“What if”

While going through the house purging our possessions I found myself wanting to keep a lot of things on the “what if” factor. “What if I make a craft with the kids and need this 100 feet of ribbon” of course the ribbon was purchased long before I had kids, and no crafts had ever been made with it after it’s first intended use. “What if my next baby is a girl, she will need every single item I used with her older sister” never mind that I had already learned that baby’s seasons hardly ever match, stains darken and yellow, styles change, and I had a chubby son, then a skinny one…a skinny daughter and then a chubby one! Keeping all the clothes just gave me another chore to do because every couple months I had to go through bins just to find the few the items were actually useful. “What if my daughter will want to wear my wedding dress when she gets married?” this one still makes me laugh. “What if I decide to redecorate my bathroom and need these decorations that have been sitting in a box?” “What if I get a bigger house someday and have room to put all this stuff out?” There have been so many “what ifs” along the way as I cleaned out my house. I finally got to the point where if I said “what if” I knew I was trying to rationalize keeping the item. I only ended up keeping the “what if” items that I have been advised to keep by the prophets and apostles, i.e. food storage, emergency essentials and supplies etc. But the craziest part of purging is that now that our things are gone, we can’t even name 10 items that are missing. Out of sight, out of mind is totally true. We can hardly remember what it was like before. Having room in our closets and drawers has already taken place as the new normal. All of the stuff we were hanging onto was just weighing on our minds because we thought in some unforeseen future moment we would need it. We were holding onto our things because we were afraid that our futures depended on them. It sounds funny to put that into words, but we had SO MANY items that served no purpose in our current lives. We were holding onto them just in case we might decide to one day find the time to color and put together that 100 page Family Home Evening packet that we bought before digital files existed. There have not been any moments of regret or bereavement for my missing possessions. The truth is if I want to do a craft with my kids then I can go buy 3 feet of ribbon for that specific project. Then I am not stuck with 97 more feet of ribbon that I have to store, because who knows “what if I will need it someday?”

The part of the “what ifs” that is the most interesting to me is how I held onto some of these items and put them in a special category. At some point I had decided that these items were only going to be used for a special purpose, the “what if” purpose. Let me elaborate…

Before Keith and I had kids I was an aspiring artist. I was studying Graphic Design and Desktop Publishing at UVU and was taking a couple hands on art classes. We went to Savers one day and stumbled upon a high end art kit that someone had donated and never used. All the colored pencils were sharp and perfect. The pastels hadn’t even been touched. The markers were vibrant and in pristine condition. I was so excited. We made our purchase and I lightly used the art kit throughout my classes and for a couple art projects here and there. Then we had kids. The kit moved with us twice. It sat in a corner in my laundry room waiting for the “what if I have enough time to do a project and practice painting?” One day a few years ago I got it out to paint with my 2 oldest kids. They had their $1.00 paints and I had my art kit. The watercolors had never even seen water. They oohed and awed at my glorious art kit and begged me to use it. I didn’t let them because “what if” they ruined it? Heaven forbid they break a marker that I hadn’t used since 2003. I justified my actions because it was mine and I wanted to keep it nice and usable for future projects. (I still believe that if it were an item I used regularly it would be okay for me to behave that way…but I didn’t use it regularly, or annually for that matter.) So I put it all back in its metal box and stored it away. Now that my kids knew this glorious art kit existed they would ask me regularly if they could use it. I never said yes and justified that it was mine for that future undetermined free time I was going to have to use it someday (insert sarcastic laugh). Then came the great purge of 2015! I was going through my laundry room filling DI bags when I came across the art kit. I had so many “what ifs” with this item and knew I wasn’t going to part with it. But the idea of minimalism is the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts from it. I knew I couldn’t justify the art kit if I didn’t give it a purpose in my life. I took it out of the laundry room with the idea that my children were what I valued most and opened it and told them they should make something with it. They were flabbergasted. They all questioned me like I had some ulterior motive. It was a Saturday, and they played with that art kit the entire day. They were so honored to use it, and felt so special that they had miraculously moved up a notch in my book. It hit me hard that afternoon when I realized that I had possessions I was holding onto that unintentionally made my children feel unimportant. They felt that I prized that possession more than I prized them as my child. That art kit is well loved now. My kids use it every day. They drag it everywhere. It brings me so much joy to see them use it. More joy than it did seeing it every day in my laundry room waiting for that special “what if” moment to happen. Every moment is special, and I don’t mean that lightheartedly. It makes me so happy to see my children create special moments with the magical art kit. I had been waiting for that special moment to occur before pulling out the treasured kit when in reality those closest to me filled all the “what ifs” special moment purpose. I want all the things I own to bring me joy and fulfill purpose in my life. I have been intentionally eliminating the “what ifs” since this discovery and am ashamed that there are many more examples of this scenario. I have been searching for purpose in the things I own, sharing them with those I love and eliminating the things that get in the way of our relationships. I am trying my hardest to let my children know that I love them so much more than a broken marker in an art kit. It has been a hard adjustment to change my behavior on this matter. I do love my kids more than my possessions without a doubt. But I have found that most of the things they get in trouble for have to do with “things”. I get upset that something is broken or lost. They get in trouble if they use an item without asking. They are threatened that they will have to buy the next one if they keep using it so much etc… The examples are endless. As I review my day I can’t believe how many times I focus on “things” before I focus on them. I do believe it is important that they respect and take care of their’s and other’s possessions and want them to learn that behavior. But I never want them to feel that an item is more important than they are. I don’t want to break their creative spirit just because they used an entire roll of tape. I want to focus on teaching them how to use it properly so they don’t need to use so much, or focus on their creation instead of my material loss. It is a continuous effort for me and I am still learning how to change my focus. I value these 4 little people in my home more than anything. Do they know that? Or do they go to bed worrying that they accidentally used too much toothpaste and they are going to have earn the money to buy the next tube?weddingdress(I took a few quick pictures of Dylan in my wedding dress before I donated it, she was thrilled. It was fun to watch her, and even more fun for her to see me donate it to Tender Mercy Angels. The dress means much more to her donated than it ever did hanging in the closet)

2 thoughts on ““What if”

  1. Shasta, I just ran across your blog, and I am beyond excited to read this! I am just starting the same process with my life and home that you are so successfully portraying here! I read a book called “Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less” You would love it. I listened to it on the Amazon audible app. Anyway, I can’t wait to read more and will be a frequent visitor!


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