Every month I reevaluate what we have.
I decide what we keep and what we get rid of.
Every year our needs and wants change.
The stuff we have reflects that.
We become attached to the things that once served us or brought us joy.
When we no longer use it, it takes up space.
Living a simpler life means learning to let go and make room for new things.
It’s my goal to live such a life and to teach my kids the value of simplicity.
Sounds like an easy lesson.
The thing is I use to be a pack rat.
It always seemed like the thing you needed most – would be the thing you threw away last month.
And I hated having to replace something I knew I had.
I saved everything for a rainy day… because I was saving money… because I was protecting our investments.
At least that is what I told myself. I made every effort to preserve our memories and trinkets of joy…
Until I was homeless with four kids and trying to find a place… you can’t help but lose things.
Think about it. If the carpet was pulled out from under your feet, what would you take or where would you hold everything until things were more stable? Every time I see someone who is homeless (short or long term) I wonder what they gave up in the name of survival.
For me? Of all of the things damaged and lost, the most precious was photos. I didn’t have a tarp to cover the moving boxes in the back of a truck… when it rained heavily for 3 days. I salvaged what I could and threw out the rest. A year later my desktop computer overheated and I lost countless more.
It was a heartbreaking lesson. I’m not a materialistic person, but I was depressed at the lost. As I worked through my emotions I asked myself… If I could not keep plain and precious things in my life safe, what was the point of keeping countless crap I barely used? None of those things could be replaced. They could only live on in my memories.
I was finally ready to let go.
I began to weed through the garden of my belongings. Some rows being harder to go through than others.
I would love to say that I accomplished my goal in a season but I did not. Even after getting re-married and traveling I worked on it monthly. On one occasion I hired someone to help me go through my office. Earlier this year I asked a friend to help – and for 2 months before the movers came the perfect balance in our home was achieved!
It’s not easy letting things go. But it has been worth the peace that came with it. What has been the key success to getting me to this point? One day I realized I had lost my motivation. I was overwhelmed!
I asked my husband for help to stay the course. He came to my rescue with a couple of simple rules to follow for new purchases.
- Do I really need it?
- Can we afford it (in cash)?
- Where are you going to put it?
- Are you going to use it (in the next 6 months)?
That last question evolved when we kept coming up with excuses for the practicality of an item.
No one is immune from these questions. A sign of a messy room is a sign that someone is overwhelmed by their belongings. Even the minions have embraced this philosophy!
Once I had embraced the rules fully as my own I began applying it to the rest of the crap in our home. The last 2 years I gifted, gave away, or sold cheaply some of our belongings. Looking at the previous moving manifest I managed to rehome 2,000 lbs of things we no longer used or really needed.
I deserve a pat on the back. Darn skippy.
Pretty darn happy with myself and the accomplishment nobody will understand.
That is until the day I walked into my new home and my Battle Buddy kindly informed me I needed to get rid of more stuff.
Before I had arrived Battle Buddy and Neko placed bets that I would rearrange the house by the end of the month. I laughed and said I could resist for at least 3 months. I was wrong.
So far I have rearranged it 3 times in the first week.
Really – It couldn’t be helped! First they made it sound like everything had been put away. It turned out they were overwhelmed and didn’t know where things should go… so the house looked like a living maze.
Other than small bedrooms the rest looked to be about the same space by volume as our last home. Surely we can find a place for everything. It just needed my magical touch, right?
Every crisis is an opportunity for improvement!
Which is why I dedicated the next 4 days unpacking and reorganizing the house into a home. I call this Feng Shui but I may have another force to credit – the house fairy.
The first thing I did was unpack the rest of the office boxes. For a moment I felt like a treasure hunter. My XS concentrated energy drink mixes were with the rest of my business samples – and I knew I would need it if I was going to blast through this crap and turn this house into a home.
As is customary with all house fairies you must acknowledge them and make an offering. In this case I put a shot of the Blast concentrate in a glass and filled it with sparkling mineral water – ta da! Instant Energy Drink! I kept the elixir of life on the counter where we could easily both drink from… and came back many times to the glass half empty. Yes this house fairy and I will get along just nicely…
With my super power within my grasp I made short work of the challenge.
Normally this is something that would take me 6-8 months to do. This is because each object expresses 2 types of wishes. The first is where it thinks it wants to go and the second is where it is most functional. I really have to listen and find the right place for each item. Sometimes placing a new item in the room changes the whole flow!
