Minimizing tangible assets is probably one of the most intimidating and overwhelming facets of getting ready for the road. We are instructed from an early age to develop into consumers, and therefore we constantly buy things to accessorize our lives, and we loom like mother geese over the next up-and-coming trend. Strangely enough, if you look around at your home most of the ‘necessities’ we purchase for ourselves aren’t truly necessary at all.
If you think about it, we really only need a few standard versions of shoe for which to walk around, yet somehow enormous empires have been built around changing up shoes to get us better performance, higher jumps, pointier toes, and flashier footwear. Same goes for just about everything else we purchase from day to day. We are addicted to customizing our lives, beginning with our morning cup of coffee and ending with our brand of bedpillows.
Fortunately for Liz and I (and I’m going to say fortunately here because hell, why not) we had some assistance with our un-stuff-ifying process by way of The Big Burning Bump in the Road. Since then we’ve cobbled together what items survived and have recreated a new, complete home. Which means that although much leaner than it was, we still have a standard household full of stuff, and are thus a long way away from being road-ready.
The first effort is to truly retrain ourselves, and redefine necessity within our own minds. Second, we activate the Four-Step Un-stuff-ifying Process, as outlined below:
1. Delete One Thing a Day
The Delete-a-Day tactic can be started at any time, as it is a marathon, and not a sprint. And in that way it can be much less taxing than other un-stuff-ifying endeavors. So snag a cardboard box, and take a moment every day to put something in it that you no longer need. For example, yesterday I added a four-leaf clover cookie cutter. Adorable but inapplicable on every day of the year but one. Needless to say, it wasn’t coming with us. Shirts with holes in them, bent spoons, and all those things that you have but just haven’t found a reason to toss can find a new home and make new friends with each other in the delete box.
2. Bag the Benign Collect
One of the biggest clutter causes is what I like to call “benign collect”. These are things that are not in the way, and also not out of the way. They simply exist because they are not harming anything by being where they are. And in addition, they are items that pose a potential future value. For example, about a billion of my empty mason jars survived the fire. Obviously they’re not going on the road with us. But also, they’re not harming anything where they live up on the top shelf of the kitchen. So they’ve comfortably nestled themselves into benign collect.
The great part about benign collect items is that often you can shapeshift them into money by selling them, or offhand them to family and friends and take a ride down the benevolent rainbow.
3. Clear the Clutter
This can be time-consuming and also challenging. If you have a junk drawer, a pile of new/old coupons, a stack of magazines the size of a small dog, a soup can of used screws of all sizes, or a medicine cabinet full of half-empty expired Dayquil and pill bottles, this is the clutter. And it can be some of the most difficult stuff to tackle. Why? Well because maybe you’ll need a butterfly band-aid someday and if you throw it away now you won’t have one when future-you needs it. Or you’ll go to a future fancy dress party and that roll of bra tape will finally have its day to shine. The what-ifs and waverings here can be endless. So there’s really only one way to handle it. Dump it all in a box. All of it. And then wait. If you don’t go spelunking for it within a three-month period or you can’t put it in a (respectably sized) emergency first-aid kit, nix it.
3. Scan the Sentimentals and Photograph the Papers (or vice versa)
There are some things that are never going out on display. Maybe it’s a weird collector’s card from some nineties show (looking at you, X-Files) or an old note from a middle school friend that is folded an impossible amount of times. These types of things often take up space in hard-to-reach boxes where they do not see the sunshine for decades at a time. If you have such a mad array of nonsense as a tag-along tenant, there’s an easy way to treasure it forever and toss it. Take a picture or scan it in, then let your Google Drive account do all the sentimental storing for you.
4. Store It
Renting storage isn’t something I’d normally be on board with, but our situation is a bit different. We’re not sure how long we can survive on the road yet (financially, physically, and emotionally) so it behooves us to keep our hard-to-part with items along with our big ticket repurchases (couch and mattress and dining room table-type stuff) in case we need a soft landing some time down the line. This is a tough decision, because financially speaking, storage degrades the value of your non-sentimental stuff over time. For example, if I paid $1,000 for my couch, and I pay $100 a month for storing it, in 10 months I could have just bought it again, and I’ve now paid $2,000 for a $1,000 couch. Ouch.
Tips for Triumph
- Try not to touch anything you are on the fence about ditching. Use a dinosaur grabber, kick it into a box, wear mittens, whatever. Touch is a very strong sense, and the act of touching things increases our bond to them.
- Tackle like with like. For example, f you’re tackling magazines in one room, tackle them throughout your home. This can help you recognize items as a whole and understand the breadth of a collection, versus seeing them as just ‘a few here’ and ‘a few there’.
- Cut without context. If you can’t remember where you got something from, who gave it to you, why you have it, or when you last used it, you likely won’t feel the loss of its departure. If there’s no context; cut it.
- Turn it when you try it on. If your closet looks like a hopelessly endless heap of hangers, turn all those hangers around. When you wear an item, put it back in the closet with the hanger turned the right direction. At the end of 6 months, clothes on hangers that aren’t facing the right direction can be relocated right to the reject pile (with the exception of seasonal items).