The Stages of Eliminating Stuff
We buy it, we find room for it in our homes, we clean it, pack it, move it, store it and sell it.
For most of us, stuff becomes an obsession until we no longer own it, but it owns us.
When we moved to Our Little House from a 1,100 square foot house packed with stuff, we realized just how little room we needed once we got down to it.
We were accidental in the Small House Movement, finding out through living it how freeing living without our stuff could be.
The problem became what to get rid of, as I not only had our stuff we had accumulated through 21 years of marriage, but we had my mother’s stuff, some of it sentimentally priceless.
Here’s the process by which we eliminated (and continue to eliminate) stuff from our lives:
- Sales and donations: When we decided to move, we knew we would be downsizing somewhat. We also needed to rid our house of clutter in order to stage it to place it on the real estate market. I went through everything, including the back of closets and kitchen cabinets left virtually untouched since we moved into our house 17 years prior. If I didn’t need it in that length of time, I didn’t need it. We sold what we could and donated the rest. We went through the same process with my mother’s things. What I didn’t want was either sold at a sale at her senior living apartment or was given away. What I couldn’t yet part with was boxed.
- Storage: We had two storage units, one for our stuff and one for Mom’s. This is a good route if there are things you don’t think you can yet part with, or that may be valuable and you haven’t decided how to sell. While this option does cost money, it’s best as it gives you time to separate yourself from the sentimentality.
- Donations, round 2: I was more ruthless on the second round of donations, giving over 50 more boxes of stuff to the Salvation Army. We had room on our property to move the stuff from our storage units to buildings we had here, saving us money and giving me more time to weed through all of the stuff and let go. A fun fact is that after I made a huge donation to the Salvation Army, I began seeing some of my mother’s things in a retro shop in our small town. The owner had purchased the goods from the charity and was re-selling it once again to people who like retro decorating. It made me feel good that I got a tax deduction for the donation, the charity received its asking price, the business owner kept the circle of business going by reselling the items, and people were purchasing goods that were already made and on the market, which helps the planet!
- Letting go of the rest: I think the final stage of downsizing is letting go of the rest. I had long known which items I could not ever part with of my mothers, including an antique dresser, her china, her bean pot, an antique dry sink and a lamp she used for reading by her bedside. I knew I had to make these items function in our small space. I could not keep anything for just “looks,” so I found a way to make them work in Our Little House or in The Belle Writer’s Studio. The dry sink (in the photo) is a coffee stand in the studio.
- Documenting: I’m taking pictures of the rest. While Mom’s huge dining room set was one of her most prized possessions, it was not a very expensive set to begin with, and years of use, moving and storage had taken a toll. Even if I had room for it, the set would need some repair for use again. I’m taking pictures of it and filming it, along with prized art and other antiques I cannot use. The photos and film will allow me to still have the stuff, forever in my memory, without the trouble it takes to maintain or the space needed for storage.
Have you downsized? How did you, or how do you plan on freeing yourself of stuff?