How We Got Rid of Half of Our STUFF
We live in a world that tells us we need to consume. Get a bigger house and fill it up with stuff. Get a better job with more money so you can afford more stuff. STUFF! Here, we’ll discuss the steps we took to downsize all of our belongings by HALF and how you too can live a full life with less!
Over the weekend, my husband and I had a lovely time visiting with family and friends for my Goddaughter’s baptism. It was great to see so many people that we only get to see a few times a year. Lots of people were asking us about our house plans, the building process, and so on, and this one question has been reverberating in my mind ever since:
“So, are you going to have a separate garage for all your stuff? I mean, you’re going to have to have a place for all of your stuff!!”
This particular person has been pretty supportive of us (even while probably thinking we’re absolutely crazy), but it still illustrates to me the pervasive mindset that most people still have: that you need a bigger house to hold all of your stuff!
Why? Why do you need more stuff? And why does everyone else seem to think that WE need more stuff too? It reminded me a lot of George Carlin’s “A Place for My Stuff” routine.
Well, we have a kid now, so we MUST have stuff for him! Of course! And every time we have a need, we simply must run out to the store or get on Amazon to get something that will satisfy us, right? And we’ve been married for almost 10 years, so our old stuff is starting to look dated and I need everything to be Pinterest perfect, so we absolutely HAVE to get some better stuff!!
No. No. No. No. No.
We downsized by a LOT in order to transition to my mom’s condo while we build our cordwood house. We had been living in a rather modest 3 br/ 2 ba mid-century ranch with a full basement. The whole thing was full of stuff. Before we listed the house, we refinished the wood floors and had to move everything from the main floor into our two-car garage and kitchen for safekeeping. It looked something like this:
It was a nightmare to move it in and out, but in the process I learned something important:
We didn’t miss any of it!
So as we led up to listing the house, we purged. And we purged. And we purged some more. Having already dumped over $24,000 in debt, continuing to purge the things that were holding us back was a piece of cake! We made dozens of donations to Goodwill and St. Vincent dePaul. We sold things on Craigslist. We gave things away to friends and neighbors. We sold a ton of books, games, and DVDs at Half Price Books. We got rid of as much as we could and packed away the rest.
We brought about half of it with us. Our bedroom furniture, our everyday items, and most of Mark’s instruments are all at my mom’s with us. The rest of it is in storage in our friends’ basement and it takes up maybe 1/3 of the space they have down there. It’s mostly furniture we’ll need after we build and boxes of non-useful items like framed pictures and photo albums.
Aside from the few kitchen implements I went back for, I don’t miss any of the things we have in storage. It’s just STUFF!!! No one ever found enlightenment in a basement full of crap. No one ever laid on their deathbed and regretted not having enough stuff!
We’re building a small house by most standards, but even if you don’t endeavor to live in a smaller dwelling or go to the lengths of a tiny house, there’s still a lot that you can do to simplify your “stuff situation”.
1. Assess your stuff.
This can be anything from clothing to furniture to knick-knacks and so on. Ask yourself:
Is it useful?
Is it meaningful?
If your answer to either question is “no”, get rid of it. If you’re unsure, try giving yourself a trial separation. Pack it up in a box and store it away where you can’t get to it for a while. Maybe this is a week or a month. If at the end of your trial you find that you don’t miss it, get rid of it!!
2. Get rid of your stuff!
Yard sale it! Consign it! Donate it! Recycle it! Sell it for scrap! Do something, just get it out of your house and out of your life!
3. Don’t buy more stuff!
This is the most important one. If you find that you want to go buy something, ask yourself:
- Is there something I already own that could be used for this purpose instead?
- Can I up-cycle or recycle something I already own to be a new, unique item?
- Do I actually NEED this thing, or do I just THINK I need it? (Hint: it’s probably the second one!)
- Could I borrow or rent it instead? (think: library, tool rental, borrowing from people you know, etc.)
“But Emily! What we really need to get is a -” NO.
“But if we could get something that could – ” NOPE.
“I read that this one thing was really great for – ” STOP IT.
You have to change your mindset from being one of HAVING into being one of MAKING AND DOING.
For those of you thinking you might want to dabble in living “tiny” or “small”, I highly suggest a trial run. We lived here for a month when our floors were being refinished and it gave us a solid idea of what we could and couldn’t handle. After being here for just over a year, our trial run was pretty much spot on. If you don’t have family with a place where you could do a trial run, save up some money to spend a week or a month renting a “tiny house” or a small cottage. And even if you don’t want to downsize your home, there’s never harm in downsizing the amount of stuff you have!
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