All That Stuff
Note: this subject was a request - there seems to be a lot of interest in all that Stuff!
Do you own your Stuff, or does your Stuff own you? I heard someone ask that question years ago, many many years ago. It has no impact until you stop and think about it, which I never did until recently. Why do people stay in one place, one state, one town, one home? There are lots of reasons, but one big reason is their Stuff. A friend once said you spend a third of your life wishing you had Stuff, another third acquiring Stuff, and the rest of it getting rid of your Stuff. I hope we have more than a third of our lives left because we already got rid of our Stuff!
We became minimalists not out of a desire to call ourselves minimalists, but out of necessity to reach our goals. We wanted to be able to move around the country and the world and you can't do that with Stuff, not much of it anyway. You could store it commercially, but that is an incredibly wasteful thing to do with your money. People who do that typically spend more on storage fees in the first year (Averaging $1200/yr) than the Stuff is worth, and then they continue paying the fees year in and year out forever. That made no sense to us, so we sold all our Stuff, including our house and one car (the other one is for sale soon). We had an estate sale before the house closed, and many people have asked how we were able to part with all our Stuff.
It went something like this: Throwing Out, Minimizing, Storing, and Selling/Gifting. The throwing out was easy, if time consuming. You'd be shocked at how much junk is in your house right now. I recommend getting rid of that junk (and if you think about it you can easily find it in your house), for peace of mind if nothing else. It seemed never-ending but once that was mostly done, we started minimizing by looking at everything we owned with a critical eye (downright ruthless at times), and decided whether it would help or hinder our new lifestyle. Guess what? Very, very few things actually helped, so they went on the minimalist chopping block. Big things like cars, TVs, couches, chairs, tables, all those had to go. Knick-knacks? Gone. Artwork? Gone, with very few exceptions. Clothes? Dramatically reduced (helped by the fact that we are going to warm places). Kitchen supplies? Dramatically reduced. This process actually went on for months before our sale.
We did identify certain things that we wanted to keep and store and those included family pictures and artifacts, cold weather clothes, and important documents. These are being stored at our families' houses and add up to about 6 of those lidded plastic bins. The emotional attachment to tables, chairs and knick-knacks simply didn't exist. There was no joy there, seeing these things in the house, but there was plenty of joy in our long conversations about beach life day and night. Also in the category of “storing” we took pictures of various awards, newspaper articles, etc. that we'd been hauling around our whole lives. Deb had a ton of dog training ribbons, I had some baseball trophies and some beer brewing and writing awards, that sort of thing. And we cut out the key pages from our high school yearbooks – the books were simply too big and heavy to keep. We had to be ruthless!
EXCEPT, we agreed that each of us could have one 'luxury item' (yes, we used to watch Survivor 🙂 ). Deb chose a large, super double thick and heavy (but cool!) blanket made by one of her best friends. Did I mention it is large and heavy? It's large and heavy! I took a small, light wooden statue I bought on our honeymoon in 1988. It has great sentimental value for me, and brings me joy. It is a beautiful freeform sculpture of a couple's embrace, they are intertwined, she is leaning back and he is well, Deb thinks it's porn, but I say it's art. You can decide for yourselves!
Next we were down to things we wanted people to have: tools large and small, some furniture, a lot of lawn furniture, basically various things our kids could use right away. And if someone gave us a gift we weren't going to keep, we gave it back to them so they could keep it or give it again. We enjoyed those things but they didn't make the cut. Back to being ruthless, our target from the beginning has been to get down to a duffel bag (XL Eddie Bauer), a backpack (carry-on size), and a dog each. We later added our bikes, but only if we can ship them for less than the cost of a good bike down there.
Finally, we had the estate sale, and ran it ourselves instead of hiring a company (consider this decision very carefully if you are still working while having a sale). We took 3 floors of Stuff and put them all on the main floor. We shut off access to top and bottom floors and set up a flow of people in and out through the garage where the pay station was. And we sold Stuff for 3 days. Furniture, sports equipment, dishes, pots/pans, utensils, lamps, clocks, artwork, clothing, all of it was walking out the door and out of our lives. And we were thrilled! It was incredibly hard work and only made possible with the help of our great helper friends, but we did it. We priced this Stuff to sell too, probably getting about 10 cents on the dollar we paid for it. The goal wasn't to get rich (fat chance anyway), but to get rid of the Stuff! We gave great deals on certain items to certain people, for example a cute young couple got a steal on a real quality couch. Another guy, much less friendly, didn't get the price he wanted for a desk chair and he walked away. What can I say, he made me grumpy. :/ We were surprised at a few things that didn't sell, like some nice beer glasses, some art, some kitchen Stuff. At the end we put out what was left, for free, and people came and took almost all of it. I was heartened to see that even for the free Stuff people were only taking what they could use, not stocking up for their own garage sale.
All of this planning, packing, gifting, selling, replanning, and repacking was complicated by the process and sequence of our life changes. During the transition, we stayed in 7 places in 7 weeks, some only a day at a time on our way to Florida. So that required some extra, but temporary, Stuff. That's life - you can't plan it all but you can learn to go with the flow. So we have some car camping gear that will go away when we head to the islands. We have some food, spices, etc. that will be finished or tossed, that sort of thing.
So no, we're certainly not down to a duffel and a backpack each (yet), but we are getting close. And we are light and free. Free from all that Stuff. Most of all, we are happy.
TODAY'S SPECIAL: Trust Me!
It’s almost like we’re in the biergarten and your telling us another story. I love these. Insightful funny and real. I appreciate how hard you guys worked three last few months getting rid of your stuff! Still miss you guys on these warm summer nights!!
Thanks Danna,We feel like we are hanging out with you guys when we share our stories. Its been fun writing them and remembering all the things we have already accomplished!
Somehow Norm made his statue sound like something from the art institute! My blanket only weighs 2 lbs! And squishes down very small! Hahahaha
IT’S GOOD THOUGH!
At one point we said, "If we’re not filling the trash can to the top every week, we’re screwing up".
I’m glad I bought a house at the same time you sold yours! Such perfect timing!
That couldn’t have worked out better!
Now I want to go home and get rid of Stuff! Great reading all these stories! Hugs, Kaaren
Do it, you’ll thank me later! 🙂
I know the process you used when Diane and I moved from our home of 28 years into our new house. We gave away a lot of STUFF. We had moved everything we were keeping to the new house and that left a lot more to get rid of. So we had a "Garage give-away" instead of a "Garage sale".
That’s interesting. I bet you don’t miss a bit of it either. STUFF is just stuff. Life is what it is, or should be, about!
An unintentionally funny read: The Art of Tidying by a Japanese woman I can’t recall. One good part was that you only keep what brings you Joy when you hold it. And BTW, the supreme Court was never able to define porn either. I like both items saved! -Casey
Love this, Casey! Where is your blog BTW? You are a great writer!