Dust In The Wind?

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There are a lot of elderly folks, many of them widows and widowers, who live in my building.

Every winter, a parade of dumpsters end up alongside the building.

Vessels that port away the contents of the homes of those who’ve passed.

My apartment looks down on the spot where the dumpsters get dropped.

The image you are looking at replaces itself on a regular basis.

Precious items, keepsakes, valuable mementos, furniture, marvelous art all sent to landfill.

This is what’s left of someone’s life. Not the experiences, but the stuff.

Curious, what does this bring up for you?

What’s the take-away?

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76 responses

76 responses to “Dust In The Wind?”

  1. I am in the middle of my great Wardrobe Purge, trying to get down to 40 items (still not sure I will do it!) and this photo gives me some inspiration… LESS is definitely MORE! Thank you! I will add your link to my “Talking about Order” round up on Saturday!

  2. Ray Johnson says:

    Very thought provoking .My take is that the stuff we accumulate is not more significant than the relationships we accumulate. Because we can never throw out memories. Even when we pass on the memories remain unlike our stuff which no one may never want and gets tossed .

  3. Bill Simmel says:

    Johnathan, This is a very poignant story and does make one examine life in general.
    One thing, I did take away, you have to move to another apartment, not sure if the view or the finality of a lifetime of memories would make me move more.
    But this is really a great picture and narrative on life. Nice Work, Best regards Bill

  4. Donna Marganella says:

    Definitely makes me pause and ask, “What’s important?” Certainly not all that stuff, which seems more and more like a distraction. And then I think, I should be giving more things away, but holding the people I love closer.

  5. Greg Hertzke says:

    When I lived in a big house back in Colorado I had a ton of stuff. Now that I live in a small NYC apartment most of that stuff sits in a storage unit. All it is doing is proving more and more every day how much money I am wasting by paying for that storage unit every month.

    Living in NYC has definitely made me appreciate going out to museums, parks, events, etc., instead of sitting at home staring at more useless junk (like my old massive TV). Very thought provoking post Jonathan.

  6. You can’t take it with you.

    But, also, I wonder what my stuff would say about me.

  7. I recently arranged my jewelry into the collections that my children will inherit. I’ll do so with my art too. But I don’t care about stuff. It exists to support the functions that are my life.
    I have a cheap couch and a cheap car. My laptop is four years old. I don’t want to trade life experiences for stuff, especially if it’s just going to end up in a landfill.
    Thought-provoking post, Jonathan!

  8. Sukhi says:

    Life as all about leaving a legacy in the hearts and minds of others. We’ll enter and leave this world with the same ol shit… Nothing! Our legacy will always live through others and can impact the lives of future generations.

  9. Dear Jonathan –

    My boys left home and I was sitting in a 5 bedroom 4 bath house with an elderly Doberman.

    He was too old to transplant into an condo in the city.

    I had saved every scrap of paper, notes, Mothers Day cards, report cards from my four boys.

    Finally, I moved. Spread the entire living room floor with my kids memories.

    They each took one thing.

    Now I get rid of everything. I could move out tomorrow in a few hours.

    Nobody want your stuff. Unless it is fine art or jewelry.

    Live lean. And it is easier to keep tidy.

    • Helen South says:

      I don’t even care about the art or jewelry. It’s ok, but I don’t care about it. I remember my mum hugging me when I was upset. I remember my Dad saying, misty-eyed “yes, I have a beautiful daughter.” Everything else is stuff. All of it.

  10. Wow- my sister passed away this past year at the young age of 46 and as I cleaned out her small 1 BR in NYC and packed box after box of clothes and kitchen items, much of which I donated to others I realized how litter of her was there. There were a few things my parents and I held on to.
    Definitely reinforces for me the idea that the human spirit can’t be captured in our stuff.
    And I am even more committed to continue to simplify my own stuff for the environment, yes, and for the people who will be around when I am gone.

  11. How sad that these things aren’t donated to those who could use them!

    • Deidre says:

      These days we don’t prolong the experience of purchasing at all. We see and we buy. We don’t wait until we have money, we don’t spend time in the process before the purchase. Even the thrill of collecting has lost some of its charm because instead of going to antique stores and thrift shops looking for the way to finish our collections we simply order them up on eBay.

