A few years ago when we started entertaining thoughts of how to make our dreams become reality, we came up with this question to determine if we should buy something: “Will it fit on the boat?” This curbed our buying urges tremendously and kept us from buying too many big things. I say too many, but we still ended up with a huge BBQ and living room furniture!
With so many advertisements thrown in our face on a day-to-day and sometimes hour-to-hour basis, it can be hard to resist the feeling, “I really would like to have that” until it becomes, “I really need that”. That’s what advertisers are constantly trying to do… turn your desire into a necessity. Mess with your emotions. That coupled with the American sense of acquiring everything one needs for every perceived need equals accumulation of lots of stuff!
This makes reducing possessions a mind game more than a difficult physical task. (I guess that depends on how much stuff you have!) But the mental adjustment is by far the most difficult.
September 2013, our purging began. We realized the only way to make the dream happen was to sell our house. We didn’t have all that much stuff when you consider the size of our home and our governed buying over the past few years. But still… we had a houseful.
I asked Kevin how he felt if we gave away the big stuff like the living room furniture and our spare beds? I needed his ok since I needed his brawn to move them! Not certain how long it took but he agreed finally and we divested our furniture to others pretty fast! Sofa & chaise lounge, dining room table and chairs, a twin bed and a double bed… all disappeared to other homes. We kept 2 café chairs at our breakfast bar and a little rocker lent us by Kevin’s folks several years back. This gave us a place to eat meals and 1 chair to relax in at the end of the day.
Now we were now down to the little stuff… unused things crammed in dark corners, clothes that don’t get worn, things we thought were necessities at least one time. Keep in mind we downsized to fit into a 30’ sailboat. This compelled us to be minimalists, to imagine the bare requirements we would need.
All of us know that “stuff is just stuff”, and relationships and experiences are the “things that count”. At least we know in an intellectual way, and most of us wouldn’t hesitate to make the right choice when it comes to friendship vs. a broken antique place setting or something like that. (Or would we…?)
But I wonder how many of us realize how attached to our stuff when it comes to; say, following a passion, or doing something for ourselves that we’ve always wanted to do? What is it really that holds you back?
There is an old scenario where it is pointed out that many times; we drive a car we can’t afford to a job we don’t like, so we can make payments on stuff that we think we need, kept in storage because we don’t have time to use it. It’s almost a cliché, but I have to start here, because most of the struggle with downsizing is mentally getting past the hold that “stuff” has on us.
Does that mean that if I overcome the power “stuff” has on me I can quit my job and follow my passion?
Maybe. What if it did, would it be worth it? Well, would it?
Even if it didn’t, and you truly are stuck where you are, the obsession with stuff can weigh on you in ways you don’t even know until you begin getting rid of it.
Begin, this is the magical part.
Start somewhere you can see results right away. For me it was magazines. I have always been fascinated by the idea that for 30 bucks a year, a whole staff of people would spend all their time collecting, sorting, printing and mailing a nice magazine every month for me to read. At one time, I had 10-12 subscriptions going on all sorts of subjects. Many times, the information so moved me that I couldn’t imagine throwing the magazine away. I had stacks, and shelves, and boxes in rooms.. When I started downsizing, I couldn’t just throw them all out. I sorted and organized, and weeded, and fought myself for a long time.
Here is a trick: when your wife gives away your living room furniture, and you don’t have anywhere to sit and read magazines because she caught your dream of downsizing, things happen. I took an entire pickup load of magazines to the recycling center, and couldn’t believe how good it felt to drive away empty. There were more pickup loads to follow.
Pick a room, or a closet, or a drawer, start somewhere, and keep at it until it is empty.
There is another tidbit in the above trick: We didn’t worry too much about selling stuff. For us, we didn’t have a lot of toys, or really nice stuff. We gave a lot to our kids, a lot to our neighbors, and a lot to a second-hand store for truly poor people down the road. The good part about giving it away is that it is over quickly. Someone comes over for dinner, and they leave with half your kitchen drawer contents. Easy-peasy, gone!
In my opinion, trying to sell every last little thing for as much as you can get is an excuse to hold on to it because you can’t get what you think it is worth. If you want to have a garage sale every weekend until you are down to five pairs of slacks and a dozen shirts that is fine, but keep it moving! Giving it away just might make you think twice about accumulating so much a second time.
When we go home next time, we will have four days to finish the process. It won’t be easy. Even at this point, I still struggle over tools, (will they fit on the boat?), and other stuff, but the decision has been made; We will fit all of our stuff into ten regular sized plastic tubs that we will keep in our sons basement until we have a boat to “fit” it all into.
This has been hard for me, but I can’t tell you how good it feels to be free of stuff, free now to take my life in a different direction, after a passion that has dogged me since the first time I felt the sea under my legs.
What’s your passion?
Coming Next…. Downsizing ~ Part 2 (The Nitty Gritty)