“The trouble with simple living is that, though it can be joyful, rich, and creative, it isn’t simple.” – Doris Janzen Longacre
“But your stuff’s going into storage, right?”
I frowned and knitted my brows apologetically. “Um…actually, no.” My friend was silent and gave me a confused look. I continued: “I’m selling or donating everything. Well, everything except whatever fits in the truck.” At this point my friend’s eyes got wider. I had seen this expression before: apparently people don’t think it’s normal to get rid of all your belongings.
I was two weeks away from taking an entire summer to drive across Canada. But that wasn’t all: I was leaving my condo for good, to move across the country, and I wasn’t bringing much. By the time I was ready to hit the road everything I owned fit into the back of my truck.
Some people de-clutter because they have to, but you don’t need to wait until your friends stage a pack-rat intervention to downsize your possessions. Removing unnecessary things clears your mind and helps you consider what you truly value.
Getting rid of stuff was a great feeling. It was a weight lifted off my shoulders (and my storage closet), but there were downsides I hadn’t anticipated.
Getting rid of stuff was harder than I thought, both physically and emotionally.
The Huge Amount of Work
I thought six months was enough time to sort through every possession I had packed into my small condo. I figured I’d sell a few things, donate some, and trash others. No biggie. But like so many things, I started out strong, but scrambled to get everything taken care of in the last few days before my lease ran out.
Getting rid of stuff doesn’t have to be as intense as it was for me. To save time and effort, I could have made a trip to the dump with a big truck, but I wanted to prolong the lives of my possessions.
I recycled my obsolete electronics, I took my toxic household products for safe disposal, I took my books to the used book store, and I donated my magazines to the library.
When I began, I underestimated:
- How long it would take me to sort through all my belongings
- How many car-loads it would take to get everything to donation
- How long it would take to sell my items
If I were to do everything over again I would have started sooner, and worked steadily rather than leaving most of the work until two months before my lease expired.
How Sad it Was to See Things Go
I didn’t realize how much my possessions owned me until I parted with them. Some had strong memories attached to them, but that didn’t mean they belonged in my new, simplified life.
When I had a hard time giving something away, I reminded myself that someone would use it more than me. There were plenty of places it would get more use.
I came to terms with giving away a possession, because I know that no one can ever take memories away from me. That helped, but I’m still sad sometimes, and wish I could get some of my things back.
When I cleaned out my possessions, I had to summon the courage to do things I’d never done before:
- Consign clothes
- Sell things online
- Visit goodwill donation shops
These tasks might not sound difficult, but they swept me out of my comfort zone. Suddenly I was parading my clothes out for appraisal, bargaining with strangers over my living room furniture, and finding out what I could and couldn’t donate to goodwill (turns out, CRT televisions are a no-go).
In every situation I risked embarrassing myself, asking stupid questions, and making mistakes.
I summoned my determination, got my mind committed, and did it. I embarrassed myself, asked stupid questions, and made mistakes (multiple times), but the good news is I learned from them, and all these unfamiliar tasks got easier.
Realizing My Valuables Aren’t ‘Valuable’
Going to consign your clothes? Get ready for a bruised ego. Some clothes I thought were valuable weren’t good enough for consignment. That hurt.
I took in my best dresses, pants, blouses, shoes, and purses and I ended up bringing half of it home with me. I understand a consignment store is a business, but for my ego’s sake I wish they were a little less picky.
When it came to selling my things, I was shocked at how little people were willing to pay for what I considered ‘perfectly good’ things.
It was disappointing when most of my items sold for less than my asking price. It hurt more to remember what I had paid for them new.
The hard lesson I learned is that just because something is valuable to me, doesn’t mean it’s valuable to someone else.
The Hard Choices
Which to keep? I made this decision many times when I got rid of my stuff.
I had to make some harsh choices and decide which sweater mattered to me the most, which necklace, which artwork, which souvenirs… I had filled my home with things I loved, it was a challenge to decide between them. I loved them all for different reasons.
Having to choose between two items was difficult, but it also made me wonder why I had two of the same thing in the first place. I could have eliminated this problem by being more careful about what I accumulated in the first place.
In my new simplified life, I will keep this in mind from the start.
Giving Away Too Much
I got rid of quite a bit, and during the purge there were times I thought “Aha! I know exactly what I need! It’s right over…” and then I realized I had taken it to goodwill three days ago.
It was annoying to have to buy something I gave away just a few days earlier. I knew that making so many choices, I was bound to make some poor ones.
But it still stung my pride when it happened.
Despite how hard it was, getting rid of my stuff was worth it. Now that I live with less I’m happier, I have less stress, and I feel lighter. Life with less clutter is wonderful.
And I don’t have to worry about storage.
What’s the hardest thing you’ve gotten rid of? What made it hard?
Photo by t whalen