      Also, today’s generations don’t value much of their parents’ stuff. They don’t want it but are surprised when they can’t sell it for a lot of cash to buy more of whatever new things they want. These dumpsters make me sad because I know there are treasures in there, both things of value and things of use that could be re-integrated back into the world. We are landfilling the entire planet. Furniture built before the age of mass manufacturing has a life span of at least a hundred years, most of the furniture people buy today will be lucky to make it 25 years and won’t hold its value at all. I didn’t want to hijack this thread into a “buy antiques” mission but we need to buy more than what the malls are selling us.

  12. More and more I try to remove myself from my objects. It’s a difficult, long process, but I’m making steady progress and am happier because of it.

  13. Man, I miss living there. But not really.

  14. I think it all goes back to the ancient Vedic Seers:
    “I am that, you are that, all this is that, that’s all there is.”

    Poignant image, Jonathan! Powerful in a quietly philosophical way. It’s the kind of photo that speaks volumes. It tells a million stories within the limitless confines of a single frame.
    It is as if the world captured in that moment stood for all the potential worlds that are, have been, and will be.

    Thank you for this exquisitely provocative thought primer.


  15. Rita Vail says:

    I lived in NYC in 1968. I was 19. One day I noticed several cardboard boxes sitting out in front of an apartment and so, naturally, I stopped and went through them. From the few pictures, letters, and objects in them, I got a vivid impression of the woman who had just passed. I chose one wooden handled serving spoon from the box to keep and treasured it for over 30 years, until it went missing at a large pot luck. I actually grieved over its loss and I still sometimes think of that woman. I wonder why I never remembered her name or kept a photo. I think it was a surprise to me how attached I would get to that spoon, which was the perfect size and shape – so ordinary and yet so perfect.

  16. Jesinalbuquerque says:

    It certainly makes me hope there was more to their lives than that. I have lots (too much) stuff, but it stays in its place: I sure don’t mistake it for my life. I hope those people didn’t either.

  17. Jonathan,

    Cleaning out the homes of my partner’s aunt & grandparents who all died within 2 years of one another was a powerful lesson about stuff. His aunt was a diagnosable hoarder–we literally threw away over 8 tons (the dumpsters were weighed) of stuff out of her 2-bedroom condo. Since then, we have systematically gone through our home several times a year, lessening the load of stuff.

    On the flip side, my own aunt died in that same time frame. I have nothing that belonged to her, no stuff. I do, however, have years of shared holiday and summer memories. No stuff required.

    Thanks for the reflection.


  18. Linda says:

    I agree with the person who said that it’s sad the stuff isn’t used. There must be plenty of people these days in need of furnishings and so forth.

    How do you know that these people didn’t have wonderful lives, laden with great memories and deeds? The stuff is only sad because it’s unwanted. Whilst I do agree that we tend to excessive buying, compulsive spending even, I also think this whole minimalist thing is getting out of hand too. If we all live to an absolute minimum we’re going to put a lot of people out of work who work in manufacturing the stuff we buy. In fact, I’ve downsized since my kids grew up, but I got to a point where I realized I was beginning to feel guilty about owning almost anything, and I called a halt. My rule now is not to own anything I don’t need or enjoy.

  19. Rob says:

    Hey Jonathan,
    Our family used to volunteer at a nursing home until the doors were shut for the last time. We shared the gift of music (two piano playing daughters). They shared the gift of life’s experiences. The people there were from all walks of life. One had attended high school with President Reagan, another lived a childhood much like that described by Laura Ingalls-Wilder. She told of her mailbox being a ‘country’ block from the house. She would often see a black bear across the road as she checked the mail. There would be a brief acknowledgement between the two, and she would head back to her house. She never ran. She remembered being eight at that time.
    That’s what the picture brings me. Not the stuff, but the people behind the stuff. How they lived their dash.
    I wonder.

    Live it LOUD!

  20. irena opacak says:

    Jonathan, it brings up grief. To me this is an image of the emptiness of our attachments and lack of freedom. To die old is a modern boon, so where’s the wisdom that’s meant to go with the age? It’s lonely too, all that modern comfort represented, but nobody to share it with? I would endeavour to be surrounded with more and more people and less and less stuff as I age, and I mean less stuff emotionally, mentally AND physically. It represents how unwilling we are to let go of our story and how fast we hold on to and assign significance to the insignificant.

