It’s doubtful anyone who knows my family would associate our surname with minimalism. I know I’m bucking the tide, but it’s a way of life that appeals to me more and more.
I’m a fan of Joshua Becker’s, Becoming Minimalist, website. He’s practical and inspiring. I didn’t care for her book, but watched every episode of Marie Kondo’s Netflix series. However, can’t imagine my husband on board with her method. And Gretchen Rubin’s, Outer Order Inner Calm, is in my stack of current reads. I like her. Plus, I’m getting better at being a drive-by, dropper off-er at Goodwill.
But still, we are a people of much stuff. And it has come with a price.
When Doug and I left for Alaska in the early years of marriage, we bought our very own moving van to accomplish the task. Doug said it would be easy to sell once we got there. As long as it held our child and our stuff, I didn’t care.
We sold our house and many things. We gave away and threw away many things. But we still ended up with a fully loaded truck to include, a two-year old’s Big Wheel, which he was too small for. It was a gift and I was not leaving it behind.
My good-hearted in-laws drove our Buick Riviera to Seattle and loaded it on a barge going north to Alaska. It was stuffed with stuff too.
When we arrived, after a scary and expensive accident, I found:
1) Anchorage had a JC Penney. There were auctions and second-hand stores galore. We could have sold all our earthly goods in California, replaced them up north and been ahead of the game.
2) a Big Wheel toy does not work in the snow in winter nor on a gravel road in summer.
3) a Buick Riviera is the stupidest (most stupid?) car you could ever bring to Alaska.
4) no one wants to buy a wrecked truck.
We were hungry for a fresh start in a new place. We wanted to offer our children a unique experience. Yet we chose to burden ourselves with unnecessary stuff. And I hung on to old thought patterns I thought I was leaving behind.
Wish I had figured that out way back then.
We did, however, learn a great deal in Alaska. None of it had to do with traveling light.
Because when the decision was made to leave, we did the same thing in reverse. We arrived with three people and left with six. And much more stuff.
Instead of a truck, Doug bought a sturdy flat-bed trailer. Then, he built Noah’s Ark on top of it.
In spite of careful packing and test runs, the day we left town the weight of the loaded trailer burned out our vehicle’s transmission.
After a delay and creation of Plan B, we began again. This time we were a caravan consisting of a boy-filled van pulling a loaded boat and trailer, our old Chevy Suburban filled with tools, and our brokenhearted trucker friend headed to Idaho to find the woman who’d dumped him. He kindly loaded my sewing machine and a few of our boxes in his truck.
Noah’s Ark, still full, was left behind.
It would be two years before we could afford to send Doug back to retrieve the contents. And in that time we had settled into a rented home which had been filled with the generosity of other people’s old stuff.
We now had two households and one small place to put it all. It wasn’t pretty. The problem of too much overwhelmed us for years. Still does.
I’ve been on a steep learning curve the last several years, caring for ill and elderly parents. And it’s been complicated further by their monumental amounts of stuff. It’s not just the physicality of dealing with it, but also the head and heart space it occupies. For now it is a work in progress. Maybe I’ll have some meaningful conclusions to share one day.
But when it comes to my own stuff, I’ve realized a couple of things:
~~When we arrived in Alaska after our accident, I didn’t care what shape any of our belongings were in. The three of us were unharmed. We were tougher than I had imagined. And except for a shower and a laundromat, I didn’t need anything else. I was ready for our new adventure.
~~When we left Alaska, and the initial shock of leaving Noah’s Ark behind, life went on. I didn’t think about our stuff from one day to the next. Boys growing up, school, scouts, jobs… these things took over. Nothing we left behind kept us from living a meaningful life.
~~Never try to estimate the financial cost of transporting and/or storing your precious stuff after the fact – – unless you want to make yourself sick and depressed. The hours of life you spend working for money to pay for storage is life draining. The hours of life you spend working for money to build a business, plan for retirement, travel or make memories with your family is life-giving. This I know for sure.
Last week Doug brought home a load from a storage unit we’re clearing out. One box (I assumed was his) was sloppily labeled “paper stuff”. Brilliant labeling, I thought…
… it was my handwriting.
Most of the contents hit the garbage. But there were sweet memories – – portraits of Doug and I drawn by our eldest child (love my earrings), our second oldest practicing his cursive writing with “Love the Beast” (no idea), and Sunday School papers belonging to our two youngest (why don’t either of them have pants in their little paper suitcases?).
This box was packed the summer of 1986. Since then it’s lived in Noah’s Ark and an assortment of barns, attics and rented storage spaces. And we never missed it.
Yes, sweet memories…but a very expensive box of paper.
Sweet memories. I hope to leave many behind… and no mess to clean up.
4 thoughts on “…notes from the dark side of overabundance”
So true, I don’t know how many things I have held onto things that were not necessary. We are also trying to keep things simple. We try to always have a donation pile going to keep our clutter down. It isn’t easy making these changes but so worth it because memories are worth more then gold and we don’t have to rent space and waste money to store them.
This will be on ongoing battle, for sure. I just spent more time than I really had trying to make sense out of my sewing area. More than I need, so paring it down. Yes, we always have our memories. I want to use my time making them, not sorting and cleaning. 🙂 Thanks for your good words.
A few years ago, our young adult daughter taught me about memory keeping:
Take photos of things to remember, write about them and let them go.
We had an entire storage tub filled with t-shirts. As a college student, she thought it would be fun to have a quilt made from them. It seemed complicated and the tub got pushed to the back to the storage area. And forgotten.
She has moved cross country and through several apartments, and downsized considerably.
I washed all the t-shirts, hung them out on a lovely day and photographed them. She was content and away they went as I resisted all thoughts of keeping just one or two.
Soon, I’m going to go through the other tubs and do the same. I keep asking myself why I don’t – I think saving things is complicated, especially when the one you love is far away.
Now that I have considered all the emotional ties, it will be easier. Once the spring gardening is finished – a promise to myself.
I love that idea of taking the pictures and writing about these things! The emotional attachments to things are so hard to break. Thanks so much for your great idea – -or your daughter’s great idea! 🙂