I think one of the top five questions I get about organization is: What’s the best way to save kid’s clothing?
This past Sunday, during a Power Hours Session, this discussion came up again. One of the participants had an 8-year gap between her youngest boy and oldest one, and we talked about not saving clothing because so much could happen in 8 years.
I told her the story of Miriam, a 1:1 in-home service client of mine.
Miriam had a beautiful home and lots of storage space in her basement.
She saved the clothing from her children until her sister’s children were ready to use them.
At the end of one of our sessions, she told me next time she wanted to work on sorting and storing all the clothing.
I asked her why she didn’t just send the clothing to her sisters and she told me, “They don’t need it yet though.”
So I asked her why she didn’t just give it to them and let them hold on to it?
Her answer: “They don’t have the space.”
Why did she have to store things for someone else? Didn’t she have the right to let go of what wasn’t serving her anymore?
She wanted to hold on to it because she had the space and she could.
So before our next session, I went to the store, bought a couple hundred dollars worth of plastic bins, and brought them to her house.
We spent TWO sessions sorting and storing all the clothing.
Miriam was so happy, she loved the way the bins looked and she was happy to be able to help her sisters.
Fast forward a year.
Miriam had a big flood in her basement, where she has stored all the clothing.
She didn’t know about the water right away and serious black mold developed.
Everything in Miriam’s basement was ruined.
All the clothing had to be thrown away because the mold couldn’t be removed from the clothing.
All the hard work, effort, and money went down the drain.
I took away a couple of lessons from this event:
1. Just because you have space to fill doesn’t mean you have to fill it.
2. Holding on to something for someone else is nice, but even when it doesn’t seem to cost you… it can end up costing you.
3. Letting go of what no longer is useful to us is what G-d intended us to do.
Everything we have is a blessing from G-d.
Sometimes we no longer need the blessing, for whatever reason, and then we can pass that blessing on to someone else. It has served its purpose for us.
More than that though, this week’s chapter of Pirkei Avot says it best:
“Rabbi Akiva would say: Everything a person owns is given to him (by G-d) on condition, that it is used for its correct purpose.”
So we receive what we need when we need it, but if we don’t need it anymore then sitting in storage is not its correct purpose. It is getting no use, no one is benefiting from it and worse than that, we now have the worry about everything that is stored.
The benefit doesn’t outweigh the cost of storage, even when the cost seems to be free.
So what’s the difference between storing in the short term vs the long term?
When you store something you use yearly like holiday supplies, you know it will get used every year. Presumably, you store only what you need and have curated a usable collection of objects with little or no excess. Keeping things that live in the Jewish Lifecycle or that you use seasonally, is ok, it hasn’t exceeded its useful life, it is still being used for its purpose. But when you store things for extended periods of time with no use-in date in sight, it defeats the purpose of the object.
Objects are meant to be used, specifically to make our lives better, when we hold on to things we don’t use we aren’t increasing our blessings we are holding on to someone else’s blessing.
When you have something you aren’t using and don’t plan to use again the “just in case” mindset doesn’t help. It pushes us into an anxious state that can be difficult to recover from. More than that, holding on to something just in case, means you have to have the space and you have to have the ability to find it when you need it. (If you can’t find what you need when you need it, you end up buying something new anyway!)
So this week – take a look at your objects in a new way. Ask yourself if you’re really using a said object the way it was meant to be used, if not, pass on your blessing to someone who needs it more than you!
If you need help – join Power Hours and start living your best life!