Aka My “Less Things” Journey
If you haven’t gotten a chance to read part 1 yet, here is a link: http://wp.me/p4IMMy-2B
In my adult life, I have so far lived in twelve different homes, two of which were destroyed by flood or fire.
I have lost things that were valuable.
I have lost things that were invaluable.
I have lost things that were unvaluable. (Yes, I looked this up. It really is a word!)
In the end, they were all things. Gone things. With or without a warning. Some I grieved, others I only missed, and a few, I presume, have gone as yet unnoticed. When I had the chance to choose to let go of my things, an opportunity which moving necessitates, I wrestled with that question of value. There’s at least a little bit of pain in letting go of most things, and when they’re taken without permission – as in the case of my grandmother’s mirror- it hurts more.
But all this time I was learning something; to let things go.
Since we’ve been married, Joe and I have run through every financial arrangement; we both started out working professionally. Then, when we had our first child and Joe decided to return to school, I continued teaching and supported our burgeoning family until five years ago, when we switched roles: That is to say, Joe is now supporting our family and I stay home with the kids.
What that means is that since we began having kids, we have always had extra bills and only one income. So we live on a tight budget. When we’ve moved to a new house, we shopped yard sales if we needed new furnishings. Our taste is mostly mid-century modern/minimalist. We’re proud of the deals we score, like these chairs, $2, and $7. respectively.
Anyone who has moved is familiar with the Downsize Dance. Once you realize that in very real terms, your “stuff” is worth, say, $1/pound or 22 square feet total, you have to start placing value on each item; I only bought this chair for $2, but it will cost me $5 to take it with me. Do I like it enough to buy it back twice over? Can I find another one like it for $2 or even $5 on the other end? If I can, will it fit in the trunk of a Honda Civic?
Arriving here in Texas, the destination of my twelfth move, I feel like I still have too many things. The kitchen is a good example; things just accumulate. I will sometimes be thinking “You know, I don’t have a waffle iron. There are so many kitchen things I just don’t have, especially for as much as I cook!” But when I finally got the last three kitchen boxes emptied (out of, say, 12), and this is what my kitchen table looked like…
I just stared at it all. Where will it fit? I might use half of this stuff!
But I’m seeing a change in myself. It didn’t happen overnight, but over time. Everyone who is lucky enough to have the choice must constantly decide the value of their belongings – from that coffee can you just emptied and could save to store sundries in to the antique dining room set you inherited to that new purchase you’re contemplating. That was the first lesson. But being happier with less was the second.
I first noticed it in how we’re raising our third child. With all the moves, floods, and years, we ended up only having one item for our baby in storage; an infant bassinet. Of course, when she outgrew that, we got a crib. But we didn’t buy a changing table or any other nursery furniture, a swing, a walker, a big wardrobe of clothes, a play mat, a play yard, a mess of toys or most of the other things my friends with babies were buying. In fact, now that she is 9 1/2 months old, we still don’t even have a high chair. She sits on my lap and eats from a plate. Yes, some of it is because we are living on a budget. But what has surprised me is that I haven’t really wanted those things for her. If I bought that swing, or walker, or play yard, etc, – I reason – I might have an excuse not to hold her and play with her. Our house will have more clutter, and we’ll have to stare at it one day and decide that it no longer has enough value to us to stay in our home; and as I said before, that decision always is a little bit painful. Hard to come by, anyway. Yes, as a family that lives on a budget, we resist buying a lot of extra things, but what I’m surprised and pleased to see change in myself is that I don’t feel I’m missing out. I don’t think I would clutter my home up with more stuff if I had more money. I actually feel happier in a room with just a few things. Necessary things. A simple room is a peaceful room. A few clothes means just a few choices. A smaller home means less to clean.
I know I still have a ways to go on my journey. I would truly like to stop accumulating things and even “lose” a few more. But I also really, really want a piano.
Having less things and feeling happier that way frees me to enjoy what really matters; the people in my life. And while things will always hold some value in our lives, hopefully it is not so high a value that we cannot afford to lose them.