Oh the purging we’ve been doing here. I’ve told you about the filing cabinet (man has there been a lot of paper), and the manuals and the books (I definitely see us buying fewer and fewer “real” books in the future)…but there has been even more than that which I haven’t talked about. We’ve gone through our closets again and purged 4 trash bags of things we definitely won’t be wearing… and finally got to pack away our winter gear for the time being since it’s the middle of May and all the “Eisheilige” (Icemen) days have passed. Here in Germany, they revert back to a very old farmer’s sign of the official end of winter, when the very last chance for frost is over. There are 5 days to watch out for, ranging from May 11-15.
But I’m getting sidetracked — I was here to talk about “stuff”.
Get rid of stuff
We’ve gotten rid of so many things in the past year – it’s hard to even fathom how much stuff it really was. But I was looking over some old files the other day and realized that the list is enormous. Not only did we get rid of at least house-worth of furniture and gardening things at the farm, but we also have gone through a ton of food storage and pantry items, gotten rid of our second car, and purged half a closet of clothes. And there’s still more that barely seems worth mentioning, but definitely added up. The only thing we didn’t downsize was our number of pets.
In general (and even still here in Berlin), we’ve been doing our best to reduce our number of “things”. And when I think about the boxes and boxes of stuff we’ve gotten rid of here, I really wish we had managed to get rid of more back at the farm so we didn’t pay to move everything. It seems almost crazy to admit …but we still have unpacked boxes in our apartment and a couple in our basement. What is in them you ask? Clearly nothing that we actually need since we haven’t had to open then in the last 9 months!
What I’ve Learned
For me, that is one of the most powerful motivations for decluttering. Having only what you need to be comfortable and get a job done. Not having a bunch of excess and definitely not having things around you that you don’t remember you have — or just never use.
When I start to think of all the money we spent for the things we “had” to have at one point in our lives…and actually ended up barely using. And all the money we’ve paid to move stuff over and over again. The hours spent dusting it or organizing it. It all just makes my head spin.
Unfortunately, I’m not certain that one can learn to be more practical with their money just because someone tells them not to spend money on useless things. I really fear that you can only learn it by doing.
We live in a society that is surrounded by excesses and consumerism, but we don’t have to let ourselves get absorbed in it. We all like to have nice things, but there are ways to get them at a discount and waiting just a little while almost always equals a huge savings in price. I may not be the first on the block to have something; but the good news is that when I do get it, the bugs are worked out already — and I don’t have to wait in a line around the block to get it.
I’m sure that growing up and in my early-20’s, I knew that I shouldn’t run up credit card bills or shop just because I could — but it rarely stopping me from doing it. Maybe it’s that invincible feeling that comes from being young. Or that phase of my life now that makes me reflective as a come into my mid-30’s and Mack gets old enough to learn more about money. Or perhaps I’m just tired of writing eBay listings for things that we just had to have years ago (and many of the things we actually did use a lot…at first) and cost a small fortune, but are worth so little now.
One thing is sure though — we think a lot more about the usefulness of our purchases and buy things to last. And we get as much as we can from what we have, or try to pass it on to others who can use it, before just trashing it. We also think more deeply about the gifts we give and try to make them useful and personal rather than just random stuff that will become a burden.
**Stepping off my soapbox now**
What are the lessons about life & money that you’d like to pass on to others? Will you share them with us?