The lyrics to John Denver’s ‘Leaving on a Jet Plane’ come up often at our house because we come and go a lot. The key line is, “all my bags are packed. I’m ready to go.” Recently those lyrics came to mind on a visit to my daughter Sara’s apartment.  

Sara got a full-time job at the International headquarters of Willmar Electric in Willmar, Minnesota, last January. When she started work, she signed a one-year lease for an apartment. Her lease is up, and she is looking to move.

She also has found a fellow young college grad to share her next space.

Suitable apartments are hard to find in Willmar. The housing market for purchasing a new home is much more challenging. But, Sara is a proactive person. So, she has packed up some of her stuff as she waits for her name to get to the top of the waiting list for better living conditions.  

You might be thinking about how a 23-year-old single girl ends up with enough things she needs to pack up more than a few days before moving, but it’s because she is the daughter of Dave and Sue Chapin.  

When you graduate from college, in our family, you move out. Your things are put into four categories.  

  1. A small amount is treated as a keepsake with strong emotional attachment. These are mostly things we plan to show our grandchildren someday to prove to them that their parents were once children.
  2. Some things are repossessed as things we think have value to us. Most of these things are toys we think our grandchildren would like to play with in the future.  

Garbage. Which is a smaller pile than you might think because of another family tradition. 

When our children were young, they got the chance to travel without us. Typically, with the grandparents. When they left, my wife, Sue, moved in. She would go into their closet and clean up. She was very strategic. She made sure the clean-up day was before trash day. She made sure the garbageman would come and haul things away before the children returned. 

  1. We never got any complaints when the children returned. I imagine the lack of complaining was because having Sue go through your stuff when you were gone was better than doing it with her on a Saturday morning.
  2. The last pile was packed up as “yours.” We told them this is your stuff for you to keep. Good luck.

So, back to the apartment. 

We noticed Sara had a few boxes packed despite not knowing when she would move. We asked her why and her answer was as heartwarming to me as looking at the things in the keepsake pile.

“I packed some things up and figured if I don’t need it between now and when I move, I don’t need it.”

Pass the Kleenex. Our daughter is lean. I look forward to her children going away with me, so she can make sure she cleans before garbage day.  

It is springtime and time to rotate the closet. Move the short sleeve shirts to the top bar and the long sleeve shirts down. But there is no sense moving a long sleeve shirt I didn’t wear all winter. It needs to go to the mission. (Same is true of moving up and short sleeve shirt I don’t imagine wearing this summer.) Instead of storing this shirt for another year, I need to get it in the hands of somebody who can use it.

At Willmar Electric, we try to do the same thing. If you find something that still has value, we want to figure out who does and get it into their hands. We don’t need to store things we don’t need. It gets in the way of the things we need.  

Working tools with cords have, for the most part, been replaced with cordless tools. We give away the corded tools to mission groups. 

Over time we have purged most of our things, and we have less and less to give away, but the mentality doesn’t change. 

Throwing away valuable items is a waste. Keeping it on hand but never using it again is hoarding.