Downsizing

This week a nurse came to our house to do a health exam for our life insurance application, and she left with a box full of girls’ clothes, shoes, and books for her grand daughters.

Encouraging both friends and strangers to take all my stuff is a new experience for me. But I have to say that so far I mostly like it.

Brad & I have always tried to keep our household clutter to a minimum. I love that most of our kitchen items were wedding gifts, I still remember who gave them to us, and we haven’t acquired too much more since then. But simplicity is hard to accomplish and maintain when our entire economy revolves around consumerism, so inevitably the closets fill up, the garage needs more shelves, and eventually the junk drawer requires contents being pressed down with one hand in order to open it with the other.

About 4 months ago we started sorting everything we own into 4 categories:

Trash

Give away/sell

Storage

Stumbo (our 5th wheel)

I’m laying on my great room floor tonight, the room mostly emptied of furniture, and carpets still damp from being cleaned today, and I’m still categorizing the last random household items into the same 4 categories. I’m feeling decision fatigue so some of these final items leave me stumped.

An extra scarf, a lunch box, extra sheet sets, an old digital camera, a costco-size unopened jar of chicken bullion.

What will be useful in our life on the road? What can we not take, but will miss? What will I put in storage and upon return wonder, why did I keep this?

An interesting thing happened as we cleaned – we realized we had much more sentimental stuff stored away than we thought. We found things we knew we had tucked away – childhood photos, notes we sent to each other when we dated, comic book collections. But others we had forgotten about – guest books from our first housewarming party, papers we wrote in bible class in college, old art projects. If I had never been reminded that I owned them and they had been thrown away, I would never have missed them. But once I see these kinds of items it’s very hard to get rid of them. The sentimentality of objects and memorabilia feels a little bit like a trap to me. And the longer you own something it seems like the more weight it carries.  Since everything I know I learned from the movie “Fight Club” I’ll quote Tyler Durden on this topic, “The things you own end up owning you.”

After my wedding I didn’t throw my bouquet at the reception. I took it with us on our honeymoon, and it was the centerpiece of our dining table all week. At the end of the week, I closed my eyes & tossed it over my shoulder…into a dumpster. I knew without a doubt that if I kept it, and dried it, and kept it in a closet for years that I would never be able to bring myself to part with it. So instead of adding the weight of years to this special item, I parted with it while I could still bring myself to do so. I sold my wedding dress on the Internet later that summer for the same reason.

This week we had a bunch of our friends over to rummage through what was left of our things to give/sell. As I encourged my friends to take my stuff, some of which had many memories attached to it, I realized that actually giving it away was not the difficult part. The hardest part was deciding to get rid of it. That moment when I decided which of the 4 categories to put it into. Sometimes that moment was excruciating. But once that decision was done, actually giving it to someone else, to see the potential for new life in old things, was actually really wonderful and very freeing. For example, I was debating whether or not to part with a set of 3 small paintings I made about 10 years ago that split a scripture into 3 parts. A friend took it home and commented, “I’m so excited; I’ve always loved this!” And that to me feels better than having it hang on my wall in the same old place.

I read once that you sometimes don’t know the weight of something you’re carrying until you let it go.

For everyone I’m sure there’s a different amount of stuff you’re comfortable keeping. Some of the sentimental items we discovered this summer we decided to keep, others we threw away. But if you are wrestling with whether or not to let go of something, I think you will find relief in pushing yourself to part with just a little bit more than what’s easy. This experience of downsizing is part of what drew us to this idea of life in an RV for awhile. So far the process has been both difficult and rewarding, and I already feel lighter than I expected.

T – 10 days.

6 Comment

  1. “An interesting thing happened as we cleaned – we realized we had much more sentimental stuff stored away than we thought… If I had never been reminded that I owned them and they had been thrown away, I would never have missed them. But once I see these kinds of items it’s very hard to get rid of them. ”

    Thank you for writing this. We just picked up 6 crates of items we stored away when we went full-time 6 years ago. Today we will sort through them. When I peeked into the boxes I realized I haven’t missed any of the things inside. I’m hoping that sorting through this sentimental stuff now will be whole lot easier.

    1. Sarah says: Reply

      Thanks for your comment, Crissa! You & your family are kindof my heroes right now. I’ve been following Michael’s blog for quite some time. Thanks for sharing your RV life online to inspire the rest of us! And thanks for taking the time to read my thoughts. See you out there!

  2. Sarah I totally understand! My husband is still active duty, so we move about every 3 years. I go through my house and sort everything just as you have. It can be so difficult at times. I have one chest that has all my sentimental things. Each time I go through my chest to make sure I still want to keep those items before moving on. It’s the hardest thing, but once the decision has been made it is definitely easier. Good luck on you new adventure and making wonderful memories with your beautiful family. God bless you all!

    1. sarah says: Reply

      Goodness, moving every 4 years sounds intense! Thanks for reading!

  3. Heidi Forrest says: Reply

    Love reading this Sarah! It reminded me of five years ago when we were getting ready to move to Tanzania. We were given two boxes to store at home!! We ended up with four and gave two to someone else to store but I don’t even remember what is in those things. Honestly I would just get back my wedding album and my kids newborn outfits and any pics and be good. Amazing what time does. But I am realizing here I definitely put more away for “maybe sometime I will use it) because I am terrified if I get rid of it I can never get anything like it again. It’s a whole other ball game trying not to collect too much here.
    So proud of you guys though and I can only imagine the life lessons the girls are learning through it all. so wish we could do that trip alongside you guys but you are inspiring me in years to come!!! Maybe we will just do that as our re entry back into America!!!

    1. sarah says: Reply

      It will definitely be a learning experience for all of us!!

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