How much stuff do you have? Do you even know all the stuff you own? Could you write out a list of all your material possessions? I would assume that the majority of you would agree that simplifying your life is a good thing – or you may like the idea, but you want to keep your things. It’s easy to add material stuff to your life. It is much harder to part with those precious trinkets, even if you haven’t used those things in one, five or 10 years. Now the buzz words I keep hearing are “simplify”, “minimal living” and “declutter”. When I hear those words I think, man I’m going to have to give up a lot. Now there is some truth that simplifying your life requires you to give up some of that stuff. I don’t deny that. But I think we lose the essence of the simplifying and minimizing if we get stuck on the idea of giving up our hard earned possessions.
The first time I did a major simplifying of my life was about 2 years in to my marriage. I had spent those first 2 years of wedded bliss collecting stuff (stuff I really loved) from my wedding, bridal showers, garage sales and let’s be honest, Target. Society tells my generation that we have to start where our parents ended – with the house, cars, every tool and gadget… ALL the stuff. The more amazing thing was how much stuff I was able to collect AND we were on a super tight budget. Here comes the simplifying part. I accepted a job in the Marshall Islands and we were only allowed to pack out 750lbs of stuff to fit into a dorm size room. Whoa. I’m still shocked how excited I was about doing this, but seriously, I was. It was a challenge to see if I could do it. I still remember the day that mine and Jason’s clothes hung side by side in a small 4ft closet. Moving from a 3 bedroom house to a small dorm room was surprisingly easier than I thought it would be. Over the 5 years we lived on Kwajalein, we eventually moved into a house where I proceeded to collect more stuff. I am convinced that if you have the space, you will find a way to fill it. After 5 years, we recently left Kwajalein and sold everything we owned to travel for a while. And so, I have done some hardcore simplifying in my life.
Our first room on Kwajalein.
When Jason and I first starting telling people we were going to sell all of our worldly possessions and travel, I’m not sure anyone actually believed us. The response heard most often was, “That’s great! Do it while you’re young.” I do appreciate people are still referring to us as young, ha! Or, “I’ll be living vicariously through you!” While I love these responses, what I was hearing in my head was, “That’s great! Do it while you don’t have ‘stuff’ to hold you back.” Once you start collecting “life things”, it’s easy to feel tied down to a place or that you’ve planted roots. Now, please hear this…there is NOTHING wrong with planting roots. I grew up in Kansas and lived there for 25 years before moving and it was wonderful. But also hear this, if your stuff is preventing you from a desired move, travel, or new way of life – you need to acknowledge that.
All of our possessions left after coming back from Kwajalein.
We just finished up the sale of our house and pretty much have no physical assets to our name. That is crazy. I “should” have a house, cars, savings, smart phones and 2.5 kids by now, and all we have are a couple of suitcases and a flip phone. But we won’t live like this forever. We will eventually add things back into our life. And here is what I’ve realized. By not having anything, I can clearly identify what brings value to my life: the things that are the MOST important to me. Not the junk I collect, but meaningful items. I’m not suggesting you go down the same path I did, but it really took me having nothing to clearly see what I truly value and not the instant gratification purchase from Target.
So what stuff do you ACTUALLY value? If you lost everything, what would you miss? The thing I miss the most right now, is the space I shared with my Kwaj family. It was a crappy table with fancy hosting stuff that my mom sent me. I LOVE that space and the memories made there.
So in my future home, I will have a table and a few fancy hosting things, because that brings value to me. It’s a space to make memories. So I submit to you a slightly tweaked version of the simplifying, decluttering, minimizing buzz words…. valuizing. Does it bring value to your life? If it doesn’t, what good is it to you? It’s not that you’re giving up your stuff; it’s that you are keeping the things that are valuable. But the key is, you need to be honest with yourself and be willing to part with “the stuff”…there will always be more. I’ll give you a hint, if you have a basement full of stuff or an attic, or you rent a storage locker to hold your extra stuff “just in case”….You can’t possibly value things you can’t see. Your stuff that is locked away where you can barely find anything is not bringing you value. It’s probably bringing you a false sense of security and stress. Lighten that load off your shoulders! So whatever you want to call it…decluttering, minimal living, simplifying, valuizing…keep the important things in life close to you and purge the rest. Valuize your life.