Most people don’t know this, but in 2011 I sold or gave away almost everything I owned. I sold my house, my CrossFit gym, and my truck. When I was done, what remained was a bit of furniture, some kitchen stuff, photos, clothes, a few boxes of books, three Macs, and five bicycles. Then my boys and I boarded the plane to CA and never looked back.
It was one of the defining moments of my life. We gave away so many things to our neighbors that the sweet, overworked mom next door was in tears by the time we moved. Her husband looked at our riding mower and said it was nice? Take it. He had come and helped to snowblow our driveway through many winter storms and refused to accept any payment but “thanks.” My mom’s nursing home picked up a big-screen TV. Our friends brought their kids and walked away with many toys, 8 years of Legos, and 2 sleds that they still skate across the snow with. I see their photos on Facebook and I smile big. The local women’s shelter received so many books and toys in one day that they were sure someone had died. Maybe someone had. Maybe it was the old me. I’m good with that.
It sounds nuts, right? Maybe it was nuts. But it was also one of the most fun, fabulous, exciting times of my life. All those things piled up in the attic? Gone. Not hanging over my head anymore. Not stagnating my life. But then not everything was a treasure to be saved or gifted. Some things went into the dumpster. Three dumpsters, actually. Every time I told my kids “Chuck it!” they ran outside and gleefully tossed the item into the huge metal bin. We would laugh and high five, wondering how we ever accumulated so much stuff in our lives. So much stuff that we didn’t need. So much stuff that was weighing us down. So much stuff.
Why am I telling you this? Because it was my path to free. The more I gave away, the more free I became. Light. Unencumbered. Giddy with my freedom. I know it’s not the path for everyone, but I found then (and still find) the fewer possessions I have, the happier I am.
We were walking through IKEA the other day and I found myself telling my son, “Whenever I get the urge to buy more storage things, I go home and get rid of things.” I do make an exception for books. We started buying paper books again, mostly because we find the experience of ink and paper remains vastly superior to anything that can be backlit or digitally stored. So, maybe that’s my vice, my habit, my addiction. I can live with that. Perhaps we all need one guilty pleasure.
But once upon a time, I thought I had to have the big house, the big yard, the perfect children. And then I like to think I got real. Life seems so much sweeter now. I can’t ever imagine going back.
“Any half-awake materialist well knows – that which you hold holds you.” – Tom Robbins, “Still Life With Woodpecker”
“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful or believe to be beautiful.” – William Morris