Monthly Archives: June 2011

STUFF!-Juan’s Perspective

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!

(Hardware Store 12th Street & Glendale Ave)
Next, Garage Sale……

Stuff!-Shawn’s Perspective

“We’ve got to sell all this stuff!

I can’t imagine all the “crappola” one accumulates over the years. I can’t imagine the stuff people have saved in plastic bins, saran wrapped, and cardboard boxes and pressed between old books.
So here we sit in our family room thinking about this journey we are about to embark.

Juan: What are you doing? (Watching me staring into kitchen cabinet)
Shawn: Nothing
Juan: What do you want to get rid of in there?   
Shawn: I say nothing staring into cupboards
Juan: I think we should start in the office and spare bedroom. We can make up some boxes that we are going to sell in a garage sale and also things we can donate….are you listening? What are you doing?
Shawn: I’m hungry

I wasn’t like this all the time. It was exciting yet overwhelming…what “STUFF” am I going to get rid of? Where to start cleaning house….literally.

The beginning of building your stuff starts at a very early age. Your childhood is spent with monumental occasions; First haircut, first drawing, first pair of cowboy boots, first art project. Placing all these special occasions in a small box. Then there is graduation from elementary school, then middle school, high school and college. All this time accumulating more and more stuff. More and more boxes.
By the time you hit adulthood you head out with a trailer of stuff PLUS stuff Mom and Dad give you. Furniture, dishware (lots of it), tables your bedroom furniture, more stuff!

You accumulate so much and yet hate to let it go because of some sentimental value. Well here I sit and here I begin going through my things. I then realized…it truly is just stuff. It doesn’t make up who I am as a person or classification within human kind. That’s what Juan and I are trying to shed, this need of keeping up with “The Jones” Getting more and more things, going bigger needing more space and for what? To store and hold all your stuff. Don’t use your good dishware, but a “semi-nice” (sorry, my words) set for semi special occasion and a more casual set that you don’t worry about breaking THEN….your regular set that your use every day. And so on and so on with all types of things you accumulate over the years. You work so hard to build up getting bigger and better things to show off to everyone right?

Which brings me to the gorgeous Copenhagen square table that seats eight. This certainly isn’t going to fit in a 900 square foot home unless I want to sleep on it and create a den under the table. So off I go putting it on Craigslist and hope for a quick sale. It was the start of selling off these so called nice things that Juan and I received all sorts of comments and dismay. Mind you…we weren’t asking anyone for advice we knew what we were doing. However many said we were crazy, what were we thinking? Why are we giving away our status?

Well for me it’s not important anymore. You shouldn’t value me as a person by the size of my house, style of clothes I wear, car I drive or bank account. Value me for the type of person I am; for being kind, for being there when you need me, for NOT falling into that same rut everyone else does (bigger and more expensive means status); for enjoying the simpler things in life. 

We took the value off of our stuff and put it on the opportunity to live deeply more meaningful lives.

(Copenhagen Table)

Next Juan’s perspective…..


An Idea Was Born

(This may not be the best picture of  the entrance to our place)
Juan’s perspective, revisiting the past

Shawn and I have always been intrigued with living in a “small space”. We are addicted to HGTV and love watching the shows centering on small lofts, homes, condos, etc. We’d sit and day dream about “What if we lived in a small place?” “Wouldn’t it be cool to live in a place like that?” However, the discussions never grew beyond the dream stage until the spring of 2010.
We were on one of our weekend bicycle adventures and were discussing how the economic crash seemed to have changed people’s priorities. People seemed to be seeking out the simpler pleasures in life. Reflecting on our life together, I commented how happy we were when we were in the first year of our marriage. At that time we lived in a 640sqft apartment Just Shawn, Me and Flloyd (Shawn’s parrot).
We were in our mid to late 30’s, both had successful careers and were earning good money.  However, our lifestyle was pretty simple. Because we weren’t encumbered by a lot of home maintenance or a huge mortgage, we had more time to do the things we loved, like biking and weekend getaways. However, like most newlyweds, we began to start looking for a home as we “needed” more space. Mind you we were not cramped and only had what we needed to furnish our one bedroom apartment. SO, by the time our 1st anniversary rolled around, we were signing papers on a brand new 3 bedroom condo and scrambling to furnish it as fast as we could. After being in the condo for two years we decided, “Well we need a bigger place!” “We do not have enough room!” Nothing else with our family had changed, it was still me, Shawn and the crotchety bird. SO, by the time our 3rd anniversary rolled around we were signing papers on a much larger free standing home with a two car garage.
While we were riding and talking (ok, I was talking, Shawn was listening) we discovered our current home. We were both immediately intrigued with the place. In fact, for the next several weekends we found ourselves turning off the bike path to ride by it and even finding excuses to drive to Central Phoenix so we could see it.
We kept talking about the “tiny patio home” and how we’d love to live there.  As we talked about it more and more, we began to analyze just what it was that made our first year together so special. It seemed to boil down to the freedom we enjoyed. We weren’t encumbered by a quest to obtain “stuff”. We lived in and used every square foot of our 640sqft apartment home.  Because our home was small, we weren’t slaves to it. Consequently we had more free time to enjoy other pursuits. As we began to understand why that time was so good, we began to realize that the only thing keeping us from enjoying that lifestyle again was us and the obsession of obtaining more and BIGGER stuff!

So where do we go from here?…….

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Posted by on June 23, 2011 in Uncategorized


What Are You Thinking?

“What are you thinking?” “Are you out of your mind?” “Are you serious?” “Seriously?…..”

Yup, I’ve never been so convinced and so sure of what I was going to endure. Yes, I’m moving out of the house, the big garage, the perfectly manicured backyard and pool for a nine hundred square foot home. For every time I would hear, “You are crazy!” I knew in my heart and so did “Juan” (aka Hubby) we were doing the best thing for us.

Are you constantly buying and buying “stuff”? Only to find a bigger place to hold all your stuff? At the end of the day we are two people…how many sets of dishes, glasses, bedrooms (I did mention it’s just me and my husband along with a crotchety 31 year old parrot and two dachshunds) does one couple need? Like I said…’s just stuff!

I do not know how we started on this quest; yes I call it a quest because it is our search for something, a simpler life….freeing ourselves from always wanting more and more and never being happy or satisfied for what we have at that moment. I knew this was going to be especially long and difficult challenge but we were ready for it.

My goal is to “illustrate” my journey in downsizing and “right-sizing” our life and hopefully provide you some great insight on what to do AND what NOT to do.

So I like to invite you to join me in my quest to discover a simpler life!

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Posted by on June 20, 2011 in Uncategorized

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