I recently moved from Austin to the rolling mountains of Wyoming. After much deliberating, I decided that the smartest way to move would be to pack as much as I could into my Subaru Forester and drive everything up.
My reasoning was that it’d ultimately be cheaper and less stressful to buy furniture once I got to my new home (versus shelling out money for moving labor, truck rental, driving the truck cross-country, and moving everything in once I got here).
When you move, you’re forced to take a good, hard look at your stuff: Do I really need this? What even is this? Will my life suffer greatly without it?
For me, packing my entire life into the back of my small-sized SUV meant that I had to perform this exercise to an extreme; when I was done stuffing all my cold-weather clothing into the trunk, there was very little room for much else.
I didn’t realize the significance of my stuff UNTIL I had to leave most of it behind. Here are 5 things I learned about my own stuff in the process of moving:
1. We All Have a Lot More Stuff Than We May Realize.
Even when you don’t think you have a lot of stuff (which I mistakenly thought, before I moved), you do. For example, I’m writing this while looking at a huge basket of cooking utensils that I absolutely “had to” bring with me. Because who knew what delicious meals I’d create once I got to my new home? Surely, I’d use every spatula, wooden spoon and ladle?
Reality check: I only use one, maybe two, of those cooking utensils for daily cooking. The rest is just there for show and taking up space. If you asked me if I had a lot of stuff, I’d say no. But, looking at this basket of utensils now, I’ve got to say…maybe I do, even after having to purge the majority of my things.
2. The Internet Has Made Getting Rid of Your Stuff Extremely Easy.
Since I wasn’t taking any furniture with me, I decided to sell it instead. Craigslist is a given, but I decided to try my hand at Facebook Marketplace, which is Facebook’s own version of Craigslist. I ended up loving the experience; I could vet potential buyers beforehand, since they message you within Facebook messenger. Facebook’s interface also made it super easy to snap pics, fill out item info and upload it to the Marketplace instantly.
If you’ve been hesitant about getting rid of some stuff because you’re only thinking in terms of garage and yard sales, consider all of the apps and websites out there that will do the hard work for you. I ended up selling mostly everything and walking away with a big wad of cash.
3. My Stuff Does Not a Me Make.
I’m someone who places a lot of nostalgic value on the things I own. And I, like most people, fall into the trap of letting my stuff define me.
We love our stuff because we chose it. We picked it out of a wide variety of all the things in the world. We deemed it worthy of belonging to us. We love our stuff because it is ours.
But when I was forced to look at all of the stuff I owned and decide what to leave behind, I realized a few things: First, once you start getting rid of your stuff, it becomes really, laughably easy to say goodbye to mostly everything. Second, and most importantly, I realized that I was still there, even underneath all of that stuff. The person I was had not changed. My opinions, thoughts, likes and dislikes were still the same.
Even without my stuff, I was still me.
It may seem like a “Duh!” moment. But it took getting rid of most of my stuff to realize that it was exactly that: Stuff.
4. But Having Stuff Sometimes Does Help You Feel Like Home.
When I moved to Wyoming and spent the first night in my apartment, I had a mini freakout. I had moved into a basement apartment with utterly depressing carpet and heinous wooden cabinets. There was very little light. It was, for lack of a better word, horrifying.
I had a brief, wild moment where I thought of breaking the lease and finding a new place to live. How could I live in this dark, cold little cave? I was used to sunshine, warmth and cheeriness. This basement apartment did not feel like home.
After calming down and taking several deep breaths, I decided to stay. Instead of bleeding money on breaking the lease, putting down a new deposit, and moving again, why not allocate those funds to making my current apartment feel more like a home?
What would that entail? Plants to brighten the rooms. Mirrors to make the rooms seem more spacious. Space heaters for the colder areas in winter. Bright curtains, rugs and tapestries.
Basically, stuff that made it feel like home for me.
Sometimes, stuff does help you make a home. And there’s no shame in that.