All That Stuff & 5 Things It Taught Me

This week, my new home office is being completed, or nearly completed as there will still be things to do such as pictures to hang on the wall, a rug and curtains to pick out, etc. But for the most part, it will be ready to be used, complete with new furniture and a custom built closet, all courtesy of my wonderful father. It’s very strange to be sitting in the room that Rebecca occupied for most of her life, but she was all in favor of me converting the room, and I was way past due for a space of my own (you can only get so much accomplished when your “office” consists of a few shelves in a hall closet and a cabinet under the kitchen counter).

Over the course of the past couple weeks, Rebecca and I cleaned out her room, and I cleaned out two under-eave storage spaces to make room for the things she’s saving for her future office and/or apartment. I also cleaned out the downstairs hall closet, Ken’s office closet (where my Girl Scout stuff was), and that kitchen cabinet I mentioned. I am amazed at the amount of stuff that we pulled out, threw away, took to St Vincent DePaul, packed for Rebecca, and moved into the office. Where did it all come from?  

This is just the “office” stuff that was in the hall closet!

I spent several hours just going through the seaman’s trunk that was found in the basement of my great-grandparent’s house. Inside were all the cards that Ken and I received from well-wishers when we got married (over twenty-three years ago) lots of old photographs of family and friends, the scrapbook my mother made when I was a baby, and a stack of old concert programs. I have no idea what to do with any of this stuff. Okay, I actually threw away the cards, but the wedding planner has to stay. Why? I have no idea, but I’m sure I’ll think of a reason.

My eclectic mix of programs, and no George Micheal isn’t bringing lots of money on eBay these days.

I swore that I was not going to go along with the 40 Bags in 40 Days that so many have come to associate with Lent (I’m sorry, but that’s like associating snowmen with Christmas). I swore that I wasn’t going to get rid of things just because it’s Lent, and I’m still not, but there has been an awful lot of stuff leaving this house in the last two weeks. And an awful lot that has stayed.  But I try to learn something from everything, so I’ve been thinking about some of the lessons I’ve learned over this week of cleaning. Here are the ones that have made an impact.

1.  If your children don’t care about it, then you don’t need to either.  Conversation: 

Rebecca:  “Mom, you still have all of my trophies from elementary school?” 

Me:  “Of course. Why would I throw them away?”

Rebecca:  “Why would you keep them?”

I have no idea. I don’t know why I kept them except that I thought she would want them. Now the question is, what do I do with them?

2.  Buying what’s on sale isn’t always the best idea. I used to always buy packs of children’s Valentines the day after Valentine’s Day. They cost no more than a quarter on that day. A few years ago, I was cleaning out that same, catch-all closet, and I came across half a dozen boxes of Valentines. I couldn’t remember the last time my girls traded Valentines, but I was well prepared should they want to start up again. And don’t even get me started on school supplies. Morgan asked me last week to stop by the store to buy her new pens and pencils. The only store I went to was “the closet.” Rebecca watched me pull them out and asked if I had enough school supplies for her children to use someday. Sadly, the answer is yes. And while it’s great to not have to run by the store every time someone runs out of their designated supply of pens, the amount of supplies we sometimes end up with is monumental. The girls are collecting school supplies to send to our sister parish in Guatemala. I hope they need pens and pencils, lots of pens and pencils. And notebooks and paper and index cards….

3.  Calculate your needs first. I have piles of books that I will never sell. I wish I had been able to sign and sell every one of them, but I was arrogant and overzealous. I ordered my first three books in quantities that even Barnes and Noble couldn’t handle in their warehouse. Now I have lots of copies of books that came out two, three, and four years ago, and I’m busy trying to sell the most recent works. These days, I order books three dozen at a time, and only when I know that I am going to sell them. If I need more, I can always contact the publisher and have a box sent. And I don’t feel so defeated by piles of unsold books. Now, about that whole storage area of storage containers….

4.  If you don’t have a use for it, plan to wear it, or aren’t sure you’re going to like it, don’t buy it. I have six white sweaters. Why? Because I’m a sucker for a good, white sweater. How often do I wear white sweaters? Good question, but I always know I have several if I need them. Unfortunately, I don’t. I wear the same white sweater every time I reach for a sweater. Somehow, I always think that this one will go better with that outfit, or that one will look better with a skirt, that one with pants. The truth is, they all look exactly the same – like a good, comfy, white sweater.

5.  Make use with what you have. Over the course of planning my office, I’ve had a running list of things I intended to purchase. While the cost of the office was growing, the size of the room was not, and neither was my bank account. I had to do some re-evaluating of my needs and wants. The shelves that I took down from Rebecca’s wall will work perfectly in the closet dad is building me. The black curtain rod can be spray painted to match the new color scheme. The degrees and awards I found while cleaning make more sense to hang than expensive art (using the frames from the pictures Rebecca took down).

I still have a long way to go. Yes, I did buy a new wall clock today. There’s just something I love about a wall clock with real hands, and I refuse to move the one from the kitchen. But I did end up throwing away the wedding planner. I’ve got all the memories still tucked safely away in my mind and heart. And there’s always room for more there.

Come back next week to see the transformation!

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at and at

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)