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I asked a widowed friend what she did with all her free time. Her children had families of their own, and she was retired, living by herself.

She started listing the activities: sorting through photos, scrapbooking, organizing closets, mending loose hems and blankets, visiting places she’d always wanted to go to…

I laughed. Wow, there’s hope after all! I just have to wait till my kids are grown to finally catch up on my To-Do list!

At estate sales of strangers now departed, dusty projects sit on bookshelves and tables, still waiting to be completed. A latch hook rug, macramé purse kit, skeins of yarn, glass cutting and rock polishing machines, woodworking tools, craft books, cookbooks, and more. The owners never found the time to finish their To-do list. Or they ran out of energy.

Why bother?

Amazing how our perspective changes over the years.

Probably expected to be around longer, but then realized too late that life had passed them by. Now the children and grandchildren are selling their cherished items at a yard sale, for mere pennies. You know, One man’s junk…

Walking through the house, opening kitchen cabinets, peering into closets, sneezing your way through the attic or basement, is like stepping back in time. Clothing and shoe styles from multiple eras, ancient (as in early 20th century) and modern (late 20th century) merge strangely in the bathroom and kitchen, with foam curlers, eight-track tapes, tv trays, auto-drip coffee makers and answering machines.

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It’s the stuff of life. And it’s meaningless to all but a few.

Even as adults our eyes are bigger than our stomachs. Our expectations of time are larger than reality. We really do think we’ll live forever. And like our kids, we still believe boredom might be fatal.

Other friends have told me they’re cleaning things out.

I don’t want to leave junk for my kids to sort through when I’m gone. They had to do it when their parents passed away, and that’s not what they want for their families.

With our kids’ school years now behind us, I’m looking at my home in a totally different way. What a relief not to need all this stuff anymore!

No one knows how much time we have. We might be around for twenty, thirty, forty more years, and if so, we’ll be wishing for meaningful activity or greater purpose to fill our days.

Or we could be rushed to the hospital next week. A spouse or parent could suddenly need our care. Or interests change, and we lose the ambition to complete all those projects we had planned.

In this in between time of our years in the middle (at least we hope these years are the middle years, the ones leading us to the end, and not the years at the end) we can start cleaning out and sorting through all our stuff. Donate to non-profits, pass sentimental items to family members and friends, share or sell our stuff, give the profit to someone with real needs…

And find a way to spend the time we have left investing in souls.

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