It seems like I drive a lot these days.
Back last spring when Damon got this job offer in Boston we knew this was the opportunity we’d been waiting for, working for, to make a major life change. You already know we dramatically downsized our house and our possessions, (on purpose!!) so we could live a simpler lifestyle. Well, we also chose to ~gasp~ get rid of a vehicle and make do with just one. ONE car.
We specifically chose to live in Braintree for two reasons, the schools for Josh, and easy access to the train station for Damon. It’s like city life without being in the city. It’s a place where having one car is really possible.
You’re thinking well sure, lots of people make do with one car, or even no car! But not us. It’s just something we never even considered before. We both grew up in MAINE, and there is practically no such thing as public transportation in Maine. You certainly can’t walk – everywhere you need to go is like, 110 miles away, or more. Okay seriously, I pulled that number out of nowhere and then I looked up how far it is from my hometown to the Maine/NH border and it’s 113 miles! Not even kidding.
Anyway, our plan, and we all know how well plans go, was to keep our old crappy SUV right up until it was time to move and then quickly get rid of it. About 3 1/2 weeks before our closing date we made a decision to donate it to a good charity instead of trying to sell it. Believe me when I say it wasn’t worth much, certainly not even worth the hassle of a craigslist ad!
Three days after that, the dang truck died on the side of the road.
Sigh. I had three weeks of transfer station trips/school pickups/extraneous moving errands left to make. Gah.
Anyway, we gave up, donated it to the Epilepsy Foundation (hello tax break!) and we’ve only had one car ever since. That was four months ago, and I haven’t murdered anyone yet. Wahoo!
Every week day now, I drive Damon to the train station, drop Josh at school, then go home and work until it’s time to pick up Josh again at 3. (No he doesn’t ever take the school bus, but that’s another story of it’s own.) We come home and get homework done and dinner ready, then at 5 we go out yet again and pick Damon up at the train station.
You guys. I feel like I’m in the car ALL the time. But here’s the scary thing; I don’t mind it. Josh gets reading time, or we all actually get time to TALK to each other. It’s quite a nice novelty! One I hope doesn’t wear off. 🙂
On weekends, we plan our time carefully, if one of us needs the car the other gets quiet time at home. We’ve been doing a lot more things together as a family too, even if it’s just errands. That’s a good thing!
The other really fabulous thing? Is how much money we’re saving. Think about this: no car payment, no car insurance, no registration fees, no tax, no maintenance, no extra gas. At MINIMUM we’ve estimated we’re saving around $5000 a year, but in reality, it’s probably 7 or 8. Um, yeah. I’m okay with that. I’ll just keep on doing all the driving, thanks.
Have you ever thought about downsizing to one family car or going car-less completely? Is it even doable where you live? Scary thought isn’t it?
We’re doing our best to make it work. We said we wanted try it for a year. I think we can, and if we get through the winter, maybe even longer!
There’s not much I loved doing more than getting up early on a sunny Saturday morning, planning my route of attack, and hitting as many local yard sales I could. Whether I was searching for Legos, yarn, furniture, tools, or just out looking to see what was there, I spent an awful lot of time picking up lots of useful treasures. While I may not have been a hoarder level yard-saler, I certainly had more of such treasures than I ever could use. What’s the harm? Not much in the way of cash. A few dollars here, a few there. My wallet was not where it hurt.
The real cost, well, that was in the overwhelming amount of stuff in my home. It was also in the time spent, keeping those items clean and organized. I had a nice big house with a spare bedroom and three different family rooms. They all needed furniture and decorations. And they all needed to be maintained. (And you all know how much I hate to clean!!)
I spent time and money on storage solutions for craft items I never used, jewelry making supplies, paper crafting supplies, and far more yarn than I could use up in ten years. So, I gave most of it to charity. I kept only what yarn I had a real plan for, as well as the painting supplies handed down to me from my father, and released the rest of it. I haven’t missed any of it, not for a single moment, and I won’t buy ANY more until I’ve used up what I have.
The 3 family rooms worth of furniture? That’s now down to one. Three bedrooms down to two. Two dining areas down to one. We don’t have a garage or a shed. We have a tiny outdoor closet that just fit the bikes and a few small tools. We don’t even have bureaus in our bedroom – if it doesn’t fit in the closets we don’t keep it.
I haven’t checked the local paper for a single yard sale, and I don’t plan to any time soon. As much as I love the concept of yard-saling; reusing things instead of throwing them into landfills, saving money buying used instead of new, and helping your neighbor make a bit of spare cash, well, I just can’t do it right now. I don’t need anything, and I don’t want anything, and I have no space for anything – that’s what I keep telling myself!
Now, whenever I have a free Saturday morning, I hit the Farmer’s Market instead. I’m still supporting local merchants and I’m getting good fresh food for my family. I can’t buy a single thing there that could clutter up my house! I come home with this instead:
So yeah, I’m talking about this again! I’ve been thinking a lot about the real value of the things I own. As I pack and declutter I’ve been trying to make truly thoughtful decisions about each and every item.
I’ve never really done this before, at least not while I’m in the process of selling a house and moving. Usually I’m in such a hurry that I practically throw everything into boxes and figure I’ll just deal with it when I unpack. Except I never do deal with it. I just store it all. Because someday I might need it, just in case.
