Contemplating The Radical: Could I Give Up (Nearly) Everything I Own?

8 years ago

As I prepare to move from my home but not having yet identified my new one, I am seriously contemplating what I will place into storage and what I will let go of rather than pay to house in anticipation of future use and enjoyment. A number of thoughts and factors are guiding my decision making and leading me to possibly a somewhat radical place.

I find myself toying with and returning to the thought of letting it all go. That's right, giving up everything I own save for the stuff I must keep like my computer and other work tools, client files, tax records, important documents, clothing so I don't get arrested for public nudity, etc....

I saw a news piece about things people place into storage units as they lose their homes in the recession. Several of those profiled were paying to store beat up couches, bags of broken and unloved toys, and collections of stuff that had no value to anyone but the individual. A few of the people the reporter talked with admitted that they hadn't thoughtfully considered what they were paying to store or for what purpose. That report has stuck with me as it is easy to spot another person's folly while remaining blind to your own. Ever since I've looked at what I own with a critical eye towards whether or not it is something I should pay to store and maintain especially since I eventually will give it all up one day.

Recently I drove to a house to pick up some moving boxes that were offered on Freecycle. The house they were at was in one of the neighborhoods that had been devastated in the 1991 Oakland firestorm. Many houses had been rebuilt, some were still under construction and, like the mouth of a child awaiting a visit from the tooth fairy, there were gaps where still-empty lots dotted the winding road. The sight got me thinking... what would I mourn if it was lost in a fire? What would make my life difficult if I were to lose it? What would I be able to replace if I had to start over from scratch? I can tell you that virtually everything falls into the third category.

Even my sofa. I love my sofa. It took me nearly my entire adult life to find a sofa I love. I'm apparently like the princess and the pea or Goldilocks and porridge when it comes to sofas. However, I found it. And if I found a sofa I loved once, I could find one again, I'm sure.

Some things though it strikes me that it might make some sense to store. Like my TV. I couldn't sell it for much given how quickly technology upgrades and prices fall. However, it would likely cost me several times over the cost of storage to replace it eventually so on a strict cost-benefit analysis basis, big screen TV gets a passing grade.

Pragmatic ROI considerations aside, there are more spiritual considerations. Like should I even have a big screen TV? Perhaps this is an opportunity to move on to a non-television way of life without the distraction and with the opportunity to focus on writing, reading and other potentially more enriching pursuits. Maybe I can reduce my carbon footprint and tread more lightly on the earth by responsibly recycling or passing things along an not replacing them. A radical de-cluttering might not only be good for the soul but might open up the path for non-stuff kinds of goodness to enter my life.

I suspect though that ultimately this will be a fantasy that should I ever commit to will have to happen down the road. Getting rid of stuff takes time! Time that I don't really have and energy that is flowing towards all the ancillary business of moving. I am certain that I won't stop thinking about this idea, though and if nothing else I believe it is a useful frame through which to evaluate and view everything I hold on to and bring into my life.

Have you ever undertaken a radical de-cluttering. Lost or consciously rid yourself of most of your belongings? If you've put stuff into storage how do you feel about the decision and the value of the price?

Related Reading:

what_ev at 43 Things: Starting over

I want to keep important and sentimental things, but everything else I want to sell, my furniture, my electronics, my movies, books, everything and pack up and just go where ever the wind takes me...

Amanda Wissmann at La Blondie Peruana: Ever Changing!

Well, life is exciting and ever changing! Shaun and I have decided to go ahead and sell everything we own! (aside from a few keepsakes)

Jessica Tata at Apartment Therapy San Francisco: Selling Everything You Own

Her website, goodbye wafflemaker explains her motivation for selling everything in such an interesting way as being "one part stoop sale and one part personal experiment." Her intention is to lighten her load and remove clutter from her life. While we may not take the idea quite so far, we love the idea of letting go of everything unnecessary in order to think and act more clearly. This is an intriguing idea intended to allow Megan to fund her trip to a poverty-stricken community in order to create sustainable living ideas and bolster a community.

