Living simply

I had the opportunity to talk to an amazing woman at a party over the weekend. She emigrated from South America forty years ago to settle on a barrier island off the coast of North Carolina. She , her husband and their daughter run the local general store on the island.  I asked her how they had fared during Hurricane Irene in September and I have been thinking about our conversation ever since.

She explained that the wind had blown the Pamlico Sound completely dry and she knew that they were in for some serious high water when the water returned on the back side of the hurricane. I commented that I couldn’t imagine trying to prepare for something like that. How did she know where to begin? She just laughed and  shook her head at my horror. She explained that she was used to the boarding up. That was the easy part. Harder, for her, was learning to let go of  “things.”  She explained that she’d learned a long time ago that there were no “things” that couldn’t be replaced if her family and the dogs were safe.  So she focused her time and effort on what mattered and let the rest go.

As luck-or bad luck depending upon where you were located- had it, the storm  shifted up the coast  before turning and their home and the store were spared. The small towns further up the island suffered terrible damage from wind and water, as deep as 54″ in some places. Several houses were swept into the ocean, as well as major portions of the only road on or off the island. All the communities up and down the coast found themselves cut off from the mainland for more than six weeks, until a temporary bridge could be built across the worst breaks. There was no loss of life, but the property damage is mind-boggling.

Then I began to think how freeing it must be,  to be able to let the things go, to be able to really prioritize. When I was moved from one school to a new center two years ago, I almost drove myself crazy packing and making lists and labeling, so afraid I might lose some of my stuff. A lot of that stuff is still packed in the book room!  I can’t help but extend the idea of  “stuff” to my teaching as well. How much “Stuff” is just that- routines that I hang on to because it’s “what I do.”? I’ve been thinking about this all week. This weekend, I am going to begin getting rid of a lot of stuff!



5 responses to “Living simply

  1. I enjoyed this and it came at a great time for me. I lost some “stuff” in my move to a new school this year and today was the first day I needed something I couldn’t find. I find simplifying a very difficult thing to do. I like my “stuff.” This lady could teach us all a thing or two. Thank you for sharing.

    • I like my “stuff” too, both at home and at school. I was completely blown away by how calmly she described facing the possibility of losing all her stuff. I also have a hard time simplifying. When I first moved to my new school, I found myself looking for things in places that weren’t there any more. It’s difficult. I hope things smooth out for you. They have for me.

  2. Thanks for sharing this thought-provoking story. We have our house on the market. Two weeks ago, I went through closets and cleaned a lot of “stuff” out. It was hard getting rid of things I thought I might wear, use, or need someday, but I did it. You’re right that it does give a sense of freedom to unload things that are just gathering dust.
    Great piece of writing!

  3. “How much “Stuff” is just that- routines that I hang on to because it’s “what I do.”?” I like your definition of stuff. It’s a topic I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. Having to actually make the decision between stuff and people puts it into better perspective. It’s too easy for most of us to hang on to things.

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