A few thoughts about material goods

DSC00574The last few weeks months have been some of the most difficult of my life for one simple reason: having to sell everything I own. Now, it might seem simple to get rid of everything but one suitcase full of clothes, but it’s not: it’s emotionally draining in so many ways. It’s almost like going through the death of a loved one. I know that sounds preposterous as it’s stuff, not people, but there are so many memories attached to many of the things I got rid of that it feels like someone died.

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I suppose someone did die: the old me before kids, before marriage. As I began to riffle through all my stuff thinking about where to begin, I met with old memories from my childhood and teenage years. I met up with old dreams and aspirations, old friends. I was confronted by the me I wanted to be ten years ago at the start of college. I went through boxes of letters keeping only the most precious ones. I threw out boxes of art work from college, sold off all my photo studio gear, reduced all my crafting/sewing supplies down to only the basics. To be honest, my heart was aching. I thought about all the time and effort put into making these things. I donated bags of clothing and even my wedding dress. Getting rid of the amazingly well-stocked kitchen I had built hurt so much. Some things I did not get rid of only gave to my mother to keep. It felt like the homesteading life I had begun to build was crumbling before me. But on I went, as everything needed to go.

DSC00551The worst of it came when we had an epic garage sale where we put everything but our couch and beds out to be sold. Having people rifle through all our stuff wasn’t so bad. By this time I had gotten it through my head that anything in the garage was out of my life. If it went though the garage door, it no longer meant anything to me. It had to be that way. So when it came time for people to buy things I was hoping that they would be decent enough to accept the fair prices I put on things. But I was wrong of course. I quickly came to the realization that no matter how nice a person seemed they still wanted a good deal and they wanted to buy very expensive things for dirt cheap. I sold so many things for prices that made me cringe and swallow back the words I wanted to send out. I realized that once something has been bought from a store it no longer holds any value at all. Even if it’s new and hasn’t been used yet. This made me very angry at the time.

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Now that a week has passed and I have done several thrift store donation runs  and the house is almost empty I find myself not even remembering what was at that garage sale. Better yet, I find myself not wanting to remember. Letting go of owning so many things and starting from scratch has me on the edge of a new path to simplicity. So maybe this is the way it had to be. Change is good right? Once good note: the gigantic wad of cash that looks like something from a Russian mob movie that we deposited in the bank. I’d like to say thank you to all the friends who adopted things which I had a hard time parting with and could not take money for. Silly as it is, something like my professional wooden chopping block I could not bear to sell to anyone. So I had a friend adopt it. To sum up all these rambling thoughts:

  • stuff is just stuff
  • used stuff holds no value except to its owner (if that)
  • be smart about buying things
  • own less stuff
  • only bring things into your life if you will use them on a weekly basis (will make an exception for holiday things)
  • attach yourself to people and experiences, not material goods

I would really love to hear your thoughts owning stuff and your attachment or non-attachment to materials objects.

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40 Responses to A few thoughts about material goods

  1. Dawn Suzette says:

    KC I have been thinking of you over these past few weeks. I totally understand. I did that MAJOR clean out, yard sell for dirt cheep, when we moved from California. Only bringing really a handful of items with us to Nova Scotia. This time around we were able to bring more but still sold many things we knew we should part with… although it was hard to sell the canoe. And I am making a point to use things like art and craft supplies we have before we purchase ANY more.
    As I get older I want more simplicity. I love seeing those spots where the wall meets the floor. Sounds crazy but it makes a big difference to have white space in your home too. Just like in writing, I think you need it to process things. Living in this new house has made me realize just how much better I function with less stuff and a wee bit more open spaces. I have no intention of “filling it up” as some might feel the need.
    I am keeping you in my thoughts!

    • KC says:

      I think it will be good to take a different approach to my crafting and making things from scratch. Now rather then have a stash of things I think I will buy supplies as the project arises. I like the idea of negative space in the house too. I’m excited to see how I can be just as creative and crafty but with less things. Especially in the kitchen. I want to cook just as well as I did here but with less things.

      Thank you for keeping me in your thoughts. Maybe soon we can have another phone conversation!

  2. Hugs KC, I know how hard this whole ordeal was for you. But I do like the “light at the end of the tunnel” you have found…the release, and realization that it is just stuff. It will never be easy to let go of anything, but it does leave us feeling lighter and I think somewhat freer.

    We are on this path too, trying to get rid of stuff, not buying more stuff, and living life with what we have. It can be hard sometimes, especially in our world today. In the end though we are happier.

