You never realize how much stuff you have in your house until a few things happen: you do your annual cleaning or you have to move. All of a sudden your things become overwhelming. Having been in the Navy and done a number of moves overseas and stateside, the small houses I lived in seemed to be sprawling estates with more rooms than a family of 3 should ever need. But in fact, they were usually 2-3 bedroom homes averaging about 1500 square feet. Nevertheless, over the years, we had accumulated trinkets, photos, various knick knacks and of course childhood things that we still toted around in boxes from house to house. Many of the boxes had rarely been opened and some never opened from move to move. In our final move from house to camper, we had been faced with yet another adventure of sifting throughout our things to decide what would come with us and what would be donated, sold at a yard sale or just pitched. To some, it may seem quite harsh to just get rid of our lifelong memories, but ironically, that was the key to downsizing. Things cannot replace memories. Everything about the stuff that we have will forever be imbedded in our memories. My father made a statement that made the transition even easier: “The most important things you ever need are those things that you can carry out of a burning house”. When we thought about it that way, the purging process became much simpler and more defined.
We had a number of things to consider when moving into the camper, specifically available storage space and weight. We no longer had the luxury of having multiple sets of linens and enough dishes for 8. We had to consider clothing, hobbies, gadgets and memorabilia. Our first yard sale only took a chip off the iceberg, we still had lots of things to get through. It was an incredibly emotional experience at first, but one that turns out to be a very important lesson in what life is really about that we had missed for so many years. Life is about collecting memories and not things. But here we were, surrounded by our collections on the front lawn and strangers were sifting through them.
Just a few short weeks later, we were to pick up our new fifth wheel and drive it back home to park in the driveway and move our possessions from the house to the camper. We used this time primarily to learn to live in the camper, figure out where everything would go and continue to purge before we got on the road for good. This was an amazing journey. We quickly realized that we would be able to live in a small space, enjoying each other’s company without the stress of things that previously surrounded us.
Our last yard sale turned out to be quite the effort, getting rid of the last things that we had been struggling with. There was a ton of compromise with occasional injections of reality as we settled into what would be our new home.
Here we are, 4 years later and the reality is that the purging process never really ends. Occasionally, we reach into the depths of the closet and the belly of the camper to see what totes have been sitting untouched, what articles of clothing have not been worn or items that we have collected particularly when we have been stationary during a workamping season, for example. In addition, we live by this simple rule: If you bring it in, something has to go out. This is particularly true with clothing.
While every now and again, I reminisce about things that I used to have, I don’t honestly miss any of it. There is something very refreshing about not having a house full of things that just take up space. Even more interesting, is how little we need to live comfortably. We have been able to see things and do things while making deposits into our memory banks while resisting the urge to buy trinkets and such. It turns out that living in 300 square feet isn’t much different than living in 1500 square feet but it is most certainly more gratifying.