Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Never Again. (Or, Enough is Enough)

As I sit in my mostly empty house, surrounded only by what remains of the contents of my kitchen, a half dozen boxes of photographs and albums, and a hodgepodge of about 3 or 4 boxes of random items that still need to make their way to our new home--our house-on-wheels--my heart resonates with only one thought:

Never again.

Never again will I allow myself to mindlessly acquire "stuff".
Never again will I allow my mental capacities to be taxed with the task of maintaining and caring for said unnecessary "stuff".
Never again will I allow my time and energy to be taken up by things at the detriment of spending time with people.

Maybe this is all a little overdramatic (I'm good for that, just ask my husband--or any member of my immediate family for that matter!), but realistically not by much.

Our family has spent a solid 6 months of ruthlessly purging our lives of all of the extraneous "stuff" surrounding us, in order to be in a position to move into our 400 (or so) glorious square feet of indoor living space and make our home travel with us wherever we go. That doesn't allow room for much, if any, excess. If we don't need it with us on the road, for the most part we don't need it at all in our lives.

A few exceptions include the lawn and garden items and some larger tools that we used regularly in our house-on-dirt, but I'm not even talking about that. I'm talking about the 5 sets of dinnerware, each serving between 4-12 people. I'm talking about the equivalent of a full van load with all seats down full of books that were essentially donated to Half-Price Books. I'm talking about the 12 tubs of outgrown children's clothing that we were storing for who knows what reason, since we are pretty much 100% positive that our family is complete with the six of us. I'm talking about the several large boxes of teaching supplies that were at least 10 years old and had not been used in at least 5 years. These things were all taking up space in my brain--somewhere, because I knew that they all existed! These things were all items that I had to inventory and decide how to re-home, and put forth the effort to find those new homes for the items.

All of this brain-power, time and energy could be much better spent with my family, my friends, or even with being more available with my time to just "be" with acquaintances and strangers. I never want to trade away my time and energy for "stuff" in this way ever again.

Now, I recognize that we could have just hauled in a dumpster and thrown everything unnecessary away and been done with it, but adding another irresponsible act onto our negligence in the acquisition of the "stuff" would only make matters worse. We strive to do the right thing in all that we do, and a big part of this is with stewardship. Just because I don't need 6 sets of glassware doesn't mean that someone, somewhere does not need them. So, instead of pitching the extra sets of glasses, we sold or donated them to either an individual or organization who could use them. And we have done the same with approximately 2/3 of our belongings since January 1, 2012.

Of what remains, we've stored about 1/3 of our belongings (including the furniture which are heirloom pieces) and the remainder is what we are moving into the RV with us.

The jury is still out on if all of the time and energy spent selling those items that we sold before sending to the donate pile was worth it. The total is in the $1000s of dollars--that we've in turn spent on items that we've needed to transition into our new home. So I'm inclined to say that it has been worth our while. I also know that we have been able to sell most of these things at a really great price to people who needed them and we have walked away with some really rich stories and experiences in the process.

We've been able to donate extensively, not just in our thrice monthly van loads to Goodwill, but also to many organizations and individuals who could specifically use our unneeded items. Many items that were otherwise destined for the landfill or Goodwill found new homes as beds in transitional housing projects, restocking the clothing bank of a Community Pregnancy Center which was destroyed by a flood earlier this year, shoes that will provide both jobs and footwear for a community on the African continent, cloth diapers for the next 2-3 years for a friend's new baby (who is due to be born any day now!), and seed items for a yard sale to help fund our dear friends' adoption.

Through it all, we've kept with our family standard of only sending 2-3 kitchen bags of trash to the landfill each week. I say this not to boast, because I know that all households are different and that not all communities offer the same recycling opportunities that ours does, but to demonstrate that downsizing and purging does not always involve sending large amounts to the landfill. If done in a responsible manner, your excess can lend itself toward someone else obtaining their "enough".

And really, that's what it's all about.
Learning when enough is enough, so that everyone can have enough.

That's what I desire to be about, and what Jason and I desire for our family to be about. In order to make this more than simply words, but put action to it, we've walked a long road as a family over the past 6 months to get to this point. However, I'll venture to say that we've not yet arrived, and I hope that I never feel as though we have.

Until everyone has "enough", I hope that I can always find space in my life to contribute to that, however that may look like.

But again I say, never again. Never again will I let that which is most important be buried beneath the weight of all that simply appears to be of value.


  1. Having just gone through the same process all I can say is a hearty "amen!"...;) We're a family of 4 who just transitioned from a year-long RV road trip do doing it fulltime:

  2. Great post, and something I wish more Americans could learn early in life before getting buried by the burden of stuff.