Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Wisdom from Greg the Miracle Worker

After work yesterday, I was sitting in the chair of Greg the Miracle Worker trying to explain to him that I needed my hair to look a little less Tommy Shaw in 1976 but not much shorter when he ran through the standard questions he asks me on my appointment..."How are the kids?  Did Jill get moved?  When are you moving your son?" which amazes me every time I go there since he is generally a man of few words.  He just somehow miraculously remembers certain details in between our visits every six or seven weeks...and I don't think it's because he writes them down.

He prompts me to get me to break the awkward silence that naturally occurs with me between 5:00 p.m. and 6:00 p.m. as I shift gears between work and home.  A silence that I'd grown accustomed to during the 25 minute commute home or the hour doing cardio at the gym.  A time when I quit thinking about what I didn't get done - or even what I did - and start thinking about everything else that needs to be done. I answered him and then asked about his own move...where he was downsizing from the equivalent of a large ranch home to a garden home by choice.  He's just tired of keeping up the yard and found the perfect home in the exact area he wanted and so he went ahead and bought it.  Makes sense to me.

He told me that he was downsizing things and that he'd had some success putting some things in estate sales because he tended not to hold on to things that he didn't use. He loves beautiful things, he said, but he draws the line at giving them a significance more than they deserve.  He looks for comfort and things that make him happy around him...and beyond that he couldn't care less where he got it or how long he's had it.   Even if they were things that he loved or had belonged to someone he loved.  He just believed that items were meant to be used.  Not saved for a rainy day.  Not hoarded.  But moved along if they didn't have a true purpose to employ.  That's Greg's rule #1 by the way.

Which, of course, got me to thinking about my wedding china, some items that are in the attic because I don't know what to do with them, and some family things that really have no significance to me, but were passed down to me when my grandmother's house was closed and sold.  I don't have a storage building...primarily because I live in "Hoarders-ville" right now as we await Brian's departure to Huntsville next month and are still not sure how we'll convert both his and Jill's old rooms once he leaves.  We're in a holding pattern that we're attempting to work around some big pieces that need to either stay or go and we are desperately trying to figure out what will make sense in our new reality.

But, on the other hand, I am very aware that our house tends to be the "Hotel California" of furniture.  Every piece that we have acquired generally ends up staying.  Occasionally, we will purge it by finding a purpose for it.  Sadly, of late, some of that furniture has come home to roost.  So, here's Greg's rule #2...if it is given away and comes back to you...sell it.

I'm looking around right now and I see something I purchased at Williams-Sonoma...a cake stand and a bell shaped glass cover that were sold together on the clearance table...but with further inspection totally do not belong together that has never been used.  I have a pewter dish and a galvanized steel bucket (from a storage building)as well as three cabinets full of items that I use - at most - once a year.  I have pillows from my old comforter set stacked up in a chair that is more in the way than it is anything else.  And I wonder why I can just keep walking by it without throwing it in a bag and driving it over to Goodwill.  It isn't like I don't know the way and like it is inconvenient.  Here in Montgomery, we have a Goodwill drive-thru.  I kid you not.

I think back to simpler times in my life when I had less stuff and more time.  I enjoyed and employed the things I had instead of dusting and rolling my eyes at some of the things that constantly require me to deal with them.  I'm not saying that I want it all to go away...because I know that would be devastating on many levels.  What I'm saying is...Greg's rule #3 makes far more sense to me than anything else.

And that rule is...once you sell it...put the proceeds in your retirement account.


Having been a a part of "The Great House Purge of 2006"...I can tell you that there is something supremely sad about seeing what might have been as a great item is beyond repair or in such poor condition that there is only one option...the dumpster.  Of seeing books that have long outlived their usefulness sit on shelves unread and brittle.  Of wondering where this or that came from...when the answer was probably a dime store half a century ago.

Just saying.

So, this Fall, the project will be to go room by room and find those items that are not living up to the standards.  To give away or sell what I no longer need.  To do it not only for myself...but for my kids. Because there's nothing worse than cleaning out someone's house of minutiae when they are gone.  Except the regret that accompanies realizing that there were items there that you could have been using all along but went out and bought for yourself because you didn't know.

I am not suggesting that you give away things that matter to you or things that you use.  What I'm saying is that if you have items of value that are just taking up space...that maybe now is the time that you rethink that strategy.  Every second of our lives is important.  If you are spending a lot of your time dusting the brass dogs that sit on your bookshelf or moving the same items around in your are wasting time trying to maintain something that needs to move along.

If you aren't using it, why are you dusting it?  If you aren't driving it, why is it in your garage?  If you aren't wearing it, why is it hanging in your closet?  If you don't love it, why is it in your home?  (Teenagers excluded from this for obvious reasons.)

I hope that in eight weeks when I go back to be "reblonded"...I'll be able to tell Greg the Miracle Worker that I've made some progress.  That I've gotten some items cleaned out and moved along.  Granted, I probably will do that anyway...seeing as Brian moves before my next appointment.  But this is a deeper and very important realization to me.  Because I believe that the way I manage what I already have gives God a very good indication of how I'd handle any future blessings.  And in His infinite wisdom...if I am holding on, maintaining and treating what I already have as a burden...why in the world would he want to give me anything more?  Even something that I'd love a whole lot more than I treasure some of what I have.

That whole releasing the fake pearls to get a real string kind of thing.

Today I am trying to get my house ready for people to see it this weekend.  Riley is not helping that he has suddenly decided to NOT be potty trained at the least convenient moment possible.  But I'll work through that and will keep him because he is worth the trouble.  The set of china that I have used exactly ten times since 1985?  Not so much.

I hope that you'll look at your situation and either get busy selling it, yard sale-ing it, or giving it away.  That you'll quit putting off the inevitable because you cannot deal with either letting it go or the effort you'll have to expend to get it out of your life.  I was reminded yesterday of the proper perspective for "things."  They are lovely and make our lives easier...and may even remind us of someone who owned it first...but they are things.  If you are going to spend a lot of time maintaining something...make it your relationships instead.

Just my thoughts.  And of course, Greg the Miracle Worker's.


  1. Elizabeth McEntyreJuly 11, 2013 at 7:38 AM

    Thank you for this. Just, thank you. :)

  2. Elizabeth, remember that I am a veteran of the "Great House Purge of 2006" and will be happy to help you whenever you do that yard sale. In fact, I may truck a bunch of c-rap of mine over there and we'll have yardsaleapalooza. :)

  3. I needed this post today. (Also needed the Discipline post.) I've got to regain some order to my life and in my home. Maybe we could start an on-line accountability group.

    In Bham, Goodwill, Salvation Army, The Foundry, and Jimmie Hale will come pick up your donated items. We just leave them on the porch on pick-up day. When we get home, a receipt is taped to our door knob. Maybe home pick-ups are available near you.

    Please keep us posted (and encouraged in our efforts).