Photo credit: Broo_am (Andy B) / Foter / CC BY-ND

We recently had a flood in our basement, which was mostly due to having the wettest summer imaginable. But it was not the devastating kind of flood, although it was disconcerting to step off of the last bottom step into standing water. My boys’ playroom was in the basement. I peeked in to see Legos floating away from the ripple of my step. Bookshelves, couch, computer tower, stacks of papers, toys, side and coffee tables all had tiny waves lapping at their shores. Overall it was a little less than an inch of water, but it was enough to change us.

We rented a super shop vac while we waited for the extraction company, rented a dumpster (and filled it over two days’ time), bought fans, borrowed dehumidifiers, and dried the outside walls behind the sheetrock.

Throughout this experience, my heart has been changed. While we threw out stuff, I realized how many useless things we had accumulated. The basement had become an uncourageous dumping ground. When we couldn’t make a decision whether or not to get rid of something, “I might need this someday,” we shifted it all downstairs. There is nothing like having mold grow on toys to help me make a decision about whether to keep or to discard. As we sifted through the waterlogged items of our lives, it made me think of ownership differently. Nearly every item I threw away I had a sense of release because I didn’t want it anyway, it took up space, I stepped around it a lot, or I just couldn’t make a decision about the object’s fate. I found freedom in a mandatory letting go.

The line between what we need and what is just filler is bold. We have a desire to live in a clean space—all of us do. A space clear of clutter because with the clutter comes a weight that causes home to feel like work. My connection with things has changed too. I will easily part with things now because I have felt the release in the letting go. My shopping is limited to what we need. I am not wrapped up with my stuff because it fades, it ages, it is no replacement for my family or our happiness.

I look at this flood as the “just right” flood. It didn’t devastate our lives, we have recovered, we have gotten rid of a lot of stuff, and it made us a stronger family unit—more in tune with one another and not distracted by the stuff of this world.

Good things can come in all shapes, sizes, and degrees of wetness. The good things are in what we’ve learned: where the water came in so we could fix the problem, a better understanding at the sense of loss a flood brings (Hurricane Sandy and Katrina survivors come to mind), knowledge that lost things do not mean a loss of the memory attached to those things.

While I don’t recommend a “just right” flood, I do recommend a perspective shift in how we view our things and their relation to how we live our lives.

Photo credit: Broo_am (Andy B) / Foter / CC BY-ND