    Thanks for this reminder and sharing your thoughts. I’d like to know what it brought up for you.

  21. Julie Kucinski says:

    Evokes my first and only estate sale, where people where pawing greedily through the the artifacts of people’s families and lives. oy.

    Stuff doesn’t make us, but I am a believer that an inspiring environment makes everyday life better. Buy only stuff you love and/or need. Stuff isn’t the enemy – emptiness is.

    We also won’t treasure memories of sitting in front of laptops, updating facebook, commenting online 😉 or stressing out about projects and client mood swings.

    It comes down to this: connecting with people and feeling like your life, your things, your actions matter as frequently and much as possible.

    Another thing that strikes me – older generations valued the things they had far more. They bought less and took better care.

    Today our lives are filled with transient yet artifically highly urgent stuff, tasks – even connections.
    60 years ago – not so much

  22. Excellent topic, Jonathan. What this brings up for me is my own recent confrontation with my ‘stuff.’ I wrote about the process on my blog, and the big takeaway was this – by choosing to get rid of my stuff, I got to experience the joy of having it. Sort of a paradox. When it was stuffed in a drawer or in boxes, I didn’t even know some of it was there. Getting rid of it all gave it breathing room and I had a wonderful time remembering the history of the various things. I took pictures and shared with friends who got to relive the memories as well.

    When my Grandmother passed away in 2006, they found 8mm footage from my parents’ wedding reception that nobody knew existed (including my parents). I don’t want to have things like that hidden away until I die. Again, streamlining lets us experience the things. Hoarding does not.

    Thanks for the reminder.

  23. C. S. Lewis maintained that our character goes with us into the afterlife. Others maintain that our experiences follow us. I’m not certain about what the afterlife holds, or even if there is one. No one knows for sure. No one.

    So the take away from your thoughts (which are quite profound), is experiences are for us while we are alive. They can be filled with either regret or with vibrancy and aliveness. We need to strive for the latter and avoid the former at all costs.

  24. Momma Jorje says:

    This just serves to strengthen my resolve with minimizing all the junk in my life. I got started in October, but with a baby and a full time job it has been fairly slow going. We have, however, managed to minimize bills, too, and even moved into a smaller space after getting rid of a lot of stuff.

  25. David Durall says:

    My grandfather turned to dirt when i was 20. Even though I’d seen him at least twice a week since I was born, I knew very little about him.

    When i was 12, I asked him about WWII and the Korean War. He never ever spoke of it except when he said, “David, War. Is. Hell.”. The look in his eye told me that he wasn’t just using an old cliche’. He meant just that.

    Now, he’s been gone for 22 years. I wish that I’d pushed him to talk about more things.

    I do have a crazy “glass eye” story.

  26. Nate Klemp says:

    A great question! When I see all that stuff, it makes me think about all the stuff I have – especially the stuff that I don’t even need. It makes me think seriously about downsizing my life.


  27. Marie davis says:

    Four days a week I go visit a friend who now lives in a nursing home. Although they have not emptied out her house yet, it will happen. It is a pleasure to visit my dear Frances, and I look at her life now and it is very simple. But, it reminds me to make each day count, the things we do and the people that we love are what enrich our souls when nothing else is left. Let’s give a big shout out to Frances Ellen Pierce, a white, feminist who took up the cause for civil rights on the national front so that so many people could vote, live where they wanted, and enjoy a life desegregated.

  28. Mirella says:

    What a powerful image!

    It makes me wonder what the other elderly people living there think when they see this for themselves.

    It’s such a sad image because for many people their legacy will be about as useful as all this “stuff”. Sure they had an impact on their immediate family, but what else have they left behind?

  29. Tolle says:

    I believe it was Mahatma Gandhi who said: “Life is a contest. The person who fills the most dumpsters wins!”

    Just kidding. Your post made me think about all of the stuff that I’ve accumulated. It may be time to purge.

  30. Sparky Firepants says:

    Hey look! Stuff. And the world keeps moving after we leave it.

    So we need to leave behind more than our old sofas.

  31. Bronnie says:

    Hey Jonathan,

    Wow! Great Topic and I’m fasincated by the emotions and thoughts that this picture has prompted.

    Stuff is just stuff.. it doesn’t mean anything, it’s the emotion behind the stuff, the reason it was bought, given, handed down that attaches us to it. I look at it and it means nothing but if a family member may look at it and it could be a catalyst to something, a childhood memory maybe..