I think I amazed my minions with the progress. My Battle Buddy wanted to know my secret. I told him the XS helps me focus my Feng Shui powers but really I think those fairies knew where the objects wanted to be. And they knew what was at stake…
There was some talk about skipping Christmas this year. But I knew that it wouldn’t do. I believe in the magic that this time of year can bring and we needed magic! That magic doesn’t come in a house where festive lights cannot be displayed. Oh no. It doesn’t come in a messy home.
It comes when there is peace in the home that radiates love. To that end the house fairies worked with me and this crazy mama’s mission. (Usually we have Christmas the first week of December so I felt behind schedule.) The grinchy hearts melted as I peeled back the layers and revealed the home they were waiting for. Let’s just say I was glad they were more appreciative of having a mother in the home.
That is not to say there were no casualties in this round…
Our closets being smaller I had to make more personal choices than I planned. I’m not prepared to show you my own closet because there is still a battle being waged there… instead here is what all 4 closets in each of the minions rooms look like.
Since this house comes with an unmoveable coat/shoe rack we moved our IKEA rack and shoe bench to our bedroom.
The trade-off was a bigger washroom…
and a longer hallway for linen, Legos, and sock-skating!
Going through my own closet I said a sad farewell to the pair of boots I was looking forward to wearing. Apparently when you hike and walk as much as I did this last year your calves become too big for them.
And if you let your favorite pair of boots go, you will want to try every pair of shoes to see what else fits. This process was only made easier because of the recycling system and center we have here.
My husband held my hand and explained that they would get new homes. That made me happy and more willing to part with the things that didn’t fit or things I wouldn’t use in the next 6 months. Besides, for everything else there’s Mastercard…
Several misc. electronics, batteries, broken laptops and a rice cooker also made the pile.
The rice cooker made me sad.
I have had several rice cookers but this one… It was my mother’s and has been a faithful family member. It has helped make many a meal – especially in the last 3 months. Who knew so much joy could come from a pot of steamed rice?
The third day I was here it died. I finished the rice in a regular pot and dinner was serve 20 minutes later. At first I kind of felt like we should hold a parting ceremony for it. If only because it will help me feel less guilty for eyeing a newer model!
Although I am not sure if I want to order one or attempt to buy one off the local German economy… we have outlets for both and it would be a shame not to utilize it.
Not to mention before I can buy it I have to figure out where I’m going to put it…
If you have seen pictures of our homeschool in the past, you will notice that it has been reduced to half its size. No worries. Before I send our extras to the paper recycling bin I will offer it to the local homeschoolers. Half of the Trofast shelves were re-purposed as toy bins in each child’s room.
A purge like this also reveals treasures. I found my IKEA wash bins. They were too big for sinks at the last 2 places we lived, so I had repurposed them for the homeschool room. Making our homeschooling area smaller gave these bins back to me and I realized their original purpose!
Now when the minions are finished with their meal they can help do their part by scrapping leftovers into the BIO bag and scrubbing their plates at the prep station. This helps keep my counters clean and from overwhelming my kitchen with dirty dishes. (Which is especially important right now because the dish washer is not working.)
Most of the families in our neighborhood are 6 or more… which I thought would make us “normal”… until the neighborhood kids came over. They were enjoying their unlimited bowls of cereal… until all my kids took their plates to the prep station. They quickly learned there was no such thing as a free meal…
Maybe the nice thing to do was to tell my kids to scrub their guest’s plate. I didn’t think about that until later. I told them that if you eat here you can help clean – and when they bring me a piece of trash I direct them to the recycling containers in our home. Hey, recycling is everyone’s priority here!
I guess we are just going to be the weird family in the neighborhood. I’m okay with that. It was simply my solution to help the kids participate in the household chores without my OCD taking over. (But since then I try to only offer guests snacks on a central platter.)
My minions seem to enjoy the scrubbing prep station. I enjoy my minions not over running my kitchen not having to power scrub dishes with food stuck to them.
Getting the kids to do chores without whining? Priceless.
Wall decorations still need to go up – but I’m waiting for a special package before I do that. In the meantime I’m going to make the theme for 2015 about photos and scrapbooks. Is there a specific fairy for that?
Or can I entice the house fairy to help me?
I’ll let you know. 😉