Once we made the decision to downsize our home and life, move into an RV, and cross the USA at a leisurely pace, we had a lot of work to do. It took us several months go through our belongings. It is amazing how much stuff accumulates, especially when there is room to store it. The downsizing process was tedious, brutal, and exhilarating, each in turn.
Looking back, I think we did pretty well with going through our things. We did put a few things into storage, but those were mostly items that had sentimental value. There was no point in paying to store a bunch of second hand furniture, so we got rid of that. By the time we need furniture again, we can use the money we didn’t spend on storage to buy something suitable.
I wrote the words below at the time we were just getting started. We started in a home that was roughly 3400 square feet and moved into an RV that is just under 300 square feet. We found room for all the necessities, somehow.
Here are my thoughts on the process, written originally in the fall of 2012.
Right now, we are in the midst of a great fall purge, part of a serious effort to downsize our belongings. It has been a brutal couple of months as I have determined that we will go through every single thing we own and determine its fate.
We are taking stock of what is important to us and ridding ourselves of the things nobody loves or wants anymore. There are two linen closets in our home (or, as Atticus calls them, liver closets).
Because we have nowhere near the amount of linens (or liver) necessary to fill these areas, they had become home to any number of strange and amazing items. It has been my job to cart much of that unwanted stuff out.
The first thing to go was the black towel with a hole in it that nobody ever wanted to use. Apparently, it is not possible to dry oneself with a holey towel because all the water sneaks right through and sticks to the person. That’s my theory, anyway.
The towel managed to get pushed around enough to regularly fall onto the floor. My children, who can walk around a pile of dirty laundry the size of Mount Rushmore, would dutifully pick up the holey towel and trot it off to the laundry basket to be washed, folded and returned to the liver closet, where it hoped it might someday be of use. Tossing that towel was strangely exhilarating.
Also in the dark recesses of the closet I found a small box full of alcohol wipes. They were the kind of wipes a nurse might use before poking a needle into an unsuspecting arm. I’d guess they were remnants of a collection of first aid kits that were long since robbed of bandages and other more practical items. For some reason, we had saved all those little alcohol wipes collected over the years in case we decided to go and vaccinate all the children in a small third-world country someday.
In and amongst the trash, we find treasures. A small jewelry box is missing the ballerina that once danced when I opened the lid. While the music plays, we find old letters, junk jewelry and an inch-tall, blue-haired doll. My childhood friend Ruth gave me that little doll when we were in third grade. She tucked it into an oatmeal box full of other small items that have long been forgotten. The doll lives on in the jewelry box, coming out occasionally to play with my children when I tell them stories of “the olden days.”
The doll also becomes an example to my children when they are sorting through their own belongings. We compare what we’re tossing to what we’re keeping. Items that hold sentimental value garner a reprieve from the purge. Gum wrapper collections are out.
At times, I think of other, less tangible keepsakes I wish I could bottle and save to take out at will long after an event has passed: the smell of a newborn baby’s toes; the feel of hair-twisting sticky fingers on a sleepy child; the look on Brian’s face when he said, “I do”; the taste of fresh-baked cinnamon rolls on a frosty morning.
I am reminded as I sort that the most precious things in life are not actually things. My true treasures I keep with me always in my heart. Memories are never too heavy to pack.
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