My husband Jon’s grandparents lived right around the corner from him while he was growing up, and I was lucky to have met Jon while they were still alive. During the early years of my relationship with
Jon, it was a form of entertainment to go to his grandparents’ house and have them show us their collections. This was not your average every day collecting. This was extreme collecting. Salt and pepper shakers. Shot glasses. Drop crystals. Little figurines. Beer mugs. Dolls. China. Linens. You name it, they had it — or 10 of it.
After they passed away, I helped my mother-in-law Eileen clear out their house. It was an activity that I thoroughly enjoyed, not the least of which because I was the beneficiary of many lovely items from among their collections. I had just bought my townhouse, and was able to completely furnish it with items from their home. And I mean completely. There’s no shortage of vases, cake plates, china cabinets, small ornate boxes, framed photos, or office supplies from the 50s in my house. When Eileen and I would go through a particular collection such as linens, we would empty a box and both choose enough linens to supply our dinner parties for the next 5 years without ever having to iron a tablecloth. Then we would move onto the next box and what did we find? – yep, you guessed it – more linens.
While I did admire their fantastic collections, I was also dazed by the enormity of it all. Besides valuables, they had more screws, cotton balls, eye shadow, light bulbs, embroidery thread and tea bags than they could ever consume in their lifetime (or mine, for that matter). Their Depression era upbringing drove them to save anything and everything that might be useful, whether or not they actually had a use for it at the time.
Abundance is a flow of energy. In fact, the word “affluence” derives from the Latin “to flow towards.” The confusing part is what happens to that flow of energy once it reaches us. Our instinct, born of 10,000 years of being hunter/gatherers, is to save what we gather for our ultimate survival. However, as a modern society, like Jon’s grandparents, we have taken this to the extreme, whereby we gauge our abundance by the amount of money or material possessions that we have accumulated.
Imagine abundance as a closet. Imagine if in all the years you’ve been buying clothes you never got rid of anything. In the closet are clothes from every era of your life – college, your single dating life, your wedding dress, maternity clothes, wool suits you bought when you were promoted, long flowy skirts that have gone out of style, shoes with worn down heels, running shoes, winter sweaters, t-shirts, and on and on. If over the years you’ve never let any of them go, not only would the closet be stuffed to the gills, but the majority of what is in the closet would no longer be useful to you. When you go in to get dressed, you’d have to wade through piles of useless items to get to what you want.
This scenario illustrates that abundance = letting go, and scarcity = holding on. Time and again I’ve experienced a shift in the flow of abundance in my life when I’ve been willing to let something go, be it clothes, a client, a friend, a grudge, or papers on my desk (that are usually hiding something like a gift certificate I’ve forgotten about.)
So what about saving money for financial security? I believe in it wholeheartedly. Saving for a purpose like living your elder years worry free is a worthy pursuit and makes a lot of sense. The statistics about elderly people living in poverty are heartbreaking. On the converse side, I love that bumper sticker seen on the back of an RV on the highway: I’m spending my children’s inheritance. Save for a purpose, and use whatever you’ve saved for that purpose when the time comes.