More stuff decisions

Posted by  Brooke Tower on Monday, March 3, 2014

"I must have things but things must not have me."
--Jill Briscoe

I think I first heard these words about 20 years ago and my understanding of them has grown with time. There are many, many parts of preparing for this trip--and we are in the process of many of them. Lately, more of my time and energy has been spent on the decisions of what to DO with many of these objects. I had known it would be a large process and had kind of looked forward to an excuse to go through things and simplify, but I hadn't realized how much energy it would take. Maybe, just maybe, I have started to realize how much certain things DO have me...

When we finished our basement, we made a conscious effort to not have too much storage space, knowing that empty space tends to get filled. It is certainly easier to fill the space and leave it than to take the time and energy to go through, sort and decide what to do with the things. There is nothing quite like moving to make you aware of all the objects and how much time it takes to maintain them. We also get the added bonus of storing it in storage units (rather than moving it to another home), so I think we are more acutely aware of moving the things into it and how much space these precious objects will take up.

8 years ago, when we moved from our condo to this 3 bedroom house with a 2 car garage, we filled just less than half of a semi-trailer. And as we have started to fill our first 10x10 foot storage unit, I think we may have flattered ourselves with how few things we think we need to keep. I have already taken three carloads of donations, given quite a few other things to friends and family, recycled dozens of bags of paper, and still the amount of things we don't use but think we'll need when we get back is staggering.

I started in the closets, which felt smaller and more manageable. Going through things including mementos and books in our bedroom was exhausting to me. I was surprised by how I felt sorting through forgotten memories and things. Many fond memories brought smiles, but then books that I still haven't read or projects I never got very far with left me with some guilt and judgments about myself. Packing up some of the books felt like I was packing up friends and taping up the box makes it feel "inaccessible" for now (5 whole miles away in our storage unit).

After feeling weary with the master bedroom packing/sorting project, I was pleasantly surprised that going through the kitchen cabinets took a lot less energy for me. I think the fairly organized cabinets helped break down the task for me, and it was easier to look at those objects with less emotion about how much I had used them. I came across two lovely wedding gifts that I realized I had NEVER even used in the last 14.5 year of marriage and was able to laugh at how I had thought I would use them, and hadn't. Apparently I judge myself less according to my kitchen utensils :).

Lessons learned:

  • Boxing things up and moving them out of the house makes them seem much further away
  • Cleaning out the kitchen with far more objects took much less out of me than going through far fewer books and beloved mementos
  • Things have me much more than I'd prefer to admit
  • I am growing in my ability to laugh at myself when confronted with less-than-pleasant realities that are different than what I pictured in my head :)