for our stuff.

The day we liberate ourselves from the village of boxes taking residence into two storage units whose contents we have no idea of anymore.

Boxes we can’t get to, walk between or even reach if we had a need.

Boxes filled with stuff we once loved I’m sure.

Where multiple reunions of memories will certainly take place on the lawn of our hearts once the purging begins.

But the battle cry of the General shakes the walls of our home,

BE GONE you unnamed faces of clutter”.

Who takes his post on the front line to wage war against the soldiers of stuff, to win back our peace and freedom from life’s accumulation behind door #1 and door #2; handing out eviction notices to over one hundred boxes of squatters, giving them thirty days to vacate the premise.
You don’t notice it happening when the boxes of your life start taking their place on the garage shelf.

But when you move into a smaller house and those boxes of stuff find a new home in storage, you realize you’ve taken on the identify of Madam Blueberry, a child’s cartoon character that accumulates all her stuff,

Who reasons with her excuses:

I’ll need this stuff again someday.”
I just can’t part with my stuff.”
Surely, my grown kids or grandchildren will want my stuff when I’m gone.”

At the end of the day our boxes are just stuff.

Stuff that costs us financially, spiritually and emotionally.

When the reality is at the end of our life,
You can’t take it with you.

A bell ringing loud and clear when the hearse came for our father on
August 7, 2016.

While appreciating the wonderful provider my father was, a high price was paid as he toiled over two jobs during my entire childhood, working arduous days, nights and weekends to give his family a better life than he had, at least in the material things.

But I remember watching him slave over Volkswagen’s needing repairs through the kitchen window into the garage as a young girl, longing he’d take a day off and spend it with me. With the driveway converted to a parking lot always filled with cars waiting their turn to be fixed, a daddy-daughter day never happened.

Once the hearse left with our father in 2016, I turned around to the house filled with stuff of the ”better life” my father left behind for us kids, yet embracing the empty reminders of the emotional price we paid for stuff, when all we ever wanted growing up was time spent with him.

“Where my money goes, my heart follows.”
Randy Alcorn

If we could realize before we waste our lives working to collect wealth and stuff:

God has not given us all this wealth simply to increase our standard of living,
But to increase our standard of giving.
Randy Alcorn

You will be enriched in every way so that you can be generous on every occasion, and through us your generosity will result in thanksgiving to God.
2 Corinthians 9:11 NIV

Life is best spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend.

Discovering together those hidden gardens of wild flowers which open up themselves and our eyes to the “little things”, a place that requires no admission but a heart of contentment.

A place to remind us that a life of loving and forgiving, serving and giving to our Lord and others, will lay up treasures for us in heaven instead of stuff here on earth.

20 Lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven,
Where neither moth nor rust destroys
And where thieves do not break in and steal.
21 For where your treasure is,
There your heart will be also.
Matthew 6:20-21

Might we have eyes to see the end of our life while we are still living our life?
Might we toil less at the job and enjoy our children more before they take their maiden flight away from home.
Might we simplify and purge the stuff which burdens and live the best life God has prepared for us.
At the moment I am writing these words, my brother’s life is waiting for Jesus to receive him or give him a miracle.  Who I promise at this dire hour is re-visiting the family ledger, adding the deposits he made into the lives of those he loved, wasting not one minute on the credits of purchases he made for meaningless stuff.

Might our best life be spent in the currency of time on those who call us mom, dad, son, daughter, sister, brother, friend and not wasted of stuff,

Because when the hearse arrives one day,
And it will,
You can’t take your stuff with you.