Need Less Stuff

Know what you need/ Need less stuff

Report from the Island-to-East Coast move: We’ve sold our house, we’re hanging in an Airbnb, and we’re waiting to close on our new place. In a month or so, we’ll see our household goods for the first time in 3 1/2 months.

Planning for this move meant making some sensible decisions about what we’d absolutely need while in transit. We had two seasons to contend with, so a versatile wardrobe was key. Pet items had to be shipped early and, in some cases, just duplicated (litter boxes, food bowls, beds). We’re in a furnished space, but we’re kitchen snobs, so good knives and some favorite tools got sent ahead. We (mostly) chose these things well! But then there are the things we chose less well. I have my KitchenAid stand mixer and my sewing machine, and have yet to find time to use either—though I do continue to hope.

In an attempt to be a grownup, I decided that rather than just being bummed about being without our stuff for months, I’d take this opportunity to see just how much I miss the things we’re doing without. I set a goal: to be able to open at least a handful of boxes on moving day and think to myself: I haven’t missed having this item in my life for over 3 months; maybe I don’t need to own it anymore. 

While I can’t say for sure that this will happen, I can say that I’ve noticed a few things already:

  • Wardrobe: I have far more clothes than I need. I’ve been living out of 3 suitcases; none of them large. I haven’t missed a single item of clothing that I can recall.
  • Food/dry goods: We had two pantries FULL of stored food in Hawaii. While I would like to have more on hand than we do in the Airbnb, I’m also 100% sure that we don’t need to pay to put a roof over non-perishables that are a short drive away at the grocery store.
  • Condiments/spices: I really haven’t missed anything. Granted, we’re not doing as much cooking as we normally do, but I’m confident that we won’t need to accumulate the amount of spices we’ve had previously.
  • Books: This is our weak spot. We had 11 bookshelves—big ones—in our home in Hawaii. We purged pretty hard before we left, but we’re still going to be faced with a hefty shipment of books when the movers come. I’m not suggesting that we need to get rid of all of them, or even most of them. But in the spirit of not paying a large mortgage to put a roof over things we don’t need, I do think we need to take a hard look at what we are resisting parting with. It’s hard to say I haven’t missed them, since you really never know when you’ll reach for a particular book, but I’d be willing to bet that there’s another hundred or so that can be sent back into the world to thrill new readers.
  • Garage items: I’m having a hard time remembering what was even out there. Camping gear. Bike gear. MANY serving dishes, spare sets of tableware, tools (more on that later), gardening stuff – probably 150 square feet worth of stored items. A little quick math was very motivating (150 x a lot per square foot = heart failure.) Time to take this situation in hand.
  • Magazines: I get a LOT of magazines, and I do love them. Many are small-press, collectible magazines that I want to keep, which I need to get a grip on. So, I’ll be recycling or donating a TON of magazines that didn’t get read over the winter, and it will suck, but we’ll re-claim some needed space.
  • Pet items: Let’s face it, there are shelters that need this stuff, and meanwhile, we have beds, bowls, leashes and toys that our pets don’t use. Some of these things belonged to our now long-deceased and well-loved former dog Pokey, so they’re hard to part with. But I’m sure she wouldn’t mind! And Jim, our current dog, doesn’t need them! Time to set these things free.
  • Old electronic devices: I’m old enough that I have a hard time with the concept that a laptop that still works, goddamn it, is no longer useful. Never mind that it doesn’t have enough RAM to run a current version of any operating system or application! Or that it’s hobbled by a tiny amount of memory! We have two completely outdated laptops and a third that’s still functional, but needs to be re-homed because its battery life is craptastic. Along with that, we have a cemetery of old iPods, iPhones, an external floppy drive, an exhausted first-generation iPad and Maude knows how many outdated cords, dongles and cables. Oh, and several outdated digital cameras! These things need to be responsibly recycled, re-purposed or donated.
  • Athletic equipment: I already found a home for my old ice hockey gear, but we’re still the proud owners of balls, gloves, pads and other equipment needed for sports we never, ever play. I’ll bet some youth league or YMCA would love to have these items.
  • Tools: Jamie and I both came to this marriage with lots of hand and power tools. I’m certain that we do NOT need the 4+ hammers, uncountable number of screwdrivers, several duplicate wire cutters and pliers, or all three of the socket wrench sets we have. One power drill is enough. It’s time to do a surgical strike on our tool situation and pass on the things we don’t need.
  • Linens: We don’t need more than two sets of sheets for each bed in the house. And any unmatched towel that’s not a beach or dog towel is going to the animal shelter.
  • To-go ware: For the love of all that’s decent in this world, who needs an entire box of to-go cups, thermoses and other plastic drinking vessels? Be gone.

It’s a good start, but I’m sure there are surprises-a-plenty waiting for me when the moving truck arrives. But I have to be strong, and be ready to face the foe. How much will it suck? A lot! But how much will I love being able to spend that extra few thousand dollars a year on travel instead of keeping a bunch of crap I don’t need out of the rain? A lot! Let’s do this.

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