Mental Energy: Take? Sell? Store? Give Away? Trash?

“Americans used to be ‘citizens.’ Now we are ‘consumers.”
― Vicki Robin

My wife is upstairs now trying to find the right recipe for getting our “stuff” back to America when we return on the 20th of this month.

We have already sent a number of bags back with friends but now are in those last stages of sorting, pitching, packing and generally trying to do the best job to get most of what we need and some of what we want back to South Dakota.  We’ll be leaving a lot behind.

You could look at this problem in one of two ways.  Either:

  1. The airlines have cut the number of bags you can check on international flights to one bag per person – that would be four bags for our family.  You can purchase more bags if you wish.  Or –
  2. We have too much stuff.

Consuelo and I actually like this part of the process of moving.  We like the purging that happens, the returning to our senses and to the essentials.  We have talked a lot about this move and desire to make our return to the U.S. a modest one.

I have a theory that we are in some way slaves to the things we own.  This isn’t always a bad thing, but it is a reality.  If I own something, it in some way owns me.  It requires my time, my care, and my mental and emotional energy.

Again, this isn’t always a bad thing.  Often times the payback is well worth the exchange.  Our buying a car here in Istanbul was one of those that was well worth the time, energy and money to own.  I only wish now I’d bought it sooner.

But the things we own will make demands on us. They will take our time.  Our money.  Our emotional energy and our mental focus.

And other things will need to be sacrificed.

“If you live for having it all, what you have is never enough.”
― Vicki Robin

As we return to the states, we want to be intentional about being slow to acquire more stuff. We’ll need beds of course and a bit of furniture, but really, we NEED far less than we think.

Most of our neighbors here in our apartment eat as a family seated on a blanket spread out on the living room floor.  We call it village style and it is the way Turks have eaten for centuries – like most cultures perhaps.

Consuelo and I were talking last night about all of this and remembered that less than 100 years ago, most Americans had a few pairs of work clothes, one set of “Sunday Best” clothes and little else.  It was enough.


Enough seems to be a word long lost on the west and yet it would seem to be a pretty defining Biblical principle.  I certainly have my weaknesses, those things that I think I need, those purchases I make to meet an emotional need and those products I desire because I think they will make me cool.

But it is not really about the stuff.  It’s about the attitude, about the direction and leanings of the heart.  It is always a heart issue.  I am reminded of a story about John Wesley:

A distraught man frantically rode his horse up to John Wesley, shouting, “Mr. Wesley, Mr. Wesley, something terrible has happened. Your house has burned to the ground!” Weighing the news for a moment, Wesley replied, “No. The Lord’s house burned to the ground. That means one less responsibility for me.”

And so as we return to the states, I want to avoid filling my life with lots of stuff and simultaneously hold less tightly to the stuff I do own.

That way I’ll have more left over to focus on the things that truly matter.

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