How Important is Your Stuff?

Print Friendly

The following is a guest post by Mrs. Ford.  She is a regular contributor at Help Me Travel Cheap.  She is a hardworking mother of three and a person with a heart of gold.  By the way, she is also my wife.

Before we moved to Papua New Guinea nearly 5 years ago, we had to take a major inventory of our stuff.  Since the cost of shipping things here is outrageous, we sold the majority of our things in a garage sale.  Most things definitely weren’t worth the astronomical cost of shipping them here – unless, of course, it was an item unavailable here that we REALLY wanted to have..

But there were some things I just couldn’t seem to part with, especially mementos from my former students or special cards and gifts from people.

Then there were other things I was sure that I’d use some day once we moved back to North America.  Those things were carefully boxed up and are waiting for us at our parents’ houses.  (Our parents can’t wait for our return for many reasons.)

I’m afraid to even look in those boxes in a couple of years when we relocate.

I’m afraid I’ll be embarrassed by the things that were so important to me at the time.


Picture Above: Craig’s once beloved Pocket PC that literally exploded because of the heat.  It happened within weeks of arriving in PNG.

Since living here, my idea of what kinds of stuff matters has really transformed.

It didn’t take too many months of living in a tropical climate for our linens to start mildewing.  I’ve had two pairs of quality shoes literally fall apart as I walked in them because they just can’t stand up to the heat here, I guess. Batteries go flat quickly.  Electronics have a shorter life span.  Books and other items have been borrowed, yet never returned.  Clothes go through the wash and come out just as smelly as they were before, or so it seems.

Things get taken.

Things mildew.

Things rust.

Things fall apart.

At an unbelievable rate.

I’m amazed at the lessons I’ve learned from this experience of losing my stuff.  I used to want to hide everything in the house when we had local guests, for fear that it might be stolen or someone might ask to use it or borrow it, which was a reasonable fear.  (I admit that I still hide my toothbrush when guests arrive.  That’s just something I’m not willing to share with the community!)

Since so much of my stuff has been short-lived, worn out, and ruined, I am realizing how little value those things actually have in my life.  It’s liberating in a way to not be so profoundly attached to stuff.  When you’re not attached to stuff, it’s not quite as devastating when something happens to it.

As I become less attached to my stuff, it becomes easier to give it to others who clearly need it more than I do.  When I first moved here, I had a difficult time parting with things I owned as if I’d be losing part of myself or something.

Slowly, over a few years, I’m learning that those items may be nice to have, but are certainly not critical to my well-being, joy in life, or my mere existence.

My stuff does not sustain me.

Now, it only seems natural that I would give a few of my skirts and shirts to a woman whose clothes were stolen off her clothesline, or send local friends home with a book or toy after they visit us.  In that way, it’s a joy to lose my stuff.

I’m thankful that God is teaching me in a very vivid way to store up my treasures in heaven.  Not that I’m perfect (because I have a long way to go), but I’m learning that true life is found in Christ – not in stuff that is destroyed by moth and rust and where thieves break in and steal.

For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.


  1. JMD says

    I absolutely loved today’s post. In spite of the conditions it does sound as though all of you are doing quite well and gaining wonderful insight.

    We are still going through our “stuff” to lighten the load before we make an attempt to list our home later this year. Our planned destination is a considerable distance and it does not make sense to pay to take “everything” we have or still hanging on to.

    As I continue to sort through closets and drawers and place items in boxes for charity I find myself sometimes “retrieving” an object that I think I need. Hopefully before the date comes I will toughen up and get rid of some more clutter. Last week I managed to get four more boxes out of the house but it is the proverbial tip of the iceberg so to speak.

  2. says

    You are absolutely right! A long time ago, our home was near a wildfire and we were asked to be ready to evacuate. My wife and I realized what was really important to keep or save. We filled the car with clothes, pictures and some other things. The things that were necessary and the things that were not replaceable. That made an indelible impression on us. I value memories and family much more than things.

  3. says

    I am learning more and more that my stuff isn’t as important as I first thought they were. I have been on a mission to slowly go through and donate or just throw away a lot of our belongings. I will be getting quite aggressive with that task soon.

    My husband and I are looking into getting a smaller house. Smaller house means smaller mortgage which we can pay off sooner. Smaller house means we NEED to downsize. Smaller house means we can live debt free in less than 10 years. And most of all it will free me so I can spend more time with my loved ones.

    Stuff just doesn’t sound that important anymore.

  4. says

    I came upon this via face book and it spiked my interest cause I was just talking to a friend yesterday how easily our priorities on what is “necessary” can be confused. We live on a tight budget so I can stay home with our children, therefore we don’t have or do a lot of the things society considers necessities. I am probably the only person I know without a cell phone, with out cable tv, and whose idea of a family vacation every summer is to volunteer at our church youth camp. With the pressure around us all the time telling us we need certain things, It is easy to forget that some things are not necessary to sustain a happy life. Thanks for sharing, I look forward to hearing more.

  5. JMD says

    TO: Jaclyn

    I am so excited. Apparently there are two of us in the world that do not own a cell phone. When people ask me for my cell phone number and I say we don’t have one they almost take a step back and look at me like I grew a second head. lol….there are more things that we don’t have than do. It is all good with me.

  6. says

    What an eye-opening post. My wife and I are in the process of simplifying our lives by getting rid of “stuff” in our house…some has laid around here for years. Your perspective inspires me.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *