Since we bought our first home together six years ago we took huge pride in it. We wanted it to feel like home. We bought beautiful paintings, cushions and bedding for every season, countless ornaments and signs with ironic trendy slogans “Live, Laugh, Love” etc.
If you’ve been following our journey over the last six months, you will know that in May we made the decision to sell our home, and all of its contents to take our children on an adventure around the world. You can read all about why we made this decision here.
The most difficult part of this process for us has been sorting through and selling all of our possessions, but probably not in the ways that you might expect.
The girls bedrooms were filled to the brim with books, teddies and toys. When we started home educating we had rooms and cupboards bursting with more books and resources. Kitchen gadgets galore, plus 32 plates. Just in case we ever had 32 people around for dinner; this doesn’t include our “special” dinner set that was wheeled out at Christmas. The attic was a no mans land of baby toys, furniture and random boxes of memories. The shed was worse. It was our go to hiding place for stuff that we no longer had a use for, but just couldn’t quite bring ourselves to part with.
Does this sound similar? Pretty sure we’ve just described 90% of homes up and down the country.
We were happy, for a time. Then our stuff started to suffocate us, the insta worthy sofa cushions no longer held their charm.
So what changed you might wonder, I think the answer here is our mindset. Our realisation that we were entering our thirties and all we had to show for our daily slog at work for the past 10 years was a house full of stuff. This weighed heavy on us. The ironic “Live, Laugh, Love” sign seemed to be silently mocking us every time we walked in the front door.
In short we felt trapped in an annual consumerist cycle. It’s January, we need to get fit, lets splurge on some fancy kitchen gadgets to help us eat healthier. February, Valentines, we need to buy gifts and fancy chocolates. Hey, it’s March. Look how shabby the house is. We need new accessories, oh and lets redecorate. Easter… so much chocolate. Yay, Summertime, garden stuff, new clothes, so many BBQ’s. September, new school year, enough said about that. Halloween, I really need that £25 candle so my house smells like pumpkin spice. Then it’s Christmas, massive hole in bank account just because. Happy New Year… and repeat until…when does it end, when we die?
The stuff grew cloying, the house that had once felt like home began to feel hollow. Getting through each day felt like a chore. We felt stupid for buying into “THE dream” that wasn’t really OUR dream at all.
When we began to sort through the house we were amazed at the stuff we had squirrelled away. In the attic we found a box containing all of the cinema tickets from our teenage dates, and 3 boxes of letters we had written to each other. Including notes written on year 10 science worksheets with the romantic words “I can’t meet you at dinner I’m off to play footy, see you after school T.L.N.D.” (that’s an abbreviation of ‘true love never dies’ for all you noughties kids out there).
Completely overwhelmed at the sheer thought of sorting through it all we needed a plan. So we bought several large plastic stackable storage containers (about 8 in total) which now contain everything we own.
We started by packing up things that would be heartbreaking to part with. This turned out to be photographs, (too many) books, a handwritten birthday card from dad, the girls first shoes, wedding dress, the vinyl record from our first dance, and some treasured ornaments that hold sentimental value. We also kept the love letters, even the haunting ones from a bad spell when we split up briefly and questioned our whole existence. One day these letters will make a scrapbook, or well use them to write our story, its an interesting one to be sure. In case your wondering, the cinema tickets went in the bin.
All of our furniture was sold or donated, bar a vintage chest that belonged to Little Grandad which is being baby sat for us by family. We donated clothes to charity, keeping aside items that will go with us on our travels, and enough to tide us over through winter.
The biggest trial was the girls stuff. Children seem to attach more emotion to their possessions than adults. We would never force them to part with anything they didn’t want to, or throw it away sneakily. Imagine someone binning or giving away something precious to you, how angry and distrustful would this make you? These are traits we do not want to foster in our children.
We compromised. They were given two large plastic tubs each to fill with whatever they wanted to store. Plus they could take their favourite toys and books to live with us at Nannie’s house which will be packed up just before we depart.
We inwardly cringed at some of the choices. It’s tough to bite your tongue and let them pack away a small box containing flattened tin foil Christmas chocolate wrappers, whilst selling toys at car boot for £1 that cost you an arm and a leg . But to them that box of old wrappers could hold the same sentimental value as the cinema tickets once did for us. In time they’ll let them go, when they’re ready.
The most eye opening lesson has been the monetary value of our stuff that really highlights the darker side of our throwaway culture. At car boots people are haggling you down to 50p for items that you paid well over £20 for. Reluctant to pay £1 for a second hand gently used book. Hours were spent negotiating with buyers on Facebook for them to turn around and say they no longer want your item as they’ve found the same for free somewhere else.
It makes you question every thing, every purchase you’ve ever made. It has completely altered our future spending habits. We felt reckless, and incredibly naïve.
These six months have been incredibly stressful, tiresome and emotional. But we are on the other side now. We are 12 weeks away from embarking on our journey. Everything we own is packed in boxes scattered around kind relations attics and garages. By going through this process and unravelling our lives, questioning the things that motivate us, the things that matter. Gradually unloading the stuff weighing us down, letting go piece by piece. We have achieved something amazing, freedom.
As Christmas approaches we’ve been worrying about how it will feel for the girls to wake up on Christmas morning with just one or two presents as opposed to a pile. Today at dinner Ava said “All I’d like for Christmas this year is the world on a key ring for my backpack”. All our worries were forgotten in that one sweet moment, they get it! We have always wanted the girls to understand that happiness cannot be purchased, or placed on things. They don’t need all of the stuff, none of us do.
The first question we are always asked is “What will you do when you come home?”. We can’t answer. We don’t know where our home will be, or when/if we’ll ever settle down again. We are certain of one thing though, and that is we will never fall in to this consumerist trap again. Absolute minimalist living is the way forward for us, for the sake of the planet and for our own future happiness.
So we’ll leave you with a line from one of our wedding songs courtesy of Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros, a quote we now live by; “Home is wherever I’m with you”.