As we brought our things out of the basement and reassembled the kitchen, as we know it, I had to ask my husband: Why do we have all of this stuff? Of course I meant it in a rhetorical way. Clearly if anyone was responsible for the accumulation of stuff in the kitchen (okay, and pretty much anywhere else in the house), it would be me. In true ‘good husband’ form he didn’t say as much, but I did detect a slight rising of the eyebrows.
Even when I was younger, I saw clearly that too much stuff was somehow bad for me. While I wouldn’t wish on myself the life I had when I could pack pretty much everything I owned into a car trip or two, it made life simpler. In retrospect, I can’t believe that we used to leave the couch for the next tenant, sometimes in a negotiation, sometimes as a ‘surprise’. Anyone who has ever moved a couch, especially a pull out, up three flights of narrow stairs would be forgiving.
I’ve never been much of a gadget accumulator. I laugh every year at the new appliances by Ronco-Although I really did enjoy his commercials on some level. I can recall things like the omelet maker-I have one of those; it is called a frying pan. Or the egg scrambler-I also have one of those- mine is the first generation-it’s called a fork. If you are a collector of gadgets forgive me, I just enjoy joking about some of them that may not have caught on. I like cooking knives and antiques, especially carved wood, so I have my own guilty pleasures.
Influenced by my youth, I still clear out my closets at least once a year. Sometimes this has worked against me. I donated a perfectly good pair of Doc Martin shoes that were great in the snow, before I packed to move. I can’t remember why I thought this was good idea. Like anyone, I have some sorting regrets. But I don’t miss the two beds, the big Oriental rug, three bookcases, a lot baking stuff, the wine rack, the list goes on, but you get the idea.
Please don’t get me wrong. I like stuff as much as the next guy. I had my Converse All Stars from eighth grade well into my early twenties. (I never did grow into them-Thank G-d.) I like my bread maker and my waffle maker. In fact, I like them a lot. I even like the toaster, although I do wonder sometimes why we have it out given the cultural and I’d guess age changes in eating bread. I used to eat bread every morning.
Having minimized the household stuff reminded me of an earlier time-and if I can’t say life was simpler, my household surely was. I look at pictures and am amazed at the space I had in such a small apartment, but I don’t remember feeling like we were under furnished.
Maybe the drusha the Rabbi gives about the raising of bread being like our egos, flipped on its head, best expresses this experience. I wonder at how Abraham must have felt when G-d commanded him to leave Ur and how the Israelites felt when they left Egypt and all they knew behind (even though they were headed for something better.) Not that my experience is the same, but it makes me feel a little closer to understanding, and maybe that’s the idea. It’s not that I want to go without things; it’s that I remember that I can. Not in the “once Pluto was a planet and potatoes were a vegetable” days of gone, but maybe a little bit. More of a memory that once I slept on the floor because I didn’t have a bed or managed without a car or had a total of four plates, and we were still somehow happy. And okay, once you get a bit older a bed is not a luxury item, and certainly now I would prioritize owning one. But some things are a luxury and I find it easy to lose sight of that. As I moved everything back into its place, I was reminded.
Maybe I can keep this in mind until next Passover and by doing so, keep my ego in check. This doesn’t mean there is anything at all wrong with financial success and stability. Nor does it mean that we should decide how much is enough for other people. We cannot and should not take another’s personal inventory, but we can take our own.