Free Yourself From Stuff

Moving is hard. Moving halfway across the country is really hard. Along with the mounting excitement in anticipation of moving to our new home in Paige, Texas, there is also an accompanying sense of dread. Where is all our stuff going to go? When we started off with our search for the perfect home for Humblebee Farms, we didn’t know what we would get. This sense of limbo gave us the perfect excuse to hold onto lots of extra stuff “just in case”. Now that we know where we are moving, and how big our house is (790 square feet!), we realize that some hard decisions need to be made. So this week’s blog post is all about how to free yourself from stuff!

The Blockers

I recently read an eye-opening compilation of statistics about just how bad it is when it comes to “western” cultures and our obsession with stuff. The first line in the post from Becoming Minimalist stuck in my head like a persistent burr: the average American home contains over 300,000 items. That bares repeating: the average American home contains over 300,000 items!

So with that number echoing in my head, I knew we had to really dig in and eliminate the fluff. But before we could start, we also had to do some internal soul-searching. Yes, that sounds really cheesy. But the fact is trying to free yourself from stuff is both a physical and emotional challenge. So we sat down and dug deep to understand why it was so hard to get rid of our things – even things that haven’t been used in years! After some healthy debate we identified three key blockers:

  1. Belief that [insert item name] could be useful later
  2. Guilt over the original $ [insert item name] cost
  3. Emotional attachment

With these three blockers identified, it made it so much easier to move forward with an action plan for overcoming them.

Belief that [insert item name] could be useful later

This first blocker is the category which most of our stuff sat in. That lingering what if question nagged at us. To help us tackle this blocker we created parameters – questions – that helped us let go. The first question I would ask is how long has it been since I used this item? If it was more than a year, then it was time to toss it.

Next I would ask how much would it cost to replace? If it was less than $20, then buh-bye. It’s AMAZING how much your free yourself from stuff with just these first two questions!

For those lingering items, I would then ask, how easy is this to replace? This one is tricky, as you have to be realistic about what “easy” is. This was to help me get rid of stuff that I feared having regret over getting rid of. The reality is I will never need 99% of the items in this category ever again! And if later, I truly found a need for that item, I could re-purchase it.

Guilt over the original $ [insert item name] cost

This is one that effects Todd more than me. While both of us are pretty frugal, Todd was raised by parents that went through WWII while my parent’s generation was a bit later. The “Greatest Generation” faced some pretty tough challenges – including rationing. Todd’s parents imbued in him a solid respect material objects and thrift. In Todd’s mind, throwing away something of value is equitable to throwing money away!

To address this blocker I tallied up all the money we have spent on storage units over the past decade. I can’t bring myself to share it here. But it is disturbing! Faced with this very real $ cost, it helped us both realize that there was a price to pay with keeping stuff we no longer use/ cherish. Talk about throwing away money!

Emotional Attachment

This is another tough blocker that many of us face. Things like gramma’s old scarf, old school papers, concert tickets, jewelry and more fall into this category. In this case it’s not the item itself, but the memory or feelings it stirs. A big one for me was my wedding dress. I know I will never, ever wear this dress again. And yet it is so hard to say goodbye. But I don’t need the dress to remember my wedding day.

This category also required us to set some parameters. Is the memory attached a good one? Will we forget without that item? Could we digitalize the item? In many, many cases, these questions helped us come to terms that we really didn’t need that object anymore. I’ll never forget that awesome concert at the Gorge in George even though I tossed the ticket stubs!

The Devine Feeling After You Free Yourself From Stuff

Now that we had an action plan in place to address the three blockers that were stopping us from freeing ourselves of stuff, we got to work. We sorted stuff into three categories: toss, donate and sell. With that last one – sell – we set the bar high. The item had to have cost over $100 originally and we set prices really reasonable so it would sell quick. So far we’ve brought in over $1,000. Enough to cover anything we may need to re-buy later!

The ultimate goal is to eliminate half our stuff. That’s a pretty ambitious goal. But now that we are more than halfway done, I’m surprised (dare I say delighted?) at how it feels to shed all the extra layers. And this is what you need to focus on – the feeling left afterwards.

Yes, we will probably need to re-buy some of the kitchen gadgets I tossed. Indeed I may need fill in some wardrobe gaps. But that’s ok. In fact, I look forward to buying stuff that will beautify my home and work well in the new climate I am moving to (Seattle, Wa vs. Paige, Tx is quite a change).

So don’t let your blockers stop you free yourself from stuff! Because the results are so worth it. And when you free yourself from stuff, you make room in your life for things you love.