It’s yard sale season, the perfect occasion to score a new-to-you anything. Sometimes you can tell the set of golf clubs has been well-used and the owner is exchanging his “starter set” for a better brand. The best finds, however, are the NWT (new with tags) items. These are the things purchased with the highest intent. Maybe it’s some sort of ab gadget or an entire Bowflex lifting system. A set of pastels with the one included canvas missing. A 10-year-old snowboard which kept its sheen thanks to an expensive case and little time on the slopes.

Garage sales, be it the online FB version or the old fashioned stop-on-the-side-of-the-road sort, tell the stories of our best intentions which fizzled.

In talking to a friend about wanting to rediscover her artistic talents, she revealed she missed pottery. She wanted to buy a wheel and a kiln to rekindle the habit of creating. I asked her if she ever took a community class when it was offered, or spoke with the local art teacher about getting access to materials before taking on a costly and space-consuming attempt.

“No, I just figure that if I have the things in my home, that I’ll use them more often. It’s so much work to try to get to a class or a studio.”

I anticipate my friend will become not a potter, but an owner of a potter’s wheel.

Not to dismiss the need for the appropriate gear before setting out to try a new hobby, but our garages tend to give us a glimpse into our society’s approach to change. We try to better ourselves by buying something for ourselves. We mistake consumption for transformation.

I heard once that any problem that can be solved by throwing money at it isn’t a very interesting problem. I believe the theory to hold true as it pertains to our personal growth. If a bigger budget would make you the person you wanted to be, I’m just going to say, you won’t be a very interesting person.

Money, and subsequently, stuff, makes things easier. We like easy. But rarely does easy equate to good. Quicker? Easy can do that. Cheaper? Easy can get behind that one, too. Easy cannot give depth, however, or longevity. It doesn’t bring about change that lasts.

The writer who will lock herself in the closet at 5am with pen and paper when a laptop isn’t available is a writer. The gal with the Macbook Pro sitting on her desk with a few scribbled notes about the next big book idea is an owner of a Macbook Pro.

The guy who laces up in the middle of winter because he needs to get in 10 miles is a runner. The guy with brand new Under Armor fleece lined compression pants sitting in his drawer owns nice running gear.

We are not a sum total of our stuff. Our character is revealed in how we live. As Annie Dillard said, “How we live our days is, of course, how we live our lives.” What we keep in our garage, basement or closet has only the smallest influence on those things.

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