I am now back in the USA and in the sunny state of Florida. One of the main obsessions I have had in the six months I have been back is to deal with our stuff in storage. During the four years we lived abroad this mountain of stuff laid in the back of my mind with both wistfulness and dread. I longed to see my beautiful bed and sleep in it instead of the hard Ikea mattresses most furnished apartments in the UK seem to have. I looked forward to my mom’s baking set, the jewelry box my grandfather made, my great-grandmother’s doilies, and my great-great grandmother’s china. My husband missed his trombone and stacks of books. My son had toys saved for him that he had yet to see. The dread though same in the amount of stuff there was and how it reproduced while we were gone. In the four years we were gone, a lot of major life events had happened in my family so we were given lots of things that we “needed” once we came back. We had also acquired lots of things while we were gone. This made a mountain of “important” mementos!
The first task was to get all of our stuff in one place. We had to wait months for our things from Scotland to arrive, then we had to depend on my Dad’s car (and his free time between work and other commitments) to get to the storage unit. This showed us just how much stuff had been given to us which was overwhelming! We moved again to our own place and were able to get everything one place.
Now, we are still in transition and will be moving again at anytime when my husband gets offered a teaching position. This means that as we unpack, we know we will have to pack everything up again and move it. We made the decision to get rid of anything we aren’t going to use immediately or wasn’t even thought about in four years. Many of these things that we are getting rid of was passed down to me from various family members. There is an emotional battle that comes with that. Am I betraying my family by getting rid of an object?
Minimalism as an ideological movement is about freedom from both stuff and ridiculous obligations. An object that only sits in a box to be moved from house to another is neither an active reminder of the person nor a useful contributor to family happiness. Is it traitorous to get rid of this burden? I grew up with so many people in my family and in my husband’s family and among friends who would say that this isn’t so much traitorous, but wasteful and a form of being separated from the comfort of your past. I used to think this myself. What could be nicer that being in your home surrounded by all the things you love that reminds you of the people you love and happy memories with that person? The problem is not having these reminders around you, but having these reminders in boxes that will only be looked at whenever you get the time to go to your attic or clean your garage, storage unit, or closet. If it is something useful that might be used in the future and you can afford the luxury of storing in, than that is great, but I can’t afford it and I can’t be the entire family tree’s storage unit.
So out goes furniture that we don’t immediately need, books we won’t be reading again, CDs that won’t be used, linens that don’t fit the bed we own, hobby tools and supplies that we aren’t using, glass wear that won’t be used, even scrapbooks will be photographed for a digital copy and then the original recycled. Various collectibles will be going onto ebay and costume jewelry that I am not going to wear will be given away no matter who originally owned it. We are taking a harsh stand on our stuff, but even with as much as we will be giving away I will still be using my great-great grandmother’s china and displaying the jewelry box my grandfather made me. Minimalism is about priorities and enjoying the best of what has been give to you!