Part of our voyage of discovery started before we even left our house. That was the sorting, sifting and decluttering of our possessions. Originally I planned to leave my job at Christmas and have a leisurely two months to go through this process of rationalisation. Our plan was to put all our belongings into paid storage, and that means that the more we kept the more we paid, so there was a big incentive to eliminate everything we don’t need or value.
What actually happened was that I left work 2 and a half weeks before moving out of our house wholesale. Not quite sure how that happened but it had something to do with being in demand at work and wanting to earn enough cash for all our needs, especially as we had to spend quite a lot to redecorate our home, buy new appliances and do lots of maintenance jobs to get it ready for renting out.
During this process I was surrounded by various boxes, bags and receptacles which were meant for storage, for charity, for the Elf or for the dump. An upsetting amount went to the dump as various charities rejected stuff they already had too much of, or else was not of the right condition.
Over the weeks, I had time to reflect as I was sorting through our stuff. Rationalising belongings is a really cathartic process and I realised several things:
- I can’t believe how much stuff I have accumulated over 12 years
- I can’t believe how much I or others paid for some stuff which I didn’t use very much
- I can’t believe how much of that stuff is plastic or non-recyclable
- The resale value of things is a fraction of what they cost new
- What does this say about our society if each of us has so many unwanted belongings, so much of which used up the earth’s resources to get made and will end up in landfill after a relatively short life.
It also made me reflect on how I have bought things to make myself feel better, in the true ‘retail therapy’ sense. I don’t know how many times I’ve gone out in my lunchbreak and bought something to have something to do and add some interest to the day. I know I’m doing it and it is in fact fairly effective at least in the short term, but it begs the question – what am I working for ?
This trip represents a huge leap for us both, in terms of gaining our freedom and independence. I have been looking forward to this time to actually live life. I’m also horrified by what – as a consumer capitalist society – we are doing to our planet. So I would like to reset my relationship with possessions and money.
I vow to:
- Never again spend so much money on stuff – unless I really, really need or want that thing
- Buy much, much more second hand
- Buy things made of natural materials – not plastic
- Practice joyful consumption
I’m very interested in a more considered way of consuming, where I am more mindful, and pick and choose what I consume and get the maximum back for it in terms of joy.
When it came to move day, I was relieved to learn that our entire possessions from our home just about fits in a shipping container (situated in a warehouse somewhere in Wiltshire). And on the upside, since our material belongings were so replete, we have not needed to buy a single new thing to take with us on the Elf as we have it all already. Oh… apart from that new bag I absolutely couldn’t live without 😉