    I am a firm believer in experiences and moments over material gifts, the memories last so much longer.

    Good luck my dear friend, on this journey of yours, I know there will be some really great moments ahead for you.

    Travel light and travel safe.

    • KC says:

      Thank you Kim. The house is truly empty now. We are eating at the Whole Foods salad bar now as I have given away everything but two titanium camping sporks, the girls’ forks and spoons and our Klean Kanteen cups. I’m enjoying the over abundance of salad. I’m hoping to make it a serious diet change. :)

      I am hoping once we arrive in France that we can keep things really simple and we won’t fall back and try to replace things we got rid of. We really are starting at a unique place of having nothing but clothing and a few books.

      This house is so empty, the walls echo when we talk! :)

  3. *kate says:

    ((hugs)) I feel it too. We’re trying to move and every time I start to think about it I wonder about our stuff – what can we really take with us,what has real value to us, how ever did we get so much stuff??? (And my crazy mind kinda hopes we move close so we can u-haul it and not have to part with much while the other crazy part of me hopes we move far and can get rid of tons of stuff and start fresh ;-) ) The anxiety of stuff is incredible. But a fresh start will be a lovely feeling too.
    I’m so glad you found good adopted homes for your treasures. Good luck with the rest of your preparations and safe travels!

    • KC says:

      You know when you have to get rid of everything it makes you really reevaluate what you have. We had one garage sale back in October and I thought that was the mega epic garage sale. But then we still had so much stuff. I really have no idea, had we ended up moving to Boston how we could have moved all our stuff there. We would have gone broke trying to get it there.

      Thank your for the hugs! Good luck on your travel path as well!

  4. Renee says:

    Hi KC

    Thank you for sharing this post. It must have been so hard seeing bits of your past life and dreams go (I can totally relate to this feeling). I admire you for what you have done. I/we are also on our path to simplifying and how I wish I could do what you’ve just done. Sometimes, I just want to hire a big skip and get rid of everything! But as it happens, I am doing donating and eBaying (more donating as I don’t have much time)…onwards and upwards.

    I do hope you enjoy the lightness and catharsis that will soon settle after all this. An exciting new chapter!

    I always remind myself of this William Morris quote to help me along: ‘Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.’

    Keep only the things you truly love. Quality over quantity. Less is more.

    You’re an inspiration!

    Have a lovely weekend :)

    • KC says:

      Funny that you should use this quote! My mother used to always say something similar to me whenever we would go out to buy something together. She always said don’t buy it unless it sings to you. I’ve tried to hold true to that.

      I think having only useful things will be huge challenge and one that I am up for. I also highly agree about quality over quantity. I would rather put up more money for high quality items then have to replaces them more often because I bought them on the cheap.

      Thank you so much for your kind words Renee!

  5. Melissa says:

    Oh, ma chère! Mon cœur saigne pour vous. Le passé est si difficile de laisser aller. Mais votre avenir va être une telle aventure! Et la Rivera française est tellement magnifique.

    And that is about the extent of my french, and it’s probably incorrect because it’s been so long. Translates to:
    Oh, my dear! My heart aches for you. The past is so hard to let go of. But your future is going to be such an adventure! And the French Rivera is so gorgeous.

    I haven’t been in over 20 years, but I remember the people being very kind and generous. I can’t wait to watch this unfold. I’ll live vicariously through you! Have a wonderful weekend!

    • KC says:

      Melissa, thank you for the message in French! It was fun to read through it and try to translate before you gave me a translation. :)

      I’ve never been to the Riviera either! I’ve been to Paris but nowhere else in France. I’m glad we will be close to Italy though. Whenever I feel overwhelmed by the language I’ll just hope over to Italy and speak Italian for a few hours. :)

      I hope your weekend is wonderful as well.

  6. Meryl says:

    Sweet Husband and I were discussing this over breakfast this morning. (One of your boxes came yesterday!) We couldn’t decide if it would be liberating or terrifying. Sounds like you’re finding it a little bit of both. Thinking of you as you sort it all through.

    • KC says:

      I think it is both. :) I am also running through this with a “don’t think to much about it just do it” kind of attitude. Whenever I start to think about what we are actually embarking upon I start to get a little weak in the knees. But when you are offered the chance of a life time for free you have to take it right?!

