Fasting from Things: A Limit of 20

scarves

An extraordinarily beautiful donation came into the St. Vincent de Paul thrift shop once. A woman gave us a box of over 100 silk scarves, all colors and sizes, for all seasons of the year. Each one unique and in perfect condition, they were laundered, pressed, and folded.

We volunteers spent an afternoon admiring each one as we priced them all. We also spent a lot of time wondering why anyone on earth would need 100 silk scarves.

My friend Bess says that she doesn’t need more than 20 memorized poems. She thinks 20 is enough to cover any season, circumstance, or emotion that requires a spontaneous burst of poetic response.

I’ve pondered this idea all week and have come to a similar conclusion. I probably don’t need more than 20 bookmarks. Once I have that many half-finished books next to my bed, there is little chance that I will ever finish them all. Maybe if I limit myself to 20 bookmarks, I will either have to finish one of the books before starting a new one, or else read the next new book without stopping.

Can you think of something where 20 is enough?

About Jane Knuth 7 Articles
Jane Knuth is the author of Thrift Store Saints: Meeting Jesus 25¢ at a Time and Thrift Store Graces: Finding God’s Gifts in the Midst of the Mess. She has been volunteering at the St. Vincent de Paul thrift store in Kalamazoo, Michigan, for the last 17 years. She is also a math tutor. Knuth and her husband, Dean, live in Portage, Michigan.
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15 Comments on Fasting from Things: A Limit of 20

  1. It reminds me of all the bookmarks that I have. I have more then twenty and I certainly don’t need all of them. Rosemarie

  2. As someone who loves scarves (though I don’t have 100), my first thought was that the 100 silk scarves represent a lifetime of memories. Scarves collected on trips to magical places with loved ones, scarves bestowed as gifts by loving nieces on Christmas or birthday, or scarves purchased to go with an oufit for a wedding or christening celebration. I understand your well-taken point about accumulating too much “stuff” and making it the focal point of one’s life. But I couldn’t help but think that the colors and textures and scents of those scarves had been a source of joy to their owner.

    • And then she gave them away! I had the same reaction. I think the fact that they numbered 100 made this remarkable and special. Who knows what else she gave up in order to have this beauty in her life, and now in others’ lives?

  3. I was going to say that I don’t need 20 of anything, but in fact when it comes to books, CDs and records, I have many more than 20. So I will have to think about that.
    Thank you.

  4. BETTE EXPRESSED MY THOUGHTS SO THERE IS NO NEED FOR ME TO BE REDUNDANT. I HAVE LOTS OF SCARVES TOO AND I NEVER BOUGHT ONE OF THEM-ALL GIFTS FROM LOVING FRIENDS AND FAMILY.
    I ALSO HAVE A LIBRARY OF BOOKS AND JUST STARTED GIVING SOME OF THEM AWAY TO ORGANIZATIONS ETC AND AS I DID SO I THOUGHT OF THE MANY FRIENDS ANDS FAMILY WHO LOVINGLY GAVE THEM TO ME.
    I REALLY DO NOT THINK WE SHOULD COUNT OUR POSSESSIONS BUT OUR BLESSINGS.

  5. I like this idea. I have too many THINGS. I need to minimize: shoes, bags, dresses, sweaters, etc.; books; ‘decorations’ and general stuff. I am too materialistic and want to change my focus to GOD and the Poor not on me…………. thank you for this wonderful reminder.

  6. How much is too much is very subjective. I’m single & in my 50’s and my parents think I have too many dogs (3) and birds (8). Some think it is a deterrent to a dating life. I recently met a woman with 300 cookie jars and I think memories are attached to acquiring them. She had to downsize so I bought 17 to give away as gifts. I will bless others with her sacrificial sales. Maybe it’s not the what, but the how & why that matter.

    • Maybe it depends on the size of your dogs…3 little ones don’t add up to a Great Dane, after all. We’re down to one cat but still have our 4 birds. I’ll bet I have at least, if not more than, 20 rosaries but I cycle through them all, praying for our family, for others, for myself, so I agree with you, “Maybe it’s not the what, but the how & why that matter.”

  7. I don’t collect scarves but I do collect bookmarks. I’ve given my young granddaughters some of the bookmarks and they like them very much. I’m aware that materialism can be a snare. On the other hand, life would be rather dull without some beautiful scarves in our lives.

  8. Manicues. I had been getting these very frequently. Then I realised one month I had overspent my budget & had not been making a few charitable contributions important to me which I had been making monthly. I did not have the ability to give someone in need whom I encountered some assistance, and I had nothing extra to give when urgings hit my soul to help. But i had spent plentynover the monts on my nails, some new pretty, but uneeded earrings. I realized that while It is OK for me to treat myself well, with healthy manicures or a new trinket, this must not be to the exclusion of being able to provide help to others. I can do both. But i no longer was, as i was spending far more on myself, leaving nothing for those needing assistance. I am learning & ask God for grace to grow.

  9. My friend’s mother was a stylish woman who loved pins and brooches. She had a beautiful collection and many were gifts or bought on their travels. The pins had memories for her and she enjoyed telling the story about where and why she purchased the pin. When her mother died, she had the collection of pins displayed at the viewing in the funeral home. My friend asked all the women who attended the viewing to please take the pin of their choice and remember her mother. It was a beautiful rememberance of a lovely woman.

  10. I’m finding out that the older I get the less I seem to need. I use to buy all kinds of art and stationary supplies and books until space wise it go out of hand. I’ve had to toss out alot of dried up paints, yellow stationary, dried up pens and markers and donate books to the library that I never read and was no longer interested in. It bothered me how much money I wasted and could have been put to better use. I have also seen older relatives have to give up everything to move to assisted living, so I don’t feel the need to collect things anymore. I now buy things only when I need them or if a have a project. It has taken me a long time to get to this point.

  11. When it comes to friends, I have a few very good ones. I try to have a few ‘quality friends’. But for books and crafts, I can’t cannot have enough. I keep getting them. I believe they help balance my life. Since I am not the outgoing type, books takes me places. Books and crafts help me imagine.
    I however think it is essential to declutter from time to time. It helps free my soul.

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