    I agree with a lot of the past comments, it’s the relationships in our lives that are important. That being said, where are the relations in this episode, where are the family, the house being cleaned out, does this mean the experience, the memories are lost as well. I suppose what this picture raises for me is , as a society, why do we not value our elders for their life experience, why do we leave them to live alone in an apartment block… Hmmmm…

  32. Lori T. says:

    Sometimes we hold so tightly to the physical stuff, because it is touchable, tangible reminders that once upon a time, we loved and were loved back. To throw that stuff away is like throwing away the relationship. So we grip it tightly, until we no longer can. We reason that even though we can’t hold that person, we can still hold the objects.

    It is a scary thing to live alone. Our stuff comforts us when other can’t / won’t. Like Linus’ blanket that gave support to Charlie Brown’s Christmas tree, our stuff support us.

    • Samantha says:

      THANK YOU, Lori T. Your response about why people keep “stuff” is so thoughtful and compassionate!

      I am dealing with the remnants of my mother’s estate, along with all of my father’s things that she couldn’t bear to part with after he died 20 years ago. It’s not easy, and it’s going to take a long time, but she was unable to deal with her losses and loneliness in a more productive way. I don’t begrudge her the cold comfort she received from her possessions.

      I wish that all of the people here who so proudly proclaim their freedom from stuff could be as equally free of judgment of those who hold on to such “crap” because it offers them the solace you describe.

      • Sage says:

        A friend gave me some good advice on a compromise:

        Take photos of the stuff that helps you remember things.

        The stuff is inanimate. What I want is its power as a reminder. Take photos, back them up, play them on one of those digital photo frames if you want passive reminders. It is easier to part with the objects if you still have the photos to jog your memory.

  33. Glenn Dixon says:

    We just finished phase 2 of our great purge. We are now one car sale away from driving away from our home state and family with only what will fit in our car. For the last week we have been using my parents’ home as a staging area for the final clean-up. We are on the verge of a great adventure. Our inspiration occurred several years ago, and our motivations have been reinforced all along the way. But just in case we had any reservations, any second thoughts, our alternative future is right in front of our eyes.

    My parents are struggling financially in a slowly decaying manufactured home. In spite of pensions and Social Security and Medicare, my dad is still working 30+ hours a week as he nears the age of 80. And if they were to pass away tomorrow, a dumpster just like the one in your photo would soon be parked in front of their home. Neither my brother nor I would want any of their possessions outside of what would probably fit in a few boxes. We could move the furniture and electronics via Craigslist. The rest is nearly worthless.

    Our takeaway: life is too short to waste it on wage slavery, home maintenance and living for the weekend.

  34. Matty says:

    I think it goes to show that our possessions are nothing more than junk. What really matters when we are alive is the content and value of our lives. Our prized possessions are the intangible things you can’t buy or put a price tag on. After all, when it comes to things, you can’t take them with you when you go.

  35. Carmen says:

    For those of you who feel inspired to clean out your excess stuff, please do take the time to pass the useful things along to those who can use it. I live with 3 dear people, and wish we had a couch that even 2 or 3 of us could sit cozily on together. I think that kind of ease in physical closeness would contribute to our quality of life.

    • This is a great point Carmen. When I purged my stuff several weeks ago, I was very intentional with where I donated it. I took a couple of days and went to several places that I knew would appreciate different segments of the stuff that was still useful. It felt great to know that the stuff was going to have a second life with others that needed it instead of it just collecting dust in a closet or rotting in a landfill.

  36. I don’t carry much with me Jonathan – I’ve lived a nomadic lifestyle for the past 2 years; lived in California, North Carolina, South Carolina, Chicago and traveled cross country 3 times in those 2 years. I move with my clothes, shoes, printer, computer and a few kitchen things – all fitting in my car. So I don’t have possessions or artwork but do have the most incredible of memories!
    In love and light,

  37. Irene says:

    Clean stuff, organize stuff, move stuff around
    Protect stuff, take care of stuff
    Get rid of stuff and get more new stuff
    Repair stuff, replace stuff
    Yell at kids if they break stuff
    When will it end?
    I am a slave to stuff
    Is this happiness? No
    It is bondage, slavery, an addiction to stuff
    What would happen if I had no stuff?
    Who would I be?
    A person of no account
    Or would I be free as a bird
    To come and go as I please
    No more worries abount taking care of my stuff
    I’d be free to discover who I really am
    I am not my possesions
    I am not my stuff
    I am me

  38. Mark Freddy Farrell says:

    “Is this how it ends”. Thats what I think of. Just stuff for everyone else, but allot of stories and memories to the person that owned them. Well, leave nothing on the Dance Floor I say, memories associated with Events is what is really important, then maybe some of this STUFF is part of the story.
    To end up in a Dumpster tells me that no one from Family wants to keep anything of interest, or maybe these people died alone, which would be very Tragic.