This time is different. We know we want to move into a smaller place and we just can’t keep it all. This a good thing!
Anyway, all of this has really made me take a hard look at the value of stuff. I ask myself questions; Does this thing add to my life or take time and energy away from it? Does it take up space that could be better utilized? Does it affect only me or others as well?
One of our unspoken rules has been that the owner of the item must be the one to make the decision if it stays or goes. I cannot get rid of Damon’s electronics or Josh’s toys any more than they can get rid of my yarn or baking pans. You heard that right, Josh is the only one who decides what toys leave the house and when, and it works really well for us.
I don’t know how Damon and Josh make their internal decisions on what to purge but I’ve come up with bit of a system for myself. I’ve realized stuff has three different types of value:
I’ve been weighing these values along with the item’s positive or negative impact on our household and then making my decision if it stays or goes.
I prefer most items have at least two positive values, like the buffet my mother gave me many years ago. I have sentimental family feelings for it, but it also is useful as a storage piece. Same goes for my mother-in-law’s hope chest.
Some of the items may have positive values but they also have a negative impact. For instance, the piano my MIL gave us years ago. Although it was very sentimental to all of us, it was basically a dust magnet, a knick-knack catch all, took up lots of space, and would have been expensive to move again. The negatives outweighed the positives and it had to go. My MIL was FINE with this btw or I wouldn’t be using it as an example. 😉
I’ve found along the way that the smaller items are often the ones that are harder to decide on. Large pieces of furniture either have value or not but the little things aren’t always so clear cut. It’s too easy to think, well this is small, I can just put it in a box and decide later. No, I can’t. All of those little things add up and fill too many boxes. So I have to decide; is this candle holder (and the half burned candle in it) necessary? How many cookie sheets do I actually use? Do I need to hang on to books I’ve read 2-3 times already? Do I really have to save those torn t-shirts just in case I need a rag? But, but, but…I might neeeeed it.
What exactly is this “just in case” scenario in my head that makes me put aside so much stuff? Will I ever really need it, use it, fix it? No. The answer is almost always no. From now on, if it doesn’t have an obvious value right this very minute then it has to go.
Are you a saver or a purger? Are you a just-in-case-saver or a but-it’s-got-so-many-memories-saver? Or both like me? How do you decide on what to keep or not? An acquaintance of ours told us tonight that he once got rid of a bunch of things by imagining he was dead and looking at his stuff through his someone else’s eyes. The key there is someone else’s eyes. If you did that would you view your stuff differently?
My last couple of weeks have been filled with frantic get-it-on-the-market-quick house prep. It’s utterly exhausting. I have emptied every closet, cupboard, drawer, and nook, and sorted out what’s to keep, to giveaway, to recycle and what’s just plain trash! It’s amazing how much trash a house can hold.
We’re painting, packing, changing out flooring, deep cleaning, and basically finishing up every little project we’ve been putting off for years. I go to bed at night with muscles aching, and get up the next morning and do it all again.
Remember last summer when I had my yard sale? Well, we suspected at the time that a move like this might happen and we wanted to get a head start on decluttering. So we got rid of all of the stuff in our basement storage area. It’s a good thing we did. I don’t know if I could deal with all of that too!
When we first started this process we thought we’d get rid of about 50% of everything we own. In reality it might end up being about two thirds. 2/3s! Can you imagine that? Look around your house and tell me, could you give up more than 1/2 of it? A year ago I would have said no way, and yet here I am doing it.
I’m trying not to be sentimental about “stuff” anymore – I know that the stuff doesn’t hold the memories and really it’s just holding me back. I also no longer save everything that might be useful someday. It never will. It’s a lie I’ve telling myself so I didn’t have to part with it all.
I’m tired of having a big house so I have extra room store these things. I’m tired of dusting tchotchkes because they’re there. I’m tired of constantly shifting things around but never really using them. I just don’t want them anymore. I want smaller, fewer, cleaner, better organized. I want to live to do things, not to have things.
I hope you all don’t mind going through the journey with me. 🙂
Did anyone else read this article in the NY Times last week about getting rid of all of your stuff and living with very few belongings? I’m just so intrigued by this. I’ve been feeling the weight of my “things” for a long time now. I’ve started to take steps to declutter, but I think there’s a whole mindset to living simply that I would like to explore.
Recently, in preparation for that horrible yard sale, I went through 10 big plastic bins that have been stored in our basement for all of the time we’ve lived here. We literally moved them from one storage area in our last house to another storage area in this one. (And really, they were in the one before that too, they were just in cardboard then.) It was such a waste of space! (And money to move it!) It was almost all junk.
Only about one bin worth went to the yard sale, one bin was worth keeping, and the rest went into the trash. That’s so depressing, and yet it was an incredible feeling to free myself of those things. Seriously.
I’ve decided I’m taking the next year purge to myself of some more of the stuff I don’t really need. I also have too many things I’ve kept for sentimental reasons, but don’t have any use for. At what point do you rid yourself of those things? Life isn’t about what you own, is it? I don’t think I would ever go as far as the woman in the article did, but I know I need to downsize my belongings, and my life.