February 17, 2015

When Taking Is Giving

"What can I give you for your birthday?"
"Oh, nothing, please! I already have everything I need."

It's a conversation I've participated in many times, both asking and answering. We want to give gifts to our friends and family to show that we love them. But the longer you live, the more material stuff accumulates and the less you find you actually need. So it becomes more and more difficult both to give and receive gifts that are truly welcome and appreciated.

My house is filled with decades' worth of accumulated junk. Some is sentimental, some valuable,  some useful, and quite a bit is none of the above. I'm guessing I'm not the only person I know in this predicament. Things get put away when they're no longer needed - baby clothes in the attic, vases in the back of a closet - and the "out of sight, out of mind" phenomenon kicks in. Eventually the unneeded stuff starts taking up so much space that the things I do need and want spill out into the living area, turning it into a storage area.

Simplicity is serenity. I want to get rid of the things I don't need, but I become overwhelmed trying to sort through it all. I make periodic trips to Goodwill. I shred, trash, recycle and consign, but still it seems that there's always more stuff lurking in the corners of my home.

And so I imagine a party that's like the opposite of a birthday party. An un-birthday party, if you will. The guests don't bring presents for me. Instead, I give things to them. I picture them roaming my house, like the guys on American Pickers, finding treasures in my closets and attic.

"What a nice purse!"
"Like it? It's yours!"
"I've been looking for a lemon juicer like this."
"Well now you've found one. Take it!"
"That baby puzzle has the pieces ours is missing!"
"Great! Now you've got a whole one."

I wrap all the gifts in festive paper and bags and put bows on top, then hand them back for guests to take home. I tell my friends that no thank-you note is necessary, because they have just given me the best gifts imaginable: space, time, and peace of mind.

"What can I take from you for your birthday?"

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