    Mark Freddy Farrell.

  39. Jonathan Fields says:

    For me, it makes me contemplate the impermanence of everything. We’re here one moment, gone the next. The center of our universe, but a blip on the radar of the lives of the billions of others who inhabit the planet. And an even smaller blip in the context of the history of humanity.

    I don’t need much, stuff-wise, though I do confess that the stuff I’m drawn to tends to be either pretty high-end stuff or seemingly worthless stuff I find in nature or in travels that has meaning only in the context of the emotion or memory it creates in me. So it’s all very subjective.

    But it also makes me realize how silly it is to wrap any notion of legacy around the stuff you leave behind. Everything passes, the most important mark you can leave is the one on peoples’ hearts, souls, minds and lives. Those stick around long after the stuff departs.

    • Tina B says:

      My dad died of Colon Cancer at the age of 64. He left behind a wife, 11 kids and 50+grandkids. He had over 700 people attend his funeral. Now a month has passed and we have all moved on with our lives….just a blip. What I took from that is, live your life because when it’s gone, it’s gone.

      By the way, my dad was a purger but my mom clings. She is now planning on moving from the family home so we will see how well she does downsizing 🙂 At one point she was asking people what they would want and I offended her by saying, “Mom, there is nothing here that I want.” I finally told her to make me a start of her aloe vera plant because it reminds me of her always using it a natural cure all. Besides, I wouldn’t mind having one!

    • Tina Su says:

      Wow. Thank you Jonathan!

      You’ve verbalized what I’ve been pondering about (but not yet articulate) for the last few weeks.

      Thank you for the inspiration and clarity. 🙂


  40. Lisa Guida says:

    How sad that some lives may seem that way. So little connection that so much ends up in the dumpster.

    I’ve been thinking a lot about that recently as my beloved mentor died. Fastiously organized there will be no dumpster for him. Instead there are so many lives made better by how he lived his life a rare character.

    Be a character – make the difference in someone’s life.

  41. Hiro Boga says:

    Stuff is not the culprit. Things have their own Sacred presence; they emerge from Source too. It’s our relationship with stuff that is often askew.

    When the stuff with which we surround ourselves is congruent with who we are and in harmony with our place in the world, it helps to enhance soul qualities such as comfort and beauty, efficiency, desire, creativity, and community. It can shape a sacred container for our lives.

    When our stuff becomes a substitute for inner qualities of soul and spirit, for vibrancy and love, tenderness and friendship, for right relationship with our world, it muffles the clear voice of consciousness. It is a sad and inadequate Bandaid on a suppurating wound of loneliness and disconnection.

    Each stage of life is worthy of being honored and requires a different–always conscious–relationship to stuff.

  42. MikeTek says:

    I am not my stuff.

    -Sent from Mike’s iPad.

  43. Thank you for your post. I think it’s important to think on death, to embrace it as a part of life. I’m not saying lets dwell on the end, but I appreciate the fact that you aren’t afraid to ask the questions you did in this post.

    Through a major accident and the eight operations I endured along the recovery process, I’ve had a lot of time to be with my stuff and wonder, “If I don’t wake up, what will happen to all of this?” Gradually over the past two years as I’ve recovered strength, I’ve donated clothes, recycled old papers, re-gifted items that I never used…on and on.

    Just recently when I went to move, packing was a breeze. I used the situation as an opportunity to examine my belongings once again. If I found something wasn’t important to me, or if next to something similar it wasn’t as important, it was placed in the donate pile. Everything else was packed.

    Again thank you for your post. In this light, I can truthfully say that I am grateful for the experiences I’ve had as a result of the accident I survived. The experiences remain, definitely not the stuff!

