Several years ago, I read a Berenstain Bears book to the kids titled The Berenstain Bears Help Those in Need. In the book, Mama Bear has a dream where all of the bears’ things are coming at her from the dresser, from the attic, from everywhere, chanting “Too MUCH Stuff! TOO much stuff!” I remember thinking, “Man, I’m glad we aren’t like that.” Little did I know, that was exactly how we were, and our Mama Bear was starting to feel it.
As we talked, Dawn shared just how much she felt controlled by our stuff. At first, I didn’t get it…I wasn’t home all day trying to help the kids keep everything put away, so I didn’t “feel” it. We set out on a journey of discovering exactly how much stuff we had as we sorted through everything and tried to make some sense of it all.
The first thing we did was put everything we were sorting into our garage. When that filled up, we got a storage unit because that seemed like a reasonable thing to do in order to “finish” going through the house. The problem was, it seemed like we would never get through it all. By the time it was all said and done, the things we had originally stored were almost all ruined by rodents – we didn’t think about the fact that storing some dry goods would attract them.
That brings me to the first lesson we learned: Deal with your stuff on a small basis. Fill up whatever space you’ve set aside for going through everything, and then deal with that stuff once-and-for-all. Group things into “keep” and “remove” piles. Then, make a place for the keep things, put them in their places, and get rid of the rest. By storing all the stuff we had gone through, we undid much of our sorting and ultimately allowed many “remove” things we could have sold or given away to be ruined.
The next thing we learned was: It takes a long time to go through a house (and life) full of things. The longer it’s been since you started fresh, the more stuff you’ll probably have, so this isn’t a weekend or even a week-long project. When we started, we had been married for about 13 years and had never really “cleaned out.” It took us just under 3 YEARS to make time to go through everything and much of that was done in the last year leading up to our hitting the road. This brings me to the next lesson we see very clearly looking back: Don’t wait to start removing all the extra stuff from your life. For us, deciding to make a HUGE life change was born partially out of our desire to simplify but also served as a catalyst to finally get it done. If we could do it over, I would’ve started when we got married by getting rid of things we didn’t use or really need on a monthly or quarterly basis.
This journey of realization helped me see what Dawn had seen all along: we were spending a TON of time chasing our stuff – whether having to constantly pick things up to put them away or looking for things when we needed them. We refused to continue to waste the precious resource of our time, and that made us willing to #ditchthenorm and increase our simplifying efforts exponentially by deciding to sell almost everything and #fulltimerv. So, we thought we were trying to get rid of stuff to make it all fit in our 3,000 square foot house, but we were really getting ready to hit the road.