  7. krkennedy30 says:

    I’m glad you are reaching the end and what an adventure that awaits! We will certainly try to use everything you gave us well. Liam and I have big plans for the canvases and you were right about the Tsuro game – it’s been fun for all of us to play. I will be thinking of you often when I am diapering our new baby this summer and as we use the many other things you gave us (Jeff was delighted by the roasting pan).

    In general, I am someone who gets rid of things fairly easily. I feel like I am constantly cleaning out some area of our house and our Goodwill pile is pretty much a constant thing. My husband is more of the keep-it-because-we-might-need-it-someday mentality so sometimes we struggle over certain things but usually its not too bad.

    Before you know it you’ll be playing with the girls on the beach in the French Riviera and all of this will be a distant memory!

    • KC says:

      If it were up to D he would have us in a two bedroom apartment and no car. That maybe what we will have for a while! He is so good about not giving emotional value to any material good. I try to follow his example but I have not been successful so far. The only thing that really got me through getting rid of everything was being rational about it. And knowing how much it costs to ship stuff internationally. :)

      I look forward to posting about that first trip to the beach to dip my feet into the Mediterranean.

  8. karen says:

    If you did sell it or donate it you were ready to part with it. I think along with the anguish there is freedom. Like you said stuff is stuff. I hope you buy a lovely journal when you get to your new home to record the new memories that you make :)

    • KC says:

      Karen have you ever seen european artesian paper! Oh my goodness, to die for!

      You know donating actually felt better then selling. I have been donating to my favorite non-profit thrift shop in town. I bought many things there and so I felt like I should pay it forward by donating lots of things which I thought would be great finds.

  9. Mom says:

    K.C.
    Very valuable lesson learned. It is and always will be people that are important. Things can always be replaced or bought again or will soon be forgotten. You have cleaned out your life for new experiences and new insights to come in. I got tears in my eyes though seeing my Sofia with that cash. She looks like such a big girl. And although seeing my grandgirls go so far away is ripping my heart out, knowing my own girl is leaving is even harder. Saying goodby has always been a most difficult thing for me. I asked God when you were born to let me borrow you for 30 years or so and I think that bargain has been met. I didn’t know it would be that you would go so far. Yes we have technology and yes my heart can stretch those 6000 miles, but you are still my own and in the deepest part of my heart and I am going to miss you more than you can ever imagine until your own girls get the travel bug we have in this family and leave you for parts unknown. Then you will know what is in the mother’s heart I have right now. I love you with the same feeling I had when they put you in my arms on Jan 25, 29 years ago.I wanted to keep you forever then and knew I had to let go and I want to keep you forever now and know I have to let go. It is the bittersweet taste of motherhood. “Who’d a thunk it?”

    Mom

    • KC says:

      Oh Mama,
      You made me cry while I was packing this morning. Good thing the girls were out with D for the morning. They would have wondered what the heck made mama cry while looking at the phone.

      You always told me I had to let go so new things could come right?! *sob* *smile*

      Love you mama!

    • Amy says:

      You made me cry too! Just beautiful!

  10. Lisa says:

    Oh, KC, I feel your pain, and everything everyone has written here resonates with me too. We’ve just been through this as well – not as intense a purging as you had to do, since we just moved from Virginia to New York, but still, it was a move to a house half as big as our old/beloved/too big home. Having all that extra space allowed me to put off sorting through all the STUFF of my past for YEARS. Dealing with it, then, this last month or two – it was simultaneously agonizing and refreshing. Also exhausting.

    I have to say that being here in this small space feels great, really great. I’m thinking a lot about the tools of our lives – even if they were chosen with care and intention and love – they’re not who we are, you know? That remains, even when we’ve only got the clothes on our back.

    I also feel an incredible desire to keep new clutter at bay, now that I’ve done all that work. So far what that’s meant is: mail gets sorted immediately, I say no anytime someone offers me a piece of paper anywhere (or write down the info or take a photo of it, in Evernote, and then toss the paper), and I’m trying hard to unpack with some kind of speed. I don’t mean there will be no more physical evidence of our living ever again – just, I feel the experience of getting rid of things has been a gift, and that it puts me in such a fresh space to try to live with even more intention.

    • KC says:

      I’ve been following your journey on Instagram. I’ glad you are there now and done with it all. I hope that I too can keep the clutter down. I realize that trying to do or make everything from scratch made my kitchen so cluttered. I’m going to try to make just as much from scratch but without some many extra tools.

      I so agree with the part about putting off sorting threw stuff. I never really looked at most of the papers and art projects that were stored away. It feels good to know I don’t have to haul them anymore.

      I’m hoping for a whole new level of simplicity and frugality.

      Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts and experiences here. I so appreciated reading this.

  11. Rosalyn says:

    I think that your post just may have inspired me to really start letting go too. The clutter in our little home (which is filled to the brim with two children, let alone our material “stuff”!) drives me crazy, but I have a hard time parting with things–mostly because I can think of every person I ever loved that ever held it/gave it/borrowed it/owned it/etc. But we need to simplify our lives and get rid of the extra, unnecessary items that are filling up space that should be left for playing and peace and positivity and prayer. And I think you may have just expressed exactly what I’m afraid of. But the liberation that you feel, even with the difficulty, makes it worth it. You’re going to have such an amazing adventure, and it’s the best idea to move forward with light hearts and light suitcases and embrace the new and amazing experiences (and belongings) that you’ll encounter in France. Good luck. xoxo

    • KC says:

      The first little bit is hard, but once you start you can’t stop until you find a place that really allows for open breathing. It is hard to give away something when you remember who gave it to you and why, where, when and so on. Things that I couldn’t bear to part with, but had too, I took a picture of.

      Thank you for the well wishes. We are so close to being on our way! :)

  12. loripickert says:

    it sounds like you are well on your way to a life where you own your stuff instead of your stuff owning you. i really believe what kate said about the anxiety of stuff — there is a tipping point there. when you stay on the right side of it, you can focus on more important things.

    congratulations and good luck with your new adventure!

    • KC says:

      And there you have it, “a life where you own your stuff instead of your stuff owning you”. You are brilliant Lori. I might put that in my wallet to remind me of that I don’t need so many things. :) BTW your book is coming with me :) it was shipped in a box today with the very few home schooling materials left.

  13. Taryn Oakley says:

    That must be so hard. Stuff is just stuff, but, you know… there are some things that we choose carefully and tend for years and become attached to, even though they are just stuff. I can imagine it is a huge change for your family, and if I had to convince my kids to sell all of their toys, I know i would be in for a big fight. Good luck!

    • KC says:

      Yes, yes, that was the hardest part about selling things on the cheap was that I choose so many things with mindfulness to their materials, who made thema and where they came from. So many people didn’t care at all they just wanted them for cheap and that hurt.

      Have you ever read Simplicity Parenting? Payne suggests reducing your children’s toys to 7 items. We have more or less done that and the girls seem no worse for it. Plus they love to read. The reduction in toys has really pushed them outside more and I love this!

  14. Aimee says:

    We emigrated (prechildren) about 4 years ago and arrived in our new world (metaphorically – I’m not an alien, honestly) with 2 suitcases and 2 cats. A few bits were shipped later but not a lot and nothing big.
    It was hard and yet liberating. I believe in holding onto important memory triggers and special little things, but mostly agree with you, stuff is just that, stuff.
    We now have a tiny little home and I actually relish the fact we don’t have room to accumulate loads of clutter it makes me consider and appreciate everything that takes space in my home.

    Good luck with your move, such an exciting adventure! Emigrating is such fun.

    • KC says:

      Thanks! D’s job has made it quite easy for us to transition so we shouldn’t have any issues once we get there.

      Now if only we could be done getting rid of things!

      Thank you for visiting my blog!

      • Aimee says:

        That’s so good. We arrived sans job so it was stressful but in the grand scheme meant to be.
        I found the worst bit was after getting rid of stuff, emptying the house, cats had flown etc but before we actually left, it was only a couple of days but felt like it dragged.

        Can’t wait to see your new life on sunny Mediterranean shores.

        • KC says:

          These next few days out of this house will be tough. We have no rhythm but I am trying to keep it fun. At least there will be no more packing and cleaning todo. I hired someone to clean the house!

  15. Amazing post. And beautiful insights. You’ve got me thinking! Thank you xx

  16. Amy says:

    Oh honey, when I read the part about adopting things out, it made me cry! I already love that cutting board, but I am just a steward…someday, when you come home and are ready, it will return to you. You really are handling all of this with such grace. Growth and change are hard, but so worth it, and the adventure before you is going to be amazing! Come play any day this week except tomorrow morning…let’s get you and the girls out of the hotel room while you’re waiting for your French life to begin!

  17. keishua says:

    we are gearing up for a clean out. i am dragging my feet but i know it something that we need to do. doesn’t make it easier. learning a lot from this post.

    • KC says:

      We did what I thought was a clean out back in October. It was epic. Bus this second one was on a whole new level. I’m glad my experience could be of use!

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