  44. As a dedicated buyer of second-hand goods, I just wish people would give stuff to the charity shop rather than put it in a dumpster!

    • I don’t have a sentimental take on other people’s stuff, and there’s very little I own that I wouldn’t easily give away (and have already given away). But I do have a passion for asphyxiating consumerism by creating awareness about the alternative: upcycling. What a colossal waste to dump it! I should probably carry around the equivalent of an organ donor card: If I die, give my stuff to Goodwill! And God bless the next creative soul who takes it and makes it into something fabulous.

      You can gain a better understanding of the possibilities of upcycling by viewing the wondrous creations submitted by like-minded artists to the Green is Universal contest. For example: a ballgown out of an old nightgown

  45. misty says:

    This was a very interesting post and I enjoyed all the comments and feedback.

    As a child who was raised with little to not things, as I got things, I became a hoard of them! I became a packrat. I am not fond of the things I have accumulated and am working to change that, to simplify, have what is important to me and get rid of what is not.

    But to me the greatest grief of all to me is that in a world where many have more than they need and many have much less than they need, that someone who has no family that wantsor cares about this old person’s stuff, that nobody would call a charity company to come in? someone wouldn’t list on Craigslist take all for FREE, IS SO SAD!!! Show’s where the real frame and mentality of people are…they get for themselves and don’t think of anyone else. My will clearly lists that each room mate I have ever had gets to pick one big large item. I list special people who get certain collections I have. I want these people to know they meant something to me and that they can have a memory of me. If they don’t want it, they can sell it, but at least they will know they mattered to me!

    I think each of us can use this post to reflect and make whatever changes we need to in our lives. Obviously some of us are going to be good at organization, minimalization and other things…but each of us has to be happy in what we choose and ultimately “One’s life is not made up of the abundance of possessions”.

    Thanks for the opportunity to reflect!


  46. Tara Landes says:

    Makes me think there’s a lot of good free stuff for me to pick up (particularly the art). When’s drop off day?

  47. Marilyn Taillon says:

    I hope all those elderly folks enjoyed every scrap they had while they were alive.

  48. Ryan spanger says:

    When I travelled through Vietnam 10 years ago I remember seeing a guy running a street stall that sold discarded cigarette lighters which he found, refilled and sold. The relative scarcity of material possessions had given rise to a response that demanded every last bit of value be extracted from material objects.

    In the West, our economic system has led us to the point that material goods are so cheap and plentiful, that their omnipresence and availability has devalued them.

    It’s far cheaper to simply dump possessions that are no longer needed in landfill, than it is to come up with resourceful solutions to repurpose them.

    What finally seems to be occurring is the realisation that if cheap, mass produced goods are s easily attainable, they shine starts to fade from their desirability.

  49. I think of two things: 1) our existence is transient, and 2) our possessions are unimportant when compared with our experiences.

  50. Life is a journey and all that crap that you accumulate in your life will end up in a landfill.

    The stuff in your life is not that important.

  51. Judy Duff says:

    My Grandfather built a farm on a fifty acre plot of land back in 1923. He fed his family of eight, as well as neighbours and extended family on that little bit of land. The farm was the centre of the family’s unvierse and Grandpa lived on the farm until he died in 2000 at the age of 97. The farm was sold and within two years the buildings had all been torn down and the ground tilled into farmland. The orchard was bulldozed and the woods were chopped down. There was nothing physical left of the lifetime of hard work to say that he had ever lived – no mark left. It seemed grievous at the time. However, I have come to appreciate that to his credit he did not leave a permanent mark on the land, or on this planet. He lived a stewards’ life – a caretaker of his space and time – and a tiller of the soil of our minds.

  52. […] other issue at play in Steve’s illness, and Jonathan, I think you raised it your recent post, Dust in the Wind. The post showed a red dumpster beneath your apartment window, where the life’s possession of […]

  53. “Dust in The Wind” by Kansas was written by Kerry Livgren after he had read the book of Ecclesiastes in the Bible. Ecclesiastes is a book that talks about life and searching for a life of purpose. The author talks about how he has everything this world has to offer, riches, power, wisdom – and how they are all meaningless. Unless you view it all as gifts from God.

  54. A few months ago, a house blew up in Boston due to a natural gas leak (no one was home, no one was hurt).
    Nothing was left of the house or the possessions in it.

