I wrote in an earlier post about an interesting experience I had with my daughters regarding all the different ways people can get or buy “stuff”. I mentioned how I had an opportunity for one of those great teachable moments with my daughters. You know, when you can talk about a particular principle using a real life example, without sounding too preachy. I was hopeful that they would not only hear what I had to say, but actually listen and understand the message and concepts.
Well, we have done a good job accumulating stuff!
This last week Dianne and I found ourselves on the other side of the experience regarding the accumulation of things for our home. We have been sifting through our items trying to eliminate the stuff that is not needed or important to us anymore. I think many of us have lived this experience when moving, really finding out just how much stuff has accumulated. For us, it is surprising that in a short 4 years, we have added to our hoard of stuff.
I guess I should clarify – we are definitely not hoarders. We simply have succeeded in filling the space in our current three-bedroom home, with the things from our former two-bedroom place and the additional accumulation of furniture. Now that we are definitely downsizing and moving back to a smaller space, we need to evaluate what we have, and determine if it is important enough to keep.
Bombarded by advertisements to buy stuff
How did a couple of generally frugal minded people add more stuff to their home? It was easy, our stuff tends to expand to the amount of space we have in our home. We had an extra room, garage, and storage shed to fill with stuff. Nature abhors a vacuum – we had to fill the space. Of course, we had some influence from advertisers.
There is definitely a science and art to how advertisers pitch items. If you step back and observe, we are bombarded with a multitude of advertisements in our daily life. One’s drive to work is plastered with billboards, banners, and business signs. Even for those of us who work from home, there is TV, radio, direct mail, and newspapers that assault the senses and attempt to compel us to buy something. For those who have never heard George Carlin talk about stuff, you have to check this video out.
When you fire up the computer and internet, you soon see the spam emails and online ads. During the day, you can even receive text message advertisements on your phone. Don’t forget about the telemarketers calling, usually positioned around your dinnertime.
I have seen estimates that people receive from 250 to 500 advertising messages a day on average. What is interesting is that paying for the things we see on TV is generally promoted as “savings”. Just use your credit card now to order, since “operators are standing by” – “but wait, if you call now we will double the offer”.
Darn, it is too late, I already ordered! They have simplified every purchase down to using credit so that you don’t actually have to think about if you actually have the money to buy their products.
Visitors describe our home environment as an uncluttered Zen space
We tend to lean toward a minimalist look in our home. We don’t collect anything other than rental properties, retirement accounts, and specific savings funds. There are few doodads, chotskies, trinkets, or assorted stuff adorning our bookshelves and tabletops. For that matter, we have only one bookshelf, due to downsizing our book collection years ago, in favor of the free library.
Friends and family come to our home and remark that it feels uncluttered to them. Right now, I can count two items hanging on a 15-foot living room wall. In fact, the whole living room has six things on or against the wall.
In a recent visit to my parent’s home, I counted 32 items hanging on their living room wall. It seems like they were afraid of any empty space. They claim my ultimate goal is to get down to a loincloth and one bag! They go on to comment that nearly everything I own is for sale. (There is some truth to that statement – well most everything at least.)
We feel that we don’t have extra stuff. Then why is that we seem to be packing so many boxes?
A quick decision tree to get rid of stuff
The boxes are beginning to pile up in the master bathroom and kitchen. We are finding 8-year-old cornstarch, 6-year-old cane sugar, and other assorted items of nearly a decade in the kitchen. The bathroom is yielding similar buried treasures that have out lasted their shelf life. This provides and easy and instant decision to trash.
For those harder to make choices we have created a decision tree. We are making some quick decisions before we ponder packing our stuff, considering these three basic approaches:
- Do we need this item?
- If yes, pack it and move
- If no, then decide if we should sell, give away, or recycle/trash
The key to this decision tree is to make the decision quickly and not dwell on the ramifications and “what “if’s” too much. Usually the first decision is the best. Most of the stuff can be replaced if it is really missed and needed.
Two more weeks of hundreds of decisions for our stuff
Over the next two weeks, we will continue to face decisions of whether to keep or get rid of an item before we move. The new place has less overall square footage and little storage space. We really don’t want to move something that we will end up getting rid of later. It is better to make that decision now and be done. BTW – the move is only one-half mile away.
We have added some additional complexity and challenges to the move because we are also doing some remodeling work prior to moving in. This involves picking colors, designs, textures, all of what seems like exhaustive decisions to make. We have definitely added complexity in the short term to our lives. The hope is that this move will actually make decisions easier for us in the future. We will not be doing any additions; we simply can’t due to the HOA rules and restrictions. We will not have any more room to purchase or add stuff to the smaller footprint home.
It feels like we need to make hundreds of decisions regarding what to keep and how to remodel the new place. Dianne and I are both suffering from decision fatigue at this point. Again, I have to keep this in perspective; we are blessed and fortunate to have the means and opportunities to make these decisions. We feel like we are getting very close to curing our “Just One More Year” syndrome that we have suffered from for numerous years. The next couple of weeks should get interesting.
Thanks for reading and we will provide some more updates on our downsizing project soon.
Photo Copyright : Ioulia Bolchakova