More With Less

There is nothing like moving houses to help you pare down and assess what you really need.

Image from: Death to the Stock Photo

Last summer, our family moved to Fort Worth, Texas. Before we even knew a move was in the works, I got the urge to clear out the closets and drawers. We had a garage sale, and whatever didn’t sell, we donated or tossed. We said goodbye to many knick-knacks, toys the kids had outgrown, and appliances we had never removed from the box.

Later in the summer, we learned that we were moving. Thus, cleaning house again became a priority. This was when we discovered that our previous efforts at getting rid of the unnecessary was woefully inadequate. Again, we found ourselves filling up bag after bag of old linens, unplayed-with toys, worn-out apparel, and plain old junk.

When we moved a few weeks later, we put whatever we could fit in the car and drove to Fort Worth. Later, our furniture would be loaded onto a truck and brought to us, but for the time being we settled into our new home with the clothes from our suitcases and not much else. We borrowed a bed, camping cots for the kids, a couch, and a couple of tables. We learned to live more simply. In the process, we began to reassess what it was we really needed, which turned out to be not nearly as much as we thought. Living without our stuff wasn’t fun and I wouldn’t want to do it again, but I have to admit that the situation helped me learn a lot. Here are a few lessons I’ve come away with:

  1.  We don’t need a lot of appliances. We like having a tea kettle, a coffee maker, a blender, a hand mixer, and that’s about it. We use those appliances regularly, and find that they’re worth having around. 
  2. Our aesthetics have changed.  One day, we slipped into a furniture store just to look around. We found ourselves gravitating toward furniture with clean, modern lines — which we realized was unlike the intricate antiques we picked up when we lived in the Northeast. This made us rethink our furniture. Ultimately, we decided to part with most of the furniture that doesn’t go with modern, Mad Men-style lines. Not having our regular furniture with us gave us the chance to discover our new stylistic preferences.
  3. We like living in a smaller space. Small houses have their challenges — lack of privacy or a space to retreat to can be issues, so we’ve discovered the importance of living in a small home with a layout that addresses these issues.  Also, smaller houses are easier to keep clean. You can sweep or vacuum every day when you’re dealing with a small living space, and the task doesn’t seem too overwhelming. We’ve also realized that though we want to live in a smallish house, it’s nice to have large back yard for the kids and dog to get their wiggles out.
  4. We love art. Of all the things we left behind in our old home, our art was the most missed. You’d think it be winter coats or comfy chairs, but really, it was the art. Artwork warms up the space and also helps communicate our personalities. There are just a few pieces we let go of, but for the most part, our art stayed with us.
  5. We don’t need a lot of clothes or shoes. Moving presented a good opportunity to reassess what we needed to wear on a monthly basis. I don’t know that I would have come to this conclusion had many of my clothes not been in storage. I found that I wore the same few pieces of clothes and didn’t need much more beyond that. This was especially true for my yoga attire. I love yoga leggings and trying different brands. I even bought a couple of pairs in Fort Worth, forgetting all about the pairs I had left behind. Then, I had the chance to get a few clothing items from storage. I had forgotten just how many leggings I left. Truth is, I wear the same four pairs all the time. Do I really need more than that? Absolutely not. Hence, I’ll be on a fast from buying new yoga pants for quite a while.
  6. We don’t need that many dishes. You’d think that with five people in the family, we’d need a ton of dishes. It turns out, we don’t; we just need to load the dishwasher when we are finished using them. We made due with five plates for a long while. We did decide to keep some plates for entertaining, but also to let go of many others that go unused.

If you’re looking to simplify, or just to reassess your personal inventory, there are so many resources out there to help. Personally, I enjoyed Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, as well as Jen Hatmaker’s Seven: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess. The key factor for us, however, was distance. There just was nothing like being far away from most of our stuff to help us rethink our needs.

If you’re having a hard time letting go, consider taking some time away from your house and mentally itemizing its contents. You can do this while at the park, or a coffee shop, or while you’re on vacation. Make a list containing the items you really like and use, and also make a list of the things you know you no longer want. When you get home, take a look around. Were there any pieces you forgot about? Where there pieces that didn’t make the “really like and use” list? If so, it could mean those pieces have reached the end of their journey with you.

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