It’s been ten years since we moved from our home in Western Washington State. It was a cedar-clad monster – three-stories tall with well over 3,000 square feet of living space. It was built in the ‘fifties with no plans – the mom of the family drew the walls on the floor in the morning, and the boys built it – and planned storage was sparse. We packed it tight anyway. We, well ‘me’ my wife would clarify, had tons of stuff. Stuff that might come in handy one day. Broken stuff that can surely be repaired – isn’t that the responsible thing to do? I got in touch with my inner Jedi to figure out how to organize big piles of stuff into smaller piles of stuff without having to get rid of anything.
Then we made a decision to move across the mountains. I changed careers, and there was plenty of money across the state. I moved first and rented a cookie-cutter 1400 square-foot rambler, and we scratched our heads about what to do with our stuff. Easy: we started selling like crazy people. We had on-going Craigslist sales for a couple of months, and I moved stuff out the door via eBay at a pace that made our postman’s head spin. Whatever we didn’t sell, we took a hard look at. If we hadn’t used it, then we gave it away or tossed it.
I was amazed and finally had an epiphany at how nice it was living with less. Our new house was much easier to keep clean, and I wasn’t tripping over stuff. We knew where everything was, and both of us felt like we simply breathed easier than we did with all that stuff staring at us. After a couple of years in Eastern Washington, we moved again to Upstate New York.
This move was serious. New York is a long way from Washington. We bought ten big boxes at the moving store and decided that whatever fit in these boxes would go to New York. Once there, we would shop the thrift stores for furniture and buy other things we needed. But we were still faced with a house full of stuff. The home we rented in New York was tiny at 900 square feet, and we paid twice the rent. So we did the same thing as before. Started selling and giving away and throwing out. We moved the New York and a year later relocated to South Carolina. Where we intend to stay.
What’s the takeaway? The take away is to take away. Get rid of your junk. Get rid of stuff you don’t use. Give it away. Give it to the kids. Give it to a charity. Give it to someone who will be ecstatically happy with the bauble that you have hardly looked at for years. It’s a great feeling. The good feeling and clean space becomes a little addictive. And somehow, at least for me, all of this having less translates into feeling better. I feel a little less claustrophobic. I feel a little bit like I’m in the Big Sky Country, with lots of room around me.
The challenge, of course, now that we’ve settled again, is to keep from accumulating mindlessly. So far we’ve been better. We’ve learned our lesson. But the old feeling creeps in. I probably do need those old sticks – maybe I can prop up a plant with them? The knife with the broken handle? Maybe I’ll fix it? Maybe not.
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