So…you got to hear my side of the whole “What is STUFF thing and how to get rid of it”, now here is Juan’s thoughts on the subject.
Realizing that we were committed to significantly downsizing, I knew we were going to have to make sacrifices. That always seems easier in the “talking” stage than in the “doing” stage. Shawn and I had already had several conversations about “stuff” and how, over the years, we had both fallen victim to the “stuff” is important mindset. Being committed to break free from this thought process; I thought the easy place to start was with my stuff. Easier yet, was with the stuff I had no sentimental or emotional ties to. Or so I thought.
I’m not necessarily a “pack rat”, but there are some things I have trouble parting with. Consequently, I have pockets of well organized clutter. For instance, the garage. This seemed like a logical place to start as I knew at best we’d just end up with a small patio storage room.
Most of the important lessons of life were handed down from my Grandparents. All were very wise individuals who had survived the “Great Depression”. A valuable lesson my Grandfather’s taught me was never to throw away a good nail, nut, bolt or screw. Advice that served me well throughout life. I can’t tell you how valuable a .10¢ bolt becomes when it’s all that stands between you and completing a project. Being practical, I tried to exercise some level of discretion with what I collected over the years and only had about two Xerox paper boxes full of misc., but valuable hardware. (You laugh, when my Father passed away recently I threw out boxes of nuts, bolts, screws, etc. that had been carefully saved by my Grandfather and maintained by my Father since the 1940’s!). It seemed like this would be an easy task, but when I started looking at my carefully collected assortment of hardware and weighing the value of each item, it started to get complicated. Everything I picked up had a valuable purpose. Perhaps not an immediate purpose, but valuable if and when the right set of circumstances came into play.
It wasn’t so much the actual act of discarding the items as I knew that logically I’d probably never use much, if any of this stuff. Most of it was the leftovers from past projects. Even if I had a need at some point, the replacement cost for the necessary piece of hardware would be pennies. What was hard, was letting go of the mindset that had been ingrained in me. The hardware issue was relatively easy in the end as there wasn’t even a strong economic argument for keeping it.
Riding on a euphoric high from my sense of accomplishment, I decided to tackle another challenge. Tools. Another group of items I was taught to value, collect and maintain at all costs! The yard tools were easy. I wasn’t going to have a yard. Garage sale! Hand/power tools posed a problem though. Some were for very specific purposes. So specific, that they’d been used once and stored for 20 years. Others had never been used at all. However, one must keep them as you never know when that special project might pop up! Ok, it probably never would, but what if? Again, I was battling a state of mind. After all, you don’t just throw money away on tools and discard them when you can use them for a lifetime. Focusing on our goal, to simplify our lives, (i.e., not to seek out all those great DIY projects so I could buy more tools) allowed me to let go and add most of them to the garage sale pile. I have to admit that over the course of the next few days, I’d stare at the garage sale pile and re-think my decisions. In the end I managed to hold strong. (Strangely enough the 20 foot extension ladder was hard to part with. Hey, you never know when you might need an extension ladder in your condo with 8 foot ceilings.)
What I began to realize during this process was that my attachment to “stuff” really was complicating my life. It really wasn’t even the “stuff” that was the problem, rather stubbornly clinging to a mindset that you “have to” do something a certain way or that you are “obligated to” do something a certain way simply because “that’s the way we’ve always done it!” Many of us place value or significance on possessions, even after they’ve outlived their usefulness. In part it’s because we don’t want to be the one who makes the decision to get rid of something. Here’s a perfect example, saving the carafe to a broken coffee maker. Let’s throw the coffee maker away, but keep the carafe in case one day they decide to re-manufacture that same design. Think how smart we’ll feel when we now have a spare! (We threw away half a dozen carafes when cleaning out my Father’s house). Letting go of the mindset was a huge break through. Coming to this realization or revelation made it easier to begin eliminating the clutter.
All that “stuff” that had seemed so invaluable for years, actually did pay off in the end as we made a nice profit at our garage sale! (I value money even more than nuts and bolts).
p.s. Okay, I confess I wasn’t completely cured of my need to hang onto tools. I had to pull the steering wheel off of my 1968 VW recently. Not a problem! I had a steering wheel puller in my toolbox that I’d used exactly one time, 20 years before!