We’re Stuffed!

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!

Leunig - Stuff

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…


The Story of Stuff

The Trap of Materialism

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?

8 thoughts on “We’re Stuffed!

  1. Could you live with less?
    Of course! A week bush camping reduces the kitchen, bathroom, toilet, bedroom, dining room, play area and gym to a few boxes. A great way to see what you really need.. unfortunately camping stores inundate you with multi-purpose space-saving gadgets and reintroduce things you don’t really need… (although the portable wire mesh gadget is great for toast! I already regret the solar power shower since the collapsible bucket is just so perfect especially when water is limited)!

    Would you ever want to?
    Other than retirement downsize I think drastic reductions for short term (whatever that is!) experiences really make you appreciate the simplest “things” when you get back ….the old toaster that is a bit too small, the proper size basin, somewhere more advanced to work out than a patch of grass with a skipping rope. Perhaps anything that you don’t really “appreciate” when you get home is a sign of something that is actually just clutter… although when you start doing things like hobbies at home (a sign of being in one spot and not so busy you don’t have time to enjoy it!) you start to need more “stuff”… the piano, the bike trainer, the sewing machine, the comfortable chair, the large table for anything that takes your fancy. You could live without these but they can really make life so much better!. If you choose to have them I think you are better off with the simplest, (usually cheapest or second-hand) version of them that does the job you need. Anything more and it kind of takes your enjoyment of them away; plus you probably have to work harder to earn the money to get them so taking away your opportunity to enjoy them! But this “stuff” of hobbies and relaxation does get in the way if what you are really trying to do is have a camping adventure! I would definitely say put the hobbies, piano and sewing machine aside for the camping trip.

    What would be your motivation to own less stuff?
    (a) Christian principles that call for God to be the centre of life rather than things, money, power, experiences, qualifications, learning, knowledge or anything else. As a Christian part of making God the centre of life means believing in Christ, being as constantly aware as possible of the Holy Spirit, knowing the morality the Bible teaches, obeying it, and when things start to get out of balance to be ready to give it totally up and walk away from it….in personal experience God often has a way of taking away things that might be throwing one off balance… people die, jobs end, dreams don’t come true, just nothing works out… but sometimes it is a happy ending and when you are ready to walk away from the things causing imbalance they are restored to you anyway, only this time you are aware of the danger they holds and you never, ever, let it take the place of God again. If you’re not ready to walk away, well God might just have to do something apparently very hard in your own best interests until you come around; once you’ve accepted it then it usually gets better.

    (b) To save money. Sounds a bit contradictory but saving money can actually help you own less stuff… When your goal is to save then you count every penny you spend… you are less likely to buy stuff you don’t really need…. those “extras” are just not so attractive anymore; you only buy what you really need… I recommend saving as a great way to stop the incoming stuff before you have to worry about getting rid of things! although it doesn’t help motivation to get rid of stuff already owned.

    (c) Going for functional living. Our shed was not functional. In fact you couldn’t move. One day we realized the children were old enough to sail the boat, ride the canoes, actually wanted to use the bikes almost everyday. Somehow we got it tidy. During the course of a week about 10 years of recycling went. I’m not sad the walk in spaceship never got made, or the giant cardboard cubby house destined for the lounge, because now they are actually old enough to take ownership of those sorts of projects themselves…. and ironically have the space to do it. It is also great actually using the other things – although that has more to do with school holidays than the “clutter” removed. But getting functional was a big motivator to finally throw away (into the recycle bin) all that plastic and cardboard “stuff” that was stopping us use the shed!

    (d) To share with those in need. It would be a great motivator to give away if there were people who would benefit from the donation and who would really appreciate it. (it is also a demotivator when you hear the op-shop talk about trying to go more up-market and how they threw away half the last basket of donations.. a sign of how even charities trading in “stuff” are finding people’s appetites are not satisfied so easily anymore)

    • Thanks so much for your comment Susan. I agree, even when we try to “get back to basics” like camping, all of the outdoor stores would have us believe that we need lots of stuff to make the experience more comfortable! And yes, retirement does seem the best time to downsize for most, but even if we weren’t doing this now, I still think I’d like to have less stuff by the time I reach that age. When I think of all the stuff in my parents/in-laws/grandparents houses that will require sorting out one day, I shudder! I love your reasons why you could be motivated to live with less stuff, all four are very true. It’s awful to think that Australian charity stores are throwing items of clothing out, there are so many others on the planet that could make good use of them, and to me that epitomises all that’s wrong with our society, and how hungry we’ve become for more cheap, disposable stuff.

  2. Hello!
    have you got a travel-plan? If you are coming to France (the east-side of the country) maybe we could meet. We’ve done quite some traveling with our kids – and always loved to meet with the locals.

    • Thanks so much Talitha, you are gorgeous! You’ve made my day! We really, really hope to meet other like minded families on our travels. We don’t have any solid plans yet, (unfortunately our house hasn’t sold yet 🙁 ) but we will hit the road as soon as it does. We would like to do a quick trip up the East Coast of Australia to visit some dear friends, and then after that we’ll probably head over to Europe. With any luck, we will see you on the road one day 🙂

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