When I moved into my first apartment, I accumulated “stuff,” not thinking too much about what I was bringing into my home. Not expensive stuff, mind you, as my favorite haunts were (and continue to be) garage sales, thrift stores, and the like. But just stuff.
And you truly never realize how much stuff you have until you have to move.
The Ex later moved into that (first) apartment with me, bringing very little of his own. Soon after we moved into a two-bedroom garden apartment.
More space = more stuff.
And that is where most people, including myself, veer off track.
I have a picture from when The Ex and I moved into that second apartnent. I’m in the back corner of the living room, looking like something the cat dragged in, surrounded by boxes. And boxes. And boxes.
And man, what a weird collection of stuff it was. Miami Dolphin memorbilia (his). Huge Marilyn Monroe and James Dean framed prints (ours). That was an odd phase. Rubber stamp collections (mine and still have).
Soon after we got married, we bought our first house. Again, more space = more stuff.
And then our second house (where the kids and I live now), thankfully a bit smaller.
And then our third house (bigger).
And now we’re back to house #2. That’s a story by itself.
When we moved from house #2 to 3, I started to take a hard look at what we had. What we coveted. What we kept packing, moving, and unpacking from home to home to home.
And I started to edit.
With each move, I had garage sales to get rid of stuff. Downsized more. And edited more ruthlessly.
Since the kids and I have been on our own, I have done so even more. We think long and hard about every single item we bring into our home. Why we need it. What it will bring to our lives. Weight need vs. want.
Over the past few years, I have either sold or donated hundreds of cookbooks.
Tons and tons of placemats and table cloths.
Looking back, I had way too much. Over the past three years, I have had a mind shift. I want my kids to have memories. Adventures. Experiences. And to not be weighed down by material items. The whole need versus want is such an important lesson.
Don’t get me wrong. There is an iTouch or two. A TV or three. But they have very little when it comes to toys. And this way, they appreciate and use each and every one.
As William Morris famously said, “Have nothing in your houses that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.”
A few years ago, Tim Gunn laid down a similar criteria when it comes to attacking your closets.
And it is so true.
Just last week, I looked at a bookcase outside our downstairs bathroom. It has been in the same place for over three years. Filled with cookbooks from top to bottom. It fit perfectly in the alcove where it was, and most people didn’t give it a second thought as they passed it. Or as I glanced at it from the dining room table.
But all the sudden, it bothered me. Within minutes, my decision was made. I took a picture of the bookcase and loaded it onto a local “swap and sell” board that I frequent. The bookcase (and its sister in the kitchen) was sold that night. It housed cookbooks I haven’t touched in forever. I sold some. Donated the rest. And moved on.
And now that little area is bare. It needs a piece of artwork, perhaps from the kids, hanging on the wall now that it’s empty (and a clean slate!), but other than that, it’s empty.
And all the sudden I feel better.
The space now looks just a smidge bigger.
Our house is small, and doesn’t have much in it, but it has everything we need.
And that is where I place my value. And the lesson I want for the kids.
Getting rid of some stuff over the past few years hasn’t always been as easy a decision as those bookcase. Do I keep the wedding videos? The wedding albums? The journals where our friends and family wrote their thoughts for us? How about the baby clothes from the kids?
Luckily a flooded basement took care of some of that decision-making for me. I have, so far, kept the videos and wedding pictures. Most of them. Because it’s a part of a happy past, and I think the kids need to see it. Just like there are pictures of The Ex up on our pantry doors.
Some people might find that weird.
I don’t really care.
I’m not doing that for other people. I’m doing it for my kids.
Beyond not hanging on to stuff, we have also done a ton of organizing. The other night, I was motivated after the kids went to bed. The house was quiet, I was caught up on my work, what to do?
I tackled our baking cabinet. I pulled everything out, wiped down the shelves, reorganized it, and, of course, took pictures to document the process. Natch.
And suddenly everything was better.
It’s those tiny little things that breathe extra air into your airways.
That all the sudden make you feel lighter.
Like virtual cobwebs are swept away.
And, not for nothing, had I done that before we made an after-dinner dash to the store for milk and peanut butter, I would have seen that we did, in fact, already have peanut butter.
All the more reason to continue to organize, purge, streamline, and let go.
One drawer or cabinet at a time.
The beautiful Jules at Pancakes & French Fries does a regular event, The William Morris Project, about this very topic, so if you need any more inspiration, do pop in there from time to time and see what she and her readers are tackling.
And with that, I have a technology drawer to sort through next…