About 15 years ago, Jeremy and I purchased a 21-acre parcel of land south of town. In the time since, we’ve built a storage shed, acquired some farm equipment and have a local farmer using the land just to keep it productive and to keep the weeds down. Our plan has always been to finish paying for the land, and then to build a custom home, designed by Jeremy, of course. What’s the point of marrying an architect if you don’t use him at least once, don’tcha think?
That’s the preface to this story…About a week ago, we received an e-mail from a friend and his wife, telling us their new address and contact information. It seems they had sold their five-acre farm for the following reasons: “The cycle of mowing, irrigating, fertilizing, mowing, fixing fence, paying to have the tractor fixed, mowing, moving pipe, paying for water, replacing pumps, and mowing” had finally gotten the best of them. They wanted to be able to leave for one, two, even three weeks and travel without worry…
Now, let’s add this moment…In reading Twitter, I ran across this little gem from @joshua_becker at becomingminimalist:
We own too much stuff. And it is stealing our joy!
And in an eye-opening moment, my world sort of got rocked.
It could not have become more clear if Joshua Becker had walked up and smacked me in the head! What would possess us to move toward a life which included more and bigger property, more stuff, more work, more stress and less time for future endeavors? And in the conversation that ensued, we arrived at several enlightened conclusions and even more questions:
Goals and plans change over time – The plans we made 12 years ago just don’t make sense the way they used to. And over the next few days we examined our dreams and plans with real intention and honesty. It was an illuminating discussion about why we had wanted the land, the new home, the things we had accumulated…an awakening of sorts.
We are holding on to stuff for no good reason – On the guest bedroom closet shelf are two brand new sleeping bags (wait for it…) which have been used exactly ONE time! I don’t know why we have them…Anyone who knows me would realize that it is highly unlikely (read: NOT GONNA HAPPEN) that I will be camping anytime soon – My idea of roughing it is a Holiday Inn with a hard pillow! I am keeping them because I bought them, and therefore don’t want to fess up to a bad decision! And then I started going through every closet …Just sayin’…
Some stuff we keep because we think it’s sentimental – It really just isn’t – In that trip through the closets I mentioned above, I came upon a bunch of collectibles that I have acquired over the years- they just aren’t my style anymore. Or how about the hundreds of LP albums from 30 years ago that grace an entire shelf. Now I can see perhaps keeping a couple of Beetles albums, but Sheena Easton??? Seriously? We don’t even OWN a turntable anymore! This little voyage of ours is causing us to closely examine what we value.
Paring down our stuff is energizing – As it turns out, owning the property and all of that farm equipment was ultimately causing us stress. And the decision to sell, reduce and donate is lifting a weight off our shoulders. It is freeing up space, finances, time and emotions.
We have gained a sense of gratitude for the things we have, and an intentionality about how and why we use and keep our possessions. We are not getting rid of stuff just to be doing it. It’s not about monetary value. Instead, we ask, “Is this thing important to me, and why do I need to keep it?”
We have been given an impetus to examine this Encore Voyage and to have a critical conversation about what’s really important – Where do we want to go from here? What are our dreams and wishes? What adjustments do we need to make to our current path to live every day with simplicity and to its fullest? What do we really value?
And so I’m planning to sell or donate four large tubs of children’s books. They are my personal library, collected over a nearly 30 year career. I thought I would be sentimental about giving them up – that somehow they represented imparting a love of reading in so many children…and in a way, they do. But it is much more fitting that I share them with some new teacher, who will use them to continue the tradition. The joy of those children and their journeys will always be in my heart. It’s not the books that keep them there.