Saturday, August 13, 2022

Maybe There, We Will Find Ourselves

My wife Jennifer and I began our lives together in a nice apartment in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle. After a few years we purchased our first home, from there we moved to a larger home, then a larger one, then a larger one, and finally the largest of them all. Each time we acquired furnishings to fill up that extra space. Each time we started with plenty of storage, then, over time, filled that up as well.

That big house, stuffed with stuff finally came to overwhelm us so we committed ourselves to a small downtown apartment, smaller than the one we had started out sharing. We made six trips to the dump and countless others to charitable organizations as we pared down, yet still we wound up with the largest storage locker they had, stuffed with stuff. It took another year of Craig's List selling to finally get it all down to a more reasonably sized locker. Then the place flooded, destroying all but a few things. I still mourn a few items that, but mostly I felt it as a kind of escape.

About a year ago, we moved to our current home. I sent Jennifer to visit our daughter in New York, clearing the decks for me vs. the stuff. I was determined to not letting a single thing, not a paper clip, stay in our new home unless it was absolutely essential, one way or another.

My process was very similar to the one recommended to early childhood educators by Teacher Tom's Play Summit presenter Lisa Murphy, which is to regularly remove every item from our classrooms, then before putting anything back, ask ourselves some important questions: "Why am I putting this back in?" "Who is it for?" "Who's going to miss it?" 

She tells about a family child care provider who decided to leave the rooms empty until the children asked for it. I know, it would be a kind of logistical nightmare, especially for those of us who tend toward being pack rats, but man, what an eye-opening educational experience it would be. 

If you tried it, would they ask for any of it back?

We live in an era of ever-increasing stuff, most of it crap. Toy boxes overflow. Cellars and attics are bursting at the seams. Our closets, shelves and drawers are stuffed. Unless we proactively and intentionally think about our possessions, they slowly, but surly comes to possess us. Lisa's advice is practical, but it is also at the same time deeply philosophical. Why is this in my life? Organizational celebrity Marie Kondo recommends asking ourselves, "Does this spark joy?" but as early childhood experts and parents, we have the responsibility to ask, "Does this spark joy in children?"

As I was going through my process, I came across many things that I had saved, not because they sparked joy exactly, but because they sparked memories. I held each of those item for a moment, allowing the memories to take me where they would, but then, perhaps after reducing it to a photo on my phone, I let it go, and as I did, it in turn released me. 

We are not put on this earth to curate our stuff, but rather to use it or let it go because sometimes, as with the children in Lisa's story, the most important thing we can do is explore this vast empty space. Maybe there, we will find ourselves.


It's not too late to join Teacher Tom's Play Summit, but today is the last chance to watch my full interview with Lisa for free. Please join us August 13-17. Click here to get your free pass and learn more about all 20 of our incredible sessions with early childhood experts and thought-leaders from around the world. You will be inspired, informed, and challenged. Professional development certificates are available and you can upgrade to unlimited access. Please share this far and wide. 

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