Welcome to Allmylifeforsale, an online project that explored our relationship to the objects around us, their role in the concept of identity, as well as the emerging commercial systems of the Internet. Using the public/commercial space of the online trading community Ebay in conjunction with his online catalogue, John Freyer catalogued and sold nearly everything that he owned, from his kitchen cutlery to his personal hygiene products, his Star Wars sheets and finally even the domain name itself. (Now owned by the University of Iowa, Museum of Art)

Blunt Money: Everything you need (and want)

The thing is, many of us probably do have everything we need, right now, without even realizing it. It’s coming to that realization (and feeling like we also have everything we want) that can be more difficult. Does it just take age to get to that point, or can we work on acquiring wisdom at a younger age? What makes a person content?

It’s not the amount of stuff. Older folks often end up giving away the majority of their stuff, as they move into assisted living centers or in with family. Or they leave the bulk of their stuff home or give it away to travel around in 200-300 sq ft trailers. Of course, not every older person is perfectly content, but I haven’t ever heard one talking wistfully about wanting the latest gadget. They might go shopping, if they can, but it’s for a pair of shoes that won’t hurt their feet or to get the grandkids a treat.

reanbean at How Do you Do It?: Trying To Curb My Inner Pack Rat

I’ll admit, I’m one of those people who likes to save everything. As and adolescent, I saved every note passed between my BFFs and me in Jr. High and every card I received for my 16th birthday. The outfit I was wearing when my first boyfriend kissed me behind the town pool was saved for years in a box in the attic along with every card, dried flower, and gift he’d ever given me. (We only dated for about six months, but when you’re 12, six months is a lifetime.) These things were so special to me. How could I just toss them into the trash can or the Goodwill bin?

Laura at I'm an organizing junkie: Organizing a move...

Purge before you move

Moving is a great opportunity to see what you own, determine what you would like to take with you and figure out what you can leave behind. Many movers charge by the box. You don’t want to have to pay movers to transport boxes of stuff you never use and don’t need anymore.

Purging Before Moving Will Save You Money and SPACE

Tina at Think Simple Now: Stuff-onomics: Hidden Side of What You Own

After traveling for several months in one bag: two pairs of pants, a few shirts, a jacket, several books, and my iPod (which I used once)…. Coming home to 50 boxes full of Stuff, it felt like my world was once again being weighed down by things I didn’t need. It felt as if the things will consume more of me than I will ever consume of it. Thus, my new project: to simplify my life… starting with Stuff.

Sara at On Simplicity: Oh Crap! I Got Rid of Too Much Stuff!

Spring cleaning should really be classified as a temporary disorder, causing us to do things we would never consider under different circumstances. Overcome by the urge to purge, it’s easy to toss perfectly good items out with the genuine clutter. When you open your closet door and think, “I know I had more than a pair of Pumas and a black blazer at one point; I’ve been robbed!”—that’s probably a sign that you overdid it with the spring cleaning.

It’s definitely happened to me. I was so thrilled to get rid of anything I didn’t absolutely love that I found out after the fact that apparently, I didn’t love any work-appropriate clothes. Oops. Fortunately, it’s easy to fix. Learn from my mistake, and you can recover from overenthusiastic decluttering pretty painlessly....

Finally, don’t panic. Whether it’s your wardrobe, your pantry, or your collection of books, having too little probably isn’t all that urgent. Most “things” are replaceable. Take a step backward and ask yourself whether your overzealous spring cleaning is worth worrying about. (Hint: It’s probably not.) In the end, you can replace what little needs to be replaced and you’ve still come away with a cleaner, more streamlined end result. It’s just not worth overanalyzing for most folks.

Frugal Babe: Getting Rid Of Stuff

Crabby at Cranky Fitness: Getting Rid Of Stuff You Don't Need

BlogHer CE Siel: Radical uncluttering: Getting rid of stuff in search of new adventures

Seek adventure and freedom? Willing to give up everything you own to bring those things in your life? No? Well then you can at least experience those things vicariously via intrepid people who are de-stuff-ing their lives so they can travel light and free in pursuit of new adventures.

BlogHer CE Maria Niles is working on not agonizing and just purging it at PopConsumer.

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