Magazine Article

Keep, Give Away, or Discard


Gerald and Chantal Klingbeil
Keep, Give Away, or Discard
Photo by Anastasiia Krutota on Unsplash

Be it a dish, shoe, tool, book, pen, or furniture item—for months we repeated the same line over every single thing we owned. As we prepared for an intercontinental move, we had to sort through everything we had accumulated in our large home in Maryland. This was not our first international move, but it was the most difficult on many levels. It’s incredible how much stuff one can accumulate in 14 years.

We have never considered ourselves hoarders and like to think of ourselves as minimalists, but as we prepared for our move to Germany, we realized we had picked up too many things along the way. Emotionally and psychologically, it’s often difficult to look beyond the history and the connected stories that everything holds and ask: “Do we keep this, give it to someone who can use it, or discard it?” We couldn’t sidestep the issue and make no decision, because not actively giving the vase away or getting rid of it meant that it was coming with us into a much smaller apartment in Germany.

Strangely, despite the sometimes-draining task, it also felt liberating. There is something purifying about finally cleaning out that hold-all drawer that we only ever open to pop something in that we may need one day. There is a wonder to rediscovering things we had forgotten we had. And having a reduced wardrobe of clothes that fit and that one enjoys wearing is a lot better than hanging on to the expensive shirt that was last worn five years ago or that pair of shoes that was such a good buy but a half size too big. Letting go and refocusing on the essentials is good, and we are discovering that it doesn’t involve only stuff.

Our boxes have all been unpacked, and our apartment is beginning to feel like home, but the sorting process has just moved onto another level. Confronted by a new culture, a new language (for Chantal), and a new church family, we have been pushed individually and as a couple to continue the sorting process onto a deep spiritual level. We are being forced to ask some hard questions—especially considering that we now live in a highly secular society: What is my faith really built on? What have I been doing and saying that was just part and parcel of the Adventist cultural environment I used to live in and that I have never actually thought about? What are the cultural practices and ways of doing things that are comfortable for me but not worth keeping? What habits and lifestyle choices have I slowly drifted into over the years that are destructive and should be discarded? What can I give to others around me of my walk with Jesus in a world that doesn’t really care (or know) about Jesus? Transitions are experienced not only by people moving intercontinentally. We remember our teenage years and the heartthrobbing yet scary feeling of discovering new things about ourselves and our world. Some of us have just recently transitioned into being parents or grandparents. Others wonder how they will manage the big transition into retirement. Wherever we are in our journey of transitions, we need to ask ourselves honestly: keep, give away (or share), or discard? The answers we will find will be life-giving and liberating.

Gerald and Chantal Klingbeil

Chantal J. Klingbeil, Ph.D., and Gerald A. Klingbeil, D.Litt., served the Adventist Church for nearly three decades internationally as professors, TV host, editor, and associate director. They now live close to the beautiful city of Hamburg, Germany, and serve in the Hanseatic Conference of Seventh-day Adventists.