How to say goodbye to your things

How to say goodbye to your things

There is no avoiding it. If you want to hit the road fulltime you have to learn to travel light. If you dream of backpacking around the globe, plan on carrying no more than 40 liters (1.4 cubic feet) of gear; basically just enough to hold a couple changes of clothes. Even with a large RV, space is limited.

Prior to moving in to a 300-square-foot motor home, we made do with a 1,000-square-foot apartment. For over a decade we lived without the benefit of a basement or an attic. Our total storage space amounted to three small closets. We always considered our lifestyle pretty minimalist. Somehow we still managed to accumulate four times more stuff than we could take with us.

Nearly everything we owned had to go.

More than “Just Stuff”

Parting with our things was one of the decisions we struggled with most. That surprised me. With all the major changes we had committed ourselves to, getting rid of stuff seemed the least of our worries. After all, it was “just stuff.” Isn’t that what we tell ourselves? Things don’t matter?

This wasn’t just any old stuff, though. This was our stuff. Stuff we spent our adult life accumulating. Stuff we liked and cared for. None of it was new, but the wear and tear told the story of a life well lived. It told our story. Everything from the wine stains on the couch to the feline teeth marks on the dresser held special meaning for us. We weren’t ready to part with it.

For a long while we toyed with the idea of renting storage space. There was something comforting in knowing that if our plans didn’t work out we could pick up right were we left off – with our place and our things exactly as we left them. We liked that idea.

Buying 10-year old junk we already own

The finance guy in me protested. He argued that paying to store our furniture is no different than repurchasing the same 10-year-old junk we already owned. Would we really buy this exact stuff again; the wine stained couch and the partly gnawed dresser?

Other voices raised additional doubts. What if we didn’t return to New Jersey? Would we pay to ship this stuff cross-country or around the world? Would we fly back ourselves just to get it? How do we even know we’d return to find it in good condition; undamaged by heat, or cold, or water, or rodents? Suddenly storage seemed like less and less of a good idea.

Eventually we realized that it wasn’t our stuff we were trying to hold on to, but our past. Our things were familiar and safe and offered one of the last links to a life we knew was over, but maybe weren’t completely ready to abandon just yet. Storage wouldn’t change the finality of what we had done. In truth, it would just complicate things.

Letting go came gradually along with the realization that we couldn’t ever go back to the way things were. In our hearts we knew we didn’t really want to.

It’s always a little scary to trade the comfortable for the unknown. It helped to know we had a good plan, one that we thought through carefully and perfected over several years. We also knew, whatever happened, we could count on ourselves and on each other. We were in good hands.

Mostly we knew that our past was behind us. It was time to move on.

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22 Comments on “How to say goodbye to your things”

  1. customtripplanning December 5, 2011 at 9:14 am #

    I once asked my kids….if there was a need to evacuate and they could take the car, what would they take. I then upped the ante and said they could take only what they could carry with them. It really brings the issue to the truth then..what do we NEED vs what do we WANT. We are going thru a bit of a purge now as we prepare to move cross country when my husband retires…I told him one-third of what we have MUST leave!!! Not an easy process.

    Like

    • Brian December 5, 2011 at 2:00 pm #

      Moving is usually provides a good incentive to purge. Putting everything in boxes also shows just how much stuff we all have. It’s always more than we thought.

      Like

  2. grant December 5, 2011 at 9:42 am #

    Nice boots! 🙂

    Like

  3. Susan December 5, 2011 at 11:40 am #

    Never thought in terms of “repurchasing” one’s furniture when you place it in storage. Great aid in purging the never ending pile of stuff we collect like magnets!

    Like

    • Brian December 5, 2011 at 2:07 pm #

      Another way to think about it is to ask the question: If I save the monthly storage rental payment in an account, how many months will it take me to save enough to replace all the stuff I’m storing?

      Assuming we can repurchase the things we sold at equivalent prices, we’re already in the black.

