anne_mikolay_120How much do you think your “stuff” is worth? I don't mean your real estate holdings or your car. I mean your “stuff,” the bric-a-brac that fills your living room, the souvenirs from your trip to Disney World, your DVD collection, your posters, your jewelry or your clothes. Have you ever calculated the worth of all the trinkets and treasures that you hold dear?

While running errands, driving here and there, I came across an estate sale in a house in my neighborhood this past weekend. Cars were parked on both sides of the street as countless people streamed into the open house in search of a bargain. I decided to do the same.

Everything within the house was priced to sell. In the dining room, the dining set, the china, and several sets of linen napkins and tablecloths were available for the asking. All the pine furniture, the wall hangings, and the colonial mirror were for sale. In the bedrooms, the closet doors were open and the clothes were up for grabs. The dressers were lined with jewelry, trinket boxes, and figurines of dogs and other animals for people to peruse and purchase.

The gentleman who collected my payment for a dog figurine told me the house belonged to his recently deceased mother, and he had to sell it and its contents. I then remembered his mother. I did not know her personally, but she was a pleasant neighborhood acquaintance, small in stature, big in smile. She mowed her own lawn, diligently pulled weeds, and toured the neighborhood on her bicycle with a wicker basket on the handle-bars. I offered my condolences to her son and said a silent prayer for his mother's repose.

And then I started thinking, I didn't just tour a house. I walked through a home and picked through the remnants of a woman's life. This woman used her silverware on holidays, decorated the Christmas tree with the many decorations now for sale in boxes, and hung her babies' photographs on the walls. Obviously, she liked dogs and colonial décor, and someone in her family, perhaps herself, was an artist; she valued their work enough to hang several paintings and sketches on the walls. This woman sat in the chair, now priced to sell at $50.00, and from time-to-time, glanced in the mirror, now priced at $15.00. Who knows what memories were attached to the dog figurine I purchased? Who knows what plans were made for the yarn in the sewing basket or the fabric in the closet?  Who knows how much this woman loved her home, her things, her family, her life?

Lesson learned: don't place too much value on “stuff” that will be picked through, disbursed or discarded long after you are gone. Rather, gather moments, create memories, nurture loved ones, hold family close. Concentrate on the true treasure, the legacy that will increase in value over time.

You can't put a price tag on that.