Yup, this family is absolutely stuffed! We’ve got more stuff than you can poke a stick at. We’ve still got so much stuff that I am worried about how on earth we’ll sort, sell, donate or dump what’s left when our house is finally sold. Our goal is to only own what can be carried with us in the luggage allowance for four people on an international airline, with just a few treasured possessions, (family heirlooms, photos etc) that are to be left with family. So why such a dramatic goal? Why are we purging ourselves of all the stuff that we have accumulated in the past 15 years of marriage? Are we bankrupt? No. Are we “raging lefty hippies” as my sister put it? No. Are we having a midlife crisis? No -well not that we think so anyway!
The truth is, this is not the first time that Simon and I have reduced our belongings to all that we could carry plus a little bit. Back in 1998 we moved to London with just two suitcases after putting our small amount of household possessions into storage. In 2002 we moved back to Adelaide with those same two suitcases and two tea-chests. Since then we have frequently (2-3 times a year) had ‘clean-ups’ where we’ve filled a 1800 x 1200 mm caged trailer with rubbish and junk to take to the rubbish tip. Lessons learnt through all of this include; The suitcases were cumbersome to travel with and too big. We did not miss the items left behind in storage, donated or dumped. Our (mine especially) stress levels rise when our house feels cluttered and un-orderly. More recently, we have also learnt that the more space we have to fill, the more stuff we acquire. And, that all of that stuff has led to longer work hours in jobs that we did not enjoy to pay for it all. In the past few months of self reflection, we’ve also realised that we do not get attached to our stuff, nor in fact to our home. We’re not the type of couple who enjoys renovating, landscaping, decorating or other DIY home improvements.
The BIGGEST lesson that we have learned in 15 years, is that we felt freer in the times when we had less stuff. When we decided that we wanted to move overseas, it was easy because we had no mortgage and few possessions. When we decided that we wanted to move from North London to East London, we did it in a Taxi. When we moved from our first small house to the current one, we did it in several car trips with the trailer attached. If we were to move again now, we’d have to sell the house, sort, pack and cull our possessions and involve professional movers.
Are we planning on becoming gypsies who travel indefinitely, moving from place to place in search of work and a patch of grass to call our temporary home? Not in the traditional sense, no. Do we ever see ourselves settling down again anywhere? Yes, but not like we’ve done this time – we learnt our lesson! The truth is we’re not exactly sure where or if we would consider settling, but we understand now, that if we own less stuff and we are not tied to our jobs here, then we could chose to spend time living wherever we want to. Not only that, without the financial commitments and truckload of stuff that we own we will be free to live the life that we chose. Whether it be hiking mountains, apartments in cities or tropical beaches. Simon and I crave opportunities for more experiences for us, and especially our children. Because, another lesson that we learnt, was that we have been teaching our children that the path to happiness involved more stuff, bigger houses, and work in unsatisfactory jobs, only to retire sixty years later with poor health and less energy to experience the wonders and cultures of the world.
Whilst it has not been our main motivating factor, by happy coincidence we’ve also discovered that our goal lifestyle will impact more positively on the planet and the other people who live on it. After all, it doesn’t take an environmentalist to figure out that the less we buy, and then throw away, the less we will be contributing to mining the planets natural resources, displacing people or exploiting the worlds poorest communities in a hunger for consuming products at ever lower and lower prices.
Want to learn more? Check out some of some of the following great videos…
One of my favourite blogs that really sparked my interest in simplifying our lives in pursuit of more family experiences is Loving Simple Living by Lorilee Lippincott. Lorilee and her family reduced their possessions bit by bit, which lead to a lower cost of living and enabled them to see their dream of teaching in China. I particularly love Lorilee’s post where she defines, “What is Minimalism?”
Tell us your thoughts. Could you live with less? Would you ever want to? What would be your motivation to own less stuff?