      Like

  4. Marcia Clarke December 5, 2011 at 11:45 am #

    The unknown is what sometimes keeps us from moving on, but once you decide to make the move you can feel so liberated. I am nearing that point, just need to convince the hubby that it is ok to let go of “stuff”. Congratulations on your bold move.

    Like

    • Brian December 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm #

      Send hubby our way and we’ll see what we can do. 🙂

      One thing that helps us is to remember that everything we’ve done, can be undone. I think many of us often get hung up because we implicitly assume that a big change is forever; that there’s no going back. The truth is, you can almost always go back.

      Like

  5. Jeff & Sheryl Bright December 5, 2011 at 1:41 pm #

    Getting rid of all our STUFF was very freeing. Lightening the load gave us freedom.

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    • Brian December 5, 2011 at 2:12 pm #

      Agree. Stuff owns us in so many ways. It keeps us working to support it. It also requires us to maintain it. The less the better.

      Like

  6. John Phillips December 5, 2011 at 5:25 pm #

    Some stuff needs, or cries out, to be kept. I hear what you are saying, but we are who we are. i could easily get rid of 90 or even 95% of my stuff, but the pictures, the heirlooms, the memories, well they just couldn’t be replaced. Having said that, 5 0r 10% of what we own is pretty minimalist and could easily be stowed somewhere, like at a family or friends garage. I am with Marcia on this, we are close to doing thi, just not quite there yet. Something to think about as we really hadn’t yet.

    Like

    • Brian December 5, 2011 at 5:55 pm #

      I think that’s fair. We didn’t get rid of absolutely everything – a small amount of things we squirreled away in a relative’s attic.

      Like

  7. john December 5, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    we went through much of the same thought processes and we too didn’t rent a storage unit and have no regrets… We have been fulltiming in our RV nine months and you hit the purging part of it right on the nose when you said we were trying to hold on to our past not our stuff…

    Like

    • Brian December 6, 2011 at 3:05 pm #

      It’s funny how once you’ve been separated from your things for a while, they lose their hold on you.

      Like

  8. loveantoinette December 6, 2011 at 1:26 pm #

    What an inspiration Brian and Shannon! I too am still having a hard time letting go of things, but slowly I’ve been putting up more stuff on Ebay. I was once big on designer stuff and they are definitely the first to go. In a couple of months, after the winter/snowboarding season is over here in the Northeast, I am planning to leave, check out of my old life and just go… I’m a bit scared but when I read stories like yours, it inspires me to just let go and go for it. It’s now or never, right?

    Like

    • Brian December 6, 2011 at 3:02 pm #

      I think it’s good to do things that scare you – not wild, crazy, scary (or at least not often ;-)) – but things that push your comfort zone a little bit. It’s how we grow and how we prevent the world from closing in around us.

      Like

  9. knitterarian December 6, 2011 at 7:53 pm #

    Wow this is timely. The fiance and I are currently struggling to clear some more living and breathing space in our apartment. Thanks for the advice!

    Like

    • Brian December 6, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

      One more word of advice: Craigslist. Get rid of some stuff and meet some “interesting” people. LOL.

      Like

  10. Nomadic Samuel December 9, 2011 at 8:49 pm #

    I’ve found the more I travel the less materialistic I am which is a very freeing way to live.

    Like

    • Brian December 12, 2011 at 12:35 pm #

      Traveling light will do that, I think. Not only do you come to realize all the stuff you can live without, but also how owning a lot of things can hold you back.

      Like

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. End of the Road | Everywhere Once - October 3, 2012

    […] It’s hard to see what about our current situation is really different. Having decided once to sell everything we couldn’t bring with us, I expect we’ll make that same choice […]

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  2. Donation Time! | Seize The Day RV Adventure - March 20, 2015

    […] if he could have them. I’m happy someone could use them. I liked Everywhere Once’s post How to say goodbye to your things. It made me realize I’m letting go of the past when I get rid of the stuff. My future is […]

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