What If You Had to Move?

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Would you take all of your stuff?

We’ve been asking ourselves this question a lot. Not that we’re moving, but we’ve lived in our current home for 6 years, and we have 2 large storage buildings on our property. It’s unbelievable, but our stuff seems to have expanded to fit the available storage space. We’ve developed a minor obsession with paring down recently, and it all began a few weeks ago with a rolltop desk.

In our old home, a 1923 Craftsman-style bungalow, my husband and I shared an office. We purchased a matching pair of antiquey-looking rolltop desks because they seemed well-suited for the house. After we moved here they went unused because my “office” is now the kitchen, and my husband prefers to work on his large, $5 garage sale table.

In my usual fit of post-baby nesting, I decided to sell my desk. I found a new home for the junk living in the myriad of drawers and cubbies (actually, I put most of it in the Goodwill box), and I sold it on CraigsList within a week. My husband, encouraged by my success, decided that he didn’t want his anymore either, so we repeated the cleaning out process and sold it too.

The money we received for the desks ($500!) and the extra space we have now that they’re gone, was quite an incentive to get rid of more stuff. We decided that we’re going to systematically go through both storage buildings and our entire house/garage, and ruthlessly purge stuff as if we were moving. We’re going to look at each item and ask, “Would we want to move this?” If the answer is no, it’s going away.

I personally am much happier when I don’t have to devote my whole life to the care and maintenance of stuff, and my attitude seems to have rubbed off on my husband. We watched a television program once about an elderly couple who was moving from their home of 50+ years into assisted living. They and their children were faced with the Herculean task of weeding out a lifetime of possessions. I felt sorry for them because the process was exhausting and emotional, and I know that feeling. My husband and I went through the same process over and over again for nearly 7 years to reach the point we’re at now. It was no picnic, let me tell you.

The most interesting part was when the mother was cleaning out a china cabinet, and she said, “I just don’t know what to do with all this stuff.” She turned to her daughter, held up a decorative plate and asked, “Do you want one of these?” Her daughter emphatically said, “NO!” My husband turned to me and said, “That’s it! I’m getting rid of more stuff!” We both agreed that we didn’t want our stuff to become a burden to our children, and so we would make a continuous effort to keep our material possessions under control.

This is an ongoing, neverending battle, especially with three children. In recent weeks I’ve completely cleaned and reorganized our entire basement, and in the process I put together another huge box for Goodwill, and two boxes for consignment. It was an enormous, tiresome project. I also helped my husband weed out a mountain of paper and old textbooks from his office. I sometimes wish that we could get away with never buying anything, ever again, but of course that’s not practical. The only way to really manage your stuff, so as to not end up on “Clean House” or “Hoarders,” is to keep working at it, day by day, and to make conscious, deliberate choices about what you purchase and bring into your home. It also really helps if you make your wishes known to your family, as in “Please don’t buy my kids any more plastic toys.” (See Keeping Gifts Under Control).

And if you already have a serious stuff problem and are struggling to make decisions about what to keep and what to let go of, ask yourself this,

“What if you had to move?”

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