There are a few different kinds of weight we encounter in our day. There is the obvious kind (our physical weight), then there is the more abstract kind – weight of the project you have at work, weight of an issue burdening your relationships, weight of a big decision you need to make. The kind of weight I want to focus on right now is the weight of your belongings. Your stuff. Mostly, your crap.
My family and I, rather quickly, decided to sell our home in Seattle, WA and drive cross-country to the East Coast for 6 months. After 6 months, we planned on heading West again to California to visit family for another 3 months, and then after that, we had no idea.
We held multiple garage sales and sold things on Craigslist. We had been holding on to baby clothes that no longer fit our kids, tools that I no longer used, kitchen-wares that looked like great ideas at the time, silly knickknacks that just took up space and served no real purpose, and toys… unbelievable amounts of toys that friends and family believed our kids needed. Any parent reading this will understand how much a toddler ‘needs’ a store bough toy, especially when a rinsed out container of sour cream with some dried beans placed inside will keep a toddler more occupied and content than any crappy piece of crap plastic toy ever will (Mom, stop sending my kids toys!).
My wife and realized during this process of selling our things that we felt a weight being lifted from our shoulders. We had turned our basement into a 20 ft x 20 ft storage unit. This was a space that would have been an amazing place for the kids to play and hang out, but we never had the chance to use it because it was already in use holding all of our stuff, most of which we NEVER touched in the 4 years we lived in our house. We embraced the feeling that came with reducing our belongings and decided we could get rid of more, we could sell more, we could donate more. We did. The weeks leading up to our move, we donated multiple large piles of things to charity, we sold many large furniture pieces that we never really liked, and even handed off some of our more favored furniture to newly wed friends who were setting up their first home together ( this was my favorite, because now, almost a year later, I’ll see pictures of these friends having dinner parties in their home, and see our furniture being a part of their lives, it’s a cool feeling).
One more thing to throw in here is that we decided to give our ‘daily use’ plates, bowls, and serving dishes to a family member looking for kitchen stuff to fill her kitchen in her new (first) house. What would we use then when we finally found a place to settle? Glad you asked. We have been ‘storing’ for almost 7 years our fancy Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner dishes and serving platters. Essentially, white dishes that look fancy, but probably cost as much as the stuff we used on a regular basis. Why were we storing dishes we use once, maybe twice a year? It seems so absurd. So, as I write this post, settled in our new home, I’m glad to say we are using our ‘once a year’ dishes on a daily basis, and we are not storing any extra.
By the time we were ready to start driving East, we had reduced all of our belongings to fit in a 12 x 15 ft storage unit, minus the things we carried in our van to the East Coast. We did it. Had we not eliminated the amount of stuff from our life, we would have ended up paying for 2 storage units.
Fast forward 9 months. We have decided to settle in Central California for a while ( we still don’t know how long exactly) and we are ready to move our belongings from Seattle to our new home in California.
When getting quotes for moving, I was quoted 8,000 lbs from a few different moving companies. I laughed, did some math, and figured we had at most 4,500 pounds.
I met with the movers in Seattle to over-see the loading of the moving truck. I was feeling very proud about how few items the movers would have to load and pack, but when the movers began unloading the storage unit, lining the hallway with just the boxes my wife and I had packed (not counting the furniture OR the boxes of loose items the movers packed later), I felt like I was watching the final scene from Indiana Jones Raiders of the Lost Ark, a row of crates that goes as far as the eye can see, disappearing into the shadowy depths of the warehouse (it wasn’t that bad, the lighting was actually really great in the storage facility). What could we possibly have packed in all those boxes?
The final weight of the items we shipped was 7,500 lbs. *Cough*, well, damn, we still have a ton of stuff.
We unpacked our boxes, and found even more things that we don’t need.
Now, when we look at something to decide whether or not to keep it, we have 9 months of time that have passed since we last touched, used, or even thought of whatever it is we are contemplating keeping. We lived with so little after we sold our house that most of our stuff now seems superfluous.
It’s a work in progress, paring down our belongings. It can be tedious at times, but, for us, it’s felt very freeing. The last few days I’ve been focused on clothes. T-shirts that I’ve told myself I’m keeping solely for sentimental reasons, pants I’m keeping in case I gain 10 pounds again or lose 20 pounds again, and dress shirts I’ll wear maybe a few times a year — they’ll all be going away.
I’ve read that eliminating clutter from your life will allow you to better focus on things you’d rather direct your attention toward. I’m curious to see how this changes my focus.