I came across an article earlier this month and thought it would be a good topic of discussion for us JobSchmobber types. The article (linked below) talks about a 45 year-old woman in Minnesota who decided to sell most of her possessions in order to start over and become free of them. She planned to keep her dog, her cat, photo albums and some clothing.
She was quoted in the article as saying: "This might be mid-life, but it's not a crisis. It's mid-life excitement," she said. "I don't need it all. I don't use it all. I just have it all. Actually, it has me."
She didn't really have a plan. She just knew she wasn't happy and decided to make a change, sell her stuff and move out west. The thought of doing that would make most of us shit our pants! All the "what ifs" that come along with that are downright petrifying.
Sadly, she ran into a bunch of snags with the eBay auction and it was pulled. And her second attempt didn't produce a bid that met her reserve. I am not sure where it stands now.
I have to say as scary as it seems and as unlikely as I am to grow the balls to actually do something like this in the near future, it is something I think about doing from time to time. I suppose I am doing it little by little because each year I hold a garage sale and I haven't bought any "replacement junk". And if you knew me personally, this is the part where your eyebrows would raise and you would ask, "Seriously??"
Because I've always been a "stuff" kind of person. Not a pack rat by any means, but someone who would buy some kitschy thing just to cheer herself up. Someone who could not visit a touristy spot without buying the touristy "must-have" souvenir. You know, hula-girls, shot glasses, coconut monkey sculptures, mini-replicas of the Eiffel tower, little jade Buddhas, that kind of thing.
Like most Americans, I get my information from TV. So it was fitting---albeit embarrassing to admit---that my personal semi-epiphany about "stuff" came from a TV show. That show, was "Lost". During the first season, there was an episode where all the stranded island survivors had to move from the beach, where they had made camp, to the jungle in order to survive. All the survivors, had little more than the clothes on their backs and they easily made the run for the jungle. However, the rich girl character, Shannon, had 2 full suitcases of stuff she was guarding. The image of her, alone, struggling with two suitcases across the sand to get to the trees made a giant impression on me.
That impression was "Holy crap! That would be me! Attached to my stuff!". I decided right then and there that I didn't want to have all this stuff weighing me down. It's stuff I have to worry about dusting, stuff I would cry for if my house burned down, stuff I have to insure, stuff I work in a job to pay for and stuff I have to box up and move from house to house. And that stuff really doesn't make me happy. I'm nowhere close to selling all my possessions like Ms. Perry, but little by little I've been selling it off or giving it away. And the money from the sales goes directly into my vacation fund.
I gotta tell ya, it's felt really good. And I feel a lot lighter. I feel much more in control. If my house burned down today, I would lose very little. That's an awesome feeling. Sure I still get the urge to buy crap and sometimes I give in. But my resistance gets stronger every time. It's my own personal contribution to being able to feel more liberated from the working world. If I'm buying less stuff, I don't need to depend on a job. It's helped me get to the point where I know I would not go under if I decided to quit it all and run off into the sunset. And if I lost my income, I'm now used to having less so I would suffer less.
Whattya think? Could you do it? Could you sell all your stuff? Could you sell some of your stuff? Could you do with less? What could you give up to help you feel more in control?
twiz (04/26/2007) I think I could do it. Not 100% sure, but I think so. Though I would probably just buy more crap as time went on and end up back where I started... =)
bigblue (04/26/2007) I plan on opening a gallery--so I love beautiful things more (much, much more) than most people. To me, beautiful things to own just because they are beautiful is a luxury.
But I plan on having a house that is very sparse, modern/contemporary and sleek--think Asian influence.
I think that the gallery and a home as I have described is the best of both worlds--for me.
I have read many articles in the past year or so that talk about this--that possessions don't make people happy but that experiences do. My Mom is like that--makes tons of money, has a modest home in what it is regarding size and furnishings and spends her money travelling all over the world.
I think you have to do what makes you happy.
I couldn't get rid of all my stuff. If I did, it would be replaced--with stuff (but stuff that I loved more!)
bigblue (04/26/2007) And I think after planning my soon-to-be-different future, that stuff isn't what holds people back from starting over (not completely) but what they equate stuff with--success, stability, security--some use it as an excuse to not start over. To start over is a mind set--if you have the right mindset, the stuff can still fit in (within reason--not all people can own multiple cars, homes, etc...and you can't put a mansion's worth of possessions into a 1 bedroom condo, obviously.
Freedomringer (04/27/2007) I certainly could do this at the drop of a hat! I have actually thought of this as a back-up plan if plans A,B or C did not work. What freedom! I would purchase a good road bike, a solid light weight tent and ration my money and where I end up is where I will be planted. Life is but a journey and think of the good stories and people you would meet. I know some people who have never left the fifty square mile radius from where they were born. I did something like that right after I graduated from college, and I plan on doing it again. It was fun. Yes I struggled and ate cheap food, but I met some of the most wonderful people and I would have never known them if I did not take that chance. I did also encounter people who will take advantage of your situation and try to exploit you; those people are everywhere, every corner of the world and there is no race, sex, or religion prerequisite. I guess you have to just realize that chances are you are going to meet some good people and you might encounter a few bad apples. I however think that every experience is a chance to learn and grow. Gosh I am such a sap!
HaveADamnNiceDay (05/06/2007) That is something I could easily do after a life-changing event, such as being widowed or something. I would sell all my stuff, and I'd move to california and start over. Since my mate is attached to the east coast, I haven't the heart to make him move out there. Sounds awful, I know. But, not having 'things' to weigh you down is so uplifting and freeing.
One of the things we do together every spring is we empty our apartment of all the useless junk that might pile up that we don't use. I have no remorse throwing old things away or giving them to the nearby salvation army. When I was a kid, I was a pack rat. I stored away every little thing I acquired, even wrapping paper from gifts--just because I thought I might need it someday. I grew to 19, and my dad had bought a nice townhouse, and I decided I didn't need any of that stuff, so what I didn't throw away I gave away. I felt so free and untied-down. My room had hardly anything in it when I moved in. Just a bed, a dresser, a desk and a TV, and that was it. It felt great! Ever since then, I make a regular habit of just purging my space. Clutter makes me feel helpless. Space is freedom and empowerment.
no one special (01/02/2008) you should use www.tinyurl.com to post links to articles that way they won't expire. I would have loved to have seen the article that followed the link you gave in your blog.
no one special (01/02/2008) I could sell most of my stuff except for my photos and my camera. Well wait and my magazines I would want to keep them. I have been selling my stuff,what I call formally downsizing since 2003. Yeah that is how much stuff I have. But I have either sold or threw away tons of stuff. My goal is to be completely free of all my stuff,well most of it by the spring of 2009. Really,I am not kidding. So for the most part downsizing since 2003 with a completed expectation date for 2009 isn't too bad what do you think? Wait I can't get rid of my pocket book collection even if I don't use them all,and I have a hard time getting rid of shoes I don't wear. But maybe I will tackle that in 2010. Thanks for the great blog.