We live in a a very “Keeping up with the Jones’s” type of society. People waiting in line for hours for the newest iPhone and beating each other up over Black Friday sales. If you listen to the ads on tv, we’re all just upgrading. What could be wrong with that? Newer is better, right?
But how much stuff do we actually need? When Ant and I bought our first house, I had no idea how I was ever going to fill it. There seemed like so much empty space. We had the barest of the things we needed and the house just felt so sterile. It needed stuff.
I mean, my 3 little kids were happy. It was a comfortable place to be and we could play a lot of things inside in all that open space, but it didn’t feel all that “homey” for me. The more kids we had, the more things we accumulated. Not because we needed them, but because people thought we did. Those wide open spaces seemed to call to everyone who came over, crying out for things. Furniture, clothes, toys, pots and pans…we just got more and more.
When we found out that we’d be moving, I was in the process of downsizing our stuff. We donated boxes and bags of stuff. We gave away furniture, too. Still, we moved across the country with a lot of stuff. 11,600 pounds worth, to be exact, and we were missing a bunch. And people still feel compelled to give us more. I think it’s because we have a bunch of kids. Or maybe because we’re still relatively young. People figure that, with this many members to our household, more things are always needed.
The truth is we have too much of everything. For the last few months, I’ve been getting rid of things. We returned a dinning room set to my mother in law (we had 3) and have so far donated 25 bags of clothes and shoes. We’re throwing away 2 full size couches (leaving us with 1 we like best) and getting rid of extra coffee tables. And you know what? The house doesn’t look empty. Even with the things we’re taking out, the house isn’t empty looking. It’s clear that a vibrant and active family lives here. In fact, it looks more vibrant because we’re no longer physically weighed down by all out stuff.
Our goal is to eventually build our own house. We have lots of ideas on what we’d like (a living roof, greenhouses and composting systems, grey water recycling…) and a lot of it has to do with having fewer things and more life. My husband and I have even managed to agree on square footage somewhere between the house we left in California (too small and too little property) and the house we have in Virginia (too big with unfarmable property). A place where it’ll be easy and comfortable to spend as much time outside as in.
Technological advances are making it easier to do more things in smaller spaces. Why, then, do we feel like we need more stuff and bigger places to put it? I’ll never trade my physical books for a Kindle, but there’s really no reason for me to have 14 pots. I physically can’t cook that many things at once! And no one, not even a family with 5 kids, needs 100 stuffed animals. It may sound incredibly cheesy, but I’m still going to say it; Downsizing our stuff feels like a major upgrade on our lives.