Sifting clutter to discover grace

By 
  • June 17, 2022

Saturday morning in early June. Sunshine streaming through lilac bushes. Birds singing from underneath leaves that seem to have grown overnight. And tables full of things we hope other people will like well enough to take home. There are stories attached to the stuff. The kids keep changing their minds and sneaking things back in the house. The seeing and the sifting happen simultaneously.

Despite moving just a year ago, there are enough things gathered to have a decent little garage sale. I’ve been sifting through boxes and closets, removing things that we no longer use and just don’t fit in our new world. It amazes me how our memories are held not just in our bodies but also in our things.

I hold the smallest lifejackets, checking that they are actually too small for the smallest kids even though I have known the answer for three seasons already. I can hear the laughter on the boat, see the scrunched up baby-face that hated the lifejacket, feel the spray of water on my face when I held a sleeping niece wearing it. There isn’t room to hold on to it if we need to store the bigger sizes we need now.

Books that tucked us in. Tupperware too big and too small. The first costumes our kids wore to the grocery store. Picture frames and a house phone. A casserole dish and a lid without a pot. Ponies with the hair brushed out. Sifting and not seeing.

I wore the same dress for a hundred days this winter, a challenge to interrupt fast fashion and experiment with wool. It taught me that I need so much less than I think I do (and also that very few people notice or care what I am wearing). I am learning to do more mending and buy second hand. I am seeing the contents of my life with a longer view.

The kids have been begging for a garage sale for years. I have been resisting. We still needed so many of the things we had. And garage sales are a lot of work. It is easier to close the closet door than sort through the contents. Easier to hold on to the things than let them go with the memories they hold.

It doesn’t seem fair that there is just too much life to remember all the moments.

Sitting in the sun on a cooler full of cookies and puffed wheat squares. Knees knocking against the kid-sized table. A hand-written sign for the lemonade stand. Seeing and not seeing.

The four-year-old surprised us with the most stamina for sales. I do not feel nostalgic for the sleepless years, but I love four-year-olds. The honesty without a filter. The sponge brains that repeat everything they are learning. The confidence of knowing everything and finally having the words to say it all. He sat on the driveway welcoming people and offering them lemonade for most of the day.

He spilled it. He tried to pay people instead of taking their loonies. He danced when someone said yes. “Mom,” he said, about two hours in, “This is the best day ever. Can we have another garage sale yesterday?”

It was a perfect day. Extended family and laughter. Cousins buying jewels from the next sale down with their pocket change. Neighbours wandering through to look and to buy. Trading like-new Tupperware for 10 bucks and a home-made tea roll. Kids learning to talk to strangers. Letting go of our past life to make room for the present and the future.

In all the sifting, I am seeing the moments that make up my life. Seeing and cherishing the people that we were and the people we are becoming. Seeing past the colours and shapes transmitted by my eyes, and seeing the grace of living. Let me live here.

I love the miracle that God created a world where atoms and molecules combine into matter that matters. Nature and fiber and textures that cradle us into life and carry us through.

There are times for acquiring and roaming far away, times for coming home and sifting through. Days pass, one after another, in this space between a pandemic and whatever follows after. I want my stuff to help me see what matters.

(Perrault works in Catholic health care in Saskatoon and writes and speaks about faith. Her website is leahperrault.com)

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