a new perspective on stuff

This past weekend we had a garage sale in hopes of selling most of our things. Aside from boxes of books and a few sentimental things, or things I think will be too costly to replace, we have sold nearly everything. From furniture to dishes to toys, things have been slowly leaving our home.

Now we sit in a nearly empty apartment and I wonder what happened to my life? Everything is either in boxes, or gone forever.

I thought I would be a little emotional seeing my stuff leave. There were days, especially at the beginning, when it was emotional. Decisions were difficult, and I realized that I was more attached to my things than I thought I was.

But this weekend after the bulk of things left our home, instead of feeling sad, I felt strangely liberated. I wasn’t emotional at all. It was a feeling of relief that I no longer had to deal with all this stuff.

If there is one lesson I’m hoping to learn through our adventure and life in Scotland is that our lives are not made up of things. It really is about people and memories.

I sit here typing on literally the only chair we have left in the house. We are either picnicking on the floor or outside for our meals. Our kids beds will all be gone by the end of this week and they’ll be sleeping on made up cots on the floor.

And we’re okay. We’re happy. Life is good.

Yes, we got rid of a lot of stuff. Yes, some decisions were hard. And, yes, I probably made some stupid decisions. No doubt there will be some things I sold that I’ll be wondering why I did in just a few months. And there will be some things that when I pull it out of storage in roughly three years I’ll be wondering why in the world I kept.

But the bottom line is that my life is not intertwined with stuff. My kids are eating (not at a table, but they’re eating). We have a roof over our heads. And I have a (mostly) healthy family to love and nourish. I don’t take any of these for granted, not the least the health part considering what we have been through in the past few months.

Having useful and beautiful things in our homes is a wonderful gift. I’m thankful for them and I think it is good and right to enjoy beautiful things. I look forward to someday being in a place to decorate and make my home again. But this has been really, really good for me. I’ve come to realize that there were quite a few things that I considered an essential need in order to make a home. Now I’m realizing there is very little that is truly essential.

Yes, the piano is still here, and, yes, we are very sad to say good bye to this. Here’s hoping we can find a decent one we can afford in Scotland.

If I learn nothing else during this wonderful adventure of moving our family across the ocean (and I hope I learn lots, lots more), I have learned how quickly and easily we become attached to stuff.

Things that can be bought, sold, and then bought again take up so much of our time.

Now that it’s all gone, I sit on the floor and laugh with my kids at how fun it is to eat our dinner on the floor. We talk about how fun it is going to be to camp out in our house once the beds are gone. The kids bounce their balls as high as they want in the house because there is nothing “valuable” left to break. And the very few toys we have left out for the kids are getting played with better and more imaginatively than they have played in ages.

I’m extremely grateful for this strange season of life because it has brought into fresh perspective how little worth our human possessions really are.


  1. This is absolutely wonderful and SO very true! I love that you’re seeing the positive in what could seem like a very negative stage. Keep cherishing all the steps in this wonderful adventure. God is gifting us every day with so much beauty…whether during a very settled stage of life or a time of major upheaval…and it usually has very little to do with our stuff. Thanks for these wonderful reminders! Oh, and I love that the kids get to bounce the balls inside as high as they want :-)

  2. I can identify. I spent the first 6 weeks in my apartment with a rocking chair, one lamp, an ice cooler (that I put the lamp on), an air mattress, a couple of towels, a couple of plates, cups, bowls…..I was really surprised to find that I also did not need anything else. Now that my stuff is in Minnesota we have a whole storage building rented that is full, both bedrooms in the apartment have multiple boxes that are not yet unpacked because there is already too much stuff…and it does feel overwhelming to look at the boxes knowing that there is no place to put the stuff (and that I have not needed any of it in the past three months).

    • Johanna says:

      Moving has a way of bringing our stuff into perspective, I guess! I hope you all start to feel settled in MN soon!

  3. I hope you do get a piano in Scotland! If not, you may be able to get permission to play on the music department’s pianos – not the same as having one in your home, of course.

    Our stuff is mostly in boxes as well, at the moment, and for the most part I like the simplicity!

  4. “But the bottom line is that my life is not intertwined with stuff.” LOVE this. Thank you.

  5. Oh Johanna, I’m inspired. In fact, I’m going upstairs to get rid of some stuff NOW! Bye!

  6. How freeing that sounds!

  7. We were just going through *stuff* on Saturday and I wanted to get rid of everything, but I too am sometimes afraid that down the road I’ll regret getting rid of some of it. I even called mom to find out how much she wants to store in her attic 😉 Seriously, that’s what’s going to happen to it eventually cause I’m NOT carting it all over to Australia! Then our poor kids have to deal with it one day. So out it all went :)

  8. I’m curious… in anticipation of what may be a similar move for our family in 2014… do you already have a plan in place for furnishing your home in Scotland? And are you shipping anything at all, or only taking what can travel with you?

    • Johanna says:

      Yeah ! You might be moving. Keep me posted 😉

      We are only taking luggage on the plane. We are, however, paying for some extra pieces. We are looking to rent a furnished place in Scotland and will supplement with things we might need after we see how it is furnished.

  9. Hi Johanna,
    So glad I found your wonderful blog! I couldn’t agree with you more. Hurray for simplifying, reducing clutter, making do with less, and making room for more play!

    Now, the challenge is to avoid re-accumulating! It’s amazing how quickly a house can fill with things!

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