It is funny how, if you let it, a new environment can open your eyes to see things in yourself and your life in a completely different light. It is good to get away from time to time just to get some perspective. I love it when this happens. When suddenly a light goes on and you can see a situation or problem like you never have before. And it suddenly makes so much sense. Not too long ago I wrote a bit about my search for simplicity. A slippery little thing it is, and hard to grasp firmly, especially in the midst of somewhat-ordered chaos. But living away from home in this small (compared to our house) apartment without the clutter of my usual daily life, I see how desperately I need a change. I always think the change I need is to get out of the Valley, but now I see that it is much deeper.
This is one of the things that I've learned from being in Memphis so far:
I don’t need near as much stuff as I think I do. Having more than I need just complicates my life. The more stuff I have, the more time I have to spend cleaning, organizing, and taking care of it. The parts about my daily life that frustrate me most (piles of laundry and dishes that are never ending; toys, papers, and books everywhere all the time, no matter how I try to organize; the tremendous amount of time that feels wasted every day just keeping up the household) are bad only because I have so much to take care of. The level of frustration I get from the things I need to do daily is directly proportional to the amount of stuff I have.
Less stuff I own = less time I have to spend taking care of it = more time I have to do the things I want to do.
I don’t need more time in the day, I need less stuff to take care of. Coming to Memphis, we brought a limited amount of clothing, but instead of creating more laundry rewashing the same clothes like I thought it would, we actually have less laundry to pile up. Three or four loads and everything in the house is clean. I keep asking myself: do we really need 5 choices of cereal in the pantry? Five baskets overflowing with toys for just one kid? Five bookshelves filled with many books I am certain I will never read again? 2000+ square feet of tile that needs sweeping daily? Cabinets full of art supplies that I only use once a year, maybe? And I am not a pack-rat; I love getting rid of old stuff. But still I hang onto many things because I may possibly need them someday. So now I'm asking myself: is having to pay for and maintain a bigger house and more storage space really better than having to repurchase something in the small possibility that I will suddenly need it again? It seems like I am spending more money for a mortgage on a bigger house and utilities alone just to hold onto stuff I rarely need than it would take to occasionally repurchase something. And that's not even considering the time it takes me to keep it all from taking over the whole house.
Most people I know up-size with each house they buy, which makes sense as a family grows. But how much of that extra space we think we need will just be filled with more stuff leaving us needing more? I mean how many people do you know that park their car outside in the elements because the garage is being used as storage? Umm, me! Now I'm thinking that when we get home, I want to get rid of it all, sell the house and buy a smaller one. I want to spend less time maintaining and more time doing the things I enjoy. I'm thinking that's one reason being here has felt so much like an extended vacation.
What do you think? Isn't this something we all wrestle with in one way or another? Do you have any tips for me on the logistics of down-sizing and getting the kids on board with it?