    I thought about what that would be like if that happened to my house and realized that there isn’t much of anything I’d really miss (keeping in mind EVERYONE was fine).

    This summer I’m going through my house and purging “stuff.” I may just get the dumpster now, rather than later…

  55. Mark Freddy Farrell says:

    Gordon Livingston wrote in one of his Books, “And Never Stop Dancing” I think. What if you wrote your own Obituary, what would you write? What if you updated it every year or 2?
    What would YOU like read out at your Funeral, A little from others, and a little from you, the Good, the Not so Good, the Truth about how you view your own Life, and how others see you. Would there be a Contrast, or would things Gell.I suppose
    thats the important STUFF.


    Mark Freddy Farrell.

    • Mark Freddy Farrell says:

      I meant to ask Jonathan, have you had, or would you have, Dr Gordon Livingston do a Blog on a subject some time?

  56. Najwalaylah says:

    One thing I don’t want to leave behind me is this statement: “She lived the last ten to fifteen years of her life without pretty, comfortable, familiar things or even pictures of her family, because she was expecting to die and afraid that she might be a bother.”

    I want to live so that a few loved ones I leave behind won’t begrudge the time it takes to divide and conquer, repurpose or recycle, or just plain throw out the possessions that I cherished until the end. I promise, it won’t be much and much of it won’t be utter junk.

  57. vdavisson says:

    We used to go over to a place near Phoenix called “Rawhide.” They had a static display of covered wagons in a semi-circle, with simulated campfires and the wagons lit from within by golden light, as if candles still burned there. A speaker hidden somewhere in the display played banjo music (I suppose harmonica would have been too poignant). Various implements and possessions lay about as if waiting to be picked up. I always wondered who had owned the wagons, the tools, the churns, the harnesses, and where they had gone – all their things were left behind and they were gone on to a better (I hope) place with God.

  58. I prefer giving away instead of taking away.

  59. Katie Felten says:

    Great post Jonathan, this really made me think about where I am, what I am doing and what’s really important and recalibrating my life a little. Thank you

  60. Niel Malan says:

    It might be just ‘stuff’, and nowadays it’s highly fashionable in the blogosphere to deride ‘stuff’ in favour of relationships and experiences.

    But what is forgotten is that we also have relationships with our homes, and our homes (including content) are physical records of our experiences.

    What this brings home to me is the wealth and continuing habit of waste in the USA. Here in South Africa the contents of a house can be given away, lock stock and barrel.

  61. It’s always sad to see how “stuff” lives on when people don’t… I’ve often that that when the people who knew a person are no longer living, it is almost as if that person was never there. That’s why mementos are important. My grandmother died, 20 years ago, at the age of 92. Her house and all her belongings were sold before it occurred to me to ask for anything – but I have such wonderful childhood memories of her making hot chocolate the old fashioned way, with cocoa, sugar, milk and a little salt, heating it on the stove and then pouring it into the tall brown cups (cream-colored on the inside), setting each cup on its own matching little saucer, and serving it to me and my brother. I would love to have received just one cup and one saucer! I’d like to think they were well-used and loved by someone else, not in a dump somewhere…

  62. […] other issue at play in Steve’s illness, and Jonathan, I think you raised it your recent post, Dust in the Wind. The post showed a red dumpster beneath your apartment window, where the life’s possession of […]

  63. […] of a sudden, it’s resonated with a whole bunch of other people. From Jonathan Fields – here – to Selina Barker – here On the PopPressed Radar Print Magazine's New Visual […]

  64. Yup, I know this one very well Jonathan. As an elder care provider of 15 years now, I’ve seen how lives are diminished down to one small photo album and a few memories.

    I cleaned out my parents house after 60 years of them living in it. Dumpsters the size of the ones in your picture I filled – along with 8 others, and this was after the good stuff had been parcelled out to friends and relatives. I then went back to my mom’s assisted living and handed her the scrap book of her life in pictures.

    I’ll never forget the look on her face as she stood in the doorway watching me drive away.

    Life blossoms, blooms and then drops its leaves, leaving piles of mulch from which new seeds sprout. We take nothing with us when we go, save for the feeling of having been sated by the experience of living.

  65. […] and New Yorker, Jonathan Fields wrote about a similar circumstance. In his blog titled “Dust in the Wind” he has a photo of a red dumpster that holds the life possessions of various widows and […]