This month marks our third anniversary of living in Jakarta. Considering how empty our house was when we first arrived here, I am staggered at how much stuff we have acquired in that short time.
We initially started out with garden chairs as living room furniture and took our time furnishing our new space. Though the house isn’t exactly cluttered, it feels full – and I feel daunted by the sheer volume of STUFF that seems to fill every closet and drawer.
It’s the never-ending tide of cheap party favors, orphaned toy and game parts, and plastic galore. It’s the piles of paper: children’s artwork, old receipts, and unfinished magazines. It’s all the things I never use or wear, the boxed objects I might use one day and the stock of (US-bought) items I think I can’t live without.
Moving from the US to East Timor 5 years ago was a great opportunity to clear things out and scale back. Although I did feel a little sad watching an expectant dad cart away our twins’ disassembled cribs the night before we moved, it felt good to sort through our accumulated belongings and assign categories: donate, sell, ship or store.
Donating unwanted items was easy. I arranged for a pick up with a local charity group, stacked everything on my porch and it was all magically whisked away. We sold our car and other big items, sent friends home with plants and other housewares and shipped our edited possessions to Dili.
Everything else went into our storage unit. A few years later I visited it for the first time and was amazed by what we’d deemed worth keeping at the time. I randomly peeked in a few boxes and found…sweaters. Lots of sweaters. What was I thinking? It was winter at the time and we didn’t know how long we’d be away, but still.
We also stored our furniture, though we recently realized that the cost of storing it for the last five years has probably exceeded its value. While visiting the US, my husband spent a day digging out furniture and giving it all away – couches, tables, lamps, washer/dryer…everything. I was thousands of miles away at the time but it felt fantastic.
Leaving East Timor prompted a similar purge. And yet here I am again, feeling the urgent need to reduce and simplify.
Here in Jakarta, this process isn’t as straightforward. While it’s fair to say that nothing will ever go unused, getting rid of unwanted items isn’t as simple as piling them on the porch. I frequently give outgrown kids’ clothes and shoes to friends or neighbors, donate household items to women’s association charity shops, or leave things out to be upcycled by our handcart-pulling bin man.
Last month my children got involved and we went through their toys, books and clothes and filled 10 bags with donations for a local orphanage. Though it was good for them to be part of this process, I would also really like for them to see where their donations are going and consider giving back in other ways (time, money, materials etc.).
Although I will never be a minimalist (or a light packer…), I’m committed to scaling back and am hopeful that this is a first step toward living with less.
A quick internet search reveals hundreds of creative ways to de-clutter, organize and simplify our homes – and ultimately our lives. We are told that having too much stuff is draining and overwhelming us, that we are wasting too much time and money managing our things and that getting rid of all this stuff can make our lives richer and happier.
All of this may be true, but for me the bigger question is about how to acquire less stuff in the first place.
Clearly I don’t have the answer yet, but it’s definitely something I would like to explore and practice – starting now.
Please share your strategies and tips to get me started!
How do you minimize/manage the “stuff” in your house and life? Do you have any tips for living with less?
This is an original post for World Moms Blog by Shaula Bellour.
As much as I like to have things, I hate to live in clutter, which we recently do, and that drives me crazy. The one who likes to gather and to keep stuff is my husband and I can’t convince him to size down. We live in a very tiny space and even extra chair makes a big difference in the space… A several weeks ago, with my kids, we took some of their old toys and clothes to a donation place and I saw how big of an impact it had on our kids. They loved it, although initially they were kind of sad seeing their toys going away.
I think you’re on the right track, Shaula! For me every chance to downsize is like a spiritual experience 🙂