We are trying to distill our belongings down to one Tupperware bin. This is a process that we initiated in 2009. Some ask why we started so early. One reason is economic, to capture the greatest return on the sales of things that held value. If we waited until the last minute we would have been desperate to move things out of the house and would have taken any offer. In this way, we’ve had time to be patient and maximized $$ on sales mostly from ebay and craiglist. And the rest goes to Goodwill, other local charities and friends.
Our things were repurposed. They served us well but are of no use in our new lifestyle. They were either turned into traveling currency or donated to someone else. Trust me, there are people out there who want your stuff. The other reason we started so early was because this process takes a LONG time. And it’s painful. There’s a reason we’ve schlepped this stuff around the country in all our moves. If we waited to the end, we’d have to get rid of everything abruptly. We thought it would be better to wade into the waters slowly, so to speak, getting rid of things in stages and slowly acclimating to our minimalist lifestyle. In this way the sense of loss is minimized because it’s a gradual process of letting go.
But back to the bin. It’s not big, roughly the size of a laundry basket. Not much will fit in there. And we’re sharing it, Scott & I. It’s been an interesting exercise to examine our relationship with our stuff. Is it a healthy relationship? Or one of dependence? We’ve had many thoughtful conversations about how much time, energy and money we invest into the purchase, storage, maintenance and protection of our stuff. At what point do the things we own, start to own us? We walk around our house and wonder what will make the final cut. A ticket to the bin. Every article up for potential placement in the bin undergoes careful consideration. Why is it being kept? Is it of sentimental value? Does it have monetary value? Is it irreplaceable?
Perhaps more interesting than what’s in the bin, is what isn’t. It’s not my wedding dress. That was donated to a non-profit that offers free wedding rentals to brides with limited budgets. It’s not our photo albums. All of our pictures have been scanned, turned electronic, pictures tossed. The albums would never have survived a basement storage anyways. For this reason our collection of books and CDs were liquidated using half.com. It’s not the closet filled with clothes, jackets and shoes. It’s not all the decorations. Most of those were donated to local families or organizations (the “wanted” section of Craigslist is great for direct donation of your stuff, and it feels good to know you’ve helped someone in your community). All the tchotchke and trinkets from our travels and things we’ve collected along the way were photographed for remembrance, but they were found new homes. For obvious reasons, no furniture is being kept. Scott is lamenting losing our bed, mostly because we can’t take it with us, on our bikes. We will be transporting the contents of the bin to Scott’s parents house when we fly up for the Christmas/New Years holiday. We live in Texas. Scott’s parents live 1500 miles away in Maryland. Things kept must be small enough to fit in our luggage.
What is in the bin? Travel journals. Wedding album (only exception to the above photo project, though we also have digital copies). A scrapbook given to Scott from the guys on his England to Singapore trip. A Christmas ornament handmade from my great-aunt and another one from a good friend. A few pieces of jewelry: my high school class ring, a gold bracelet that was given to me for graduation, ring and earrings from my sweet sixteen birthday, a locket from my best friend. Scott’s high-school football jersey (he doesn’t know it’s in there, I rescued it from the goodwill pile). A hardbound copy of my graduate thesis work. Our diplomas and old passports.
You get the idea. For the most part, the things in the bin have little monetary value and little value to anyone else, but hold some type of meaning to us. Could we live without these things? Yes. But sometimes it is nice to have a physical reminder of the past, and these things take us there. At this point our house has started to echo in its clutter-free state. But to be honest, we don’t miss the things we’ve let go. In fact it’s quite relaxing, liberating in a way, to not have the visual distraction and the responsibility that comes with possessing all that stuff.
“You wanna fly, you got to give up the shit that weighs you down.” Toni Morrison, Song of Solomon