That’s me in the khaki trench coat at Victoria Station in London. One hand raised in the air, the other grasps the red and green suitcases, both carry on. We travel light.
When I graduated from high school, my parents’ gift was a suitcase. The message wasn’t, “We don’t love you anymore, get out!” Mother and Dad were being practical. I was going away to college. But the pastel blue Samsonite luggage also urged, “Time to move forward.”
Two years ago Duane and I bought a condo in Indian Rocks Beach, thinking the condo would be a great family gathering place, and in the back of our minds, maybe thought about retiring there. We’ve loved it! We’re here all the time.
“Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” – Ferris Bueller
As we consider Ferris’ wisdom, we’re wondering why we own a condo and a house. So Duane suggested, yes, Duane, not me, the usual instigator of moving to a new place, “Maybe we should sell the house and move to the condo.”
I’ve always been thrilled to move to a new place. It’s the fun of painting on a blank canvas, creating a new nest. Ecclesiastes 3, the chapter on the different times or seasons of life, calls it, “a time for the gathering of stones.” Build something.
But for the first time in my life, I’m hesitant. I’m usually “the cockeyed optimist,” like Nellie in “South Pacific.” Even Nellie, who confidently sings, “I’m a dope for that thing called hope,” also later sings wistfully:
“…wonder how I’d feel, living on an island (actual lyric ‘hillside’), gazing at an ocean beautiful and still.”
One reason I may be hesitant for this move is that ‘downsizing,’ at 64 years of age, may be our last intentional move. Death, the enemy, looms. Maybe some people our age stay in their houses to prove that death is not around the corner.
The second half of Ecclesiastes 3:5 describes a “time for scattering of stones.” All the stuff we’ve accumulated in 64 years has ties to memories. Much would have to go in order to live in a 1200 square foot condo.
I’m re-reading Marie Kondo’s book, “the life changing magic of tidying up.” It thrilled me, a person whose life motto is, “Let’s Get Organized,” two years ago when it was first published. According to Marie, Duane and I start by answering the question, “What does your ideal lifestyle look like?”
My ideal lifestyle would be to live in a no maintenance condo, decorated in an ‘old’ Ocean City vibe. Views of the sky from every window. A pine dinner table small enough when it’s just Duane and I, but with leaves we can add when family and friends visit. A desk, so I can continue my present writing project: “Andy Telford, A Twentieth Century Caleb.” I’m collecting and studying his sermons, letters and books.
A place close enough for Duane to keep working and close, still, to our church, Clearwater Community. Our condo in Indian Rocks Beach has that potential.
Marie Kondo’s major point is that we need to know what we’re aiming for. It’s a creative challenge to put a dream for the vague ‘something better’ into a specific reality. The next step: item by item, figuring out what to keep for the new dream and which things go. The hardest belongings for me to shed are the ones that have sentimental ties. Things like Jeffrey’s Sleepytime Care Bear, an item I’ve carted from closet to closet for 30 years. Marie’s book helped with that, too.
“When you come across something hard to discard… reassess the role it plays in your life. Every object has a different role to play. You’ll be surprised at how many of the things you possess have already fulfilled their role. Acknowledge their contribution and let them go with gratitude.”
Let them go. “…a time to scatter stones.” As I walk through the living room and kitchen of our house in my bare feet, the wood floors feel cool and smooth. I look around at the walls I painted, myself, Benjamin Moore’s OC19, Sandpearl. Some of the memories are sad. I remember cleaning blood out of the white carpet in the guest bedroom when Dad visited because the heart medicine he had to take meant the slightest bump dripped red.
Yet most memories are happy: the family parties, quiet nights watching TV together, the grandchildren playing in the pool.
The light shining across the bed from the new window in the bedroom.
The memories won’t go away, just because I don’t own the object anymore, according to Marie. And Mother’s quote, “It’s people, not things” reinforces Marie’s truth.
My sister Pam and husband Greg downsized into 1200 square feet a few years ago. That’s when her design business took off. Freed from the burdens of stuff, they were able to focus their energy on activities that were most meaningful to them.
That inspires me. Time to focus on new beginnings.
We’re still not exact in the timing of our move. We continue to ask God for wisdom. In the stacks of my grandfather’s letters I found a sermon about how safe we are in God’s hands. That truth brings security.
The hazy path ahead beckons.
“Life moves pretty fast…” Ferris said. A counselor once told us that in our 60’s we should make plans about where we intended to live.
“Once you’re in your 70’s it’ll be difficult physically to make a change.”
We’ve started packing, with a plan to travel light.
“It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going. And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith – for he was like a foreigner, living out of a suitcase.” Hebrews 11: 8-9 (Jill Rommel translation)