7 years ago we moved with our young family from The Netherlands to South Africa. We sold our house, gave away our furniture and held a garage sale to get rid of the smaller things. I was seriously overwhelmed with the amount of stuff we had accumulated in the first 8 years of our marriage and was determined to not let it happen again. I loved the idea of simple life, being free, not having ‘things’ to worry about.
We have travelled a lot with our young family before this big move. We spend 9 months in Soshanguve, South Africa, Pretoria’s biggest township. Our first baby girl turned 1 year old there. A few years later we spend 6 months in Kelowna, Canada, with three young kiddies. In between we had many more shorter trips, so we’re used to live out of suitcases ;-). This was the first big scale-down though.
Starting over without stuff
When landed on Cape Town airport we only had 6 suitcases – one for each family member.
We rented a car that would take us to Worcester. But when we tried to get our 6 suitcases in, it wouldn’t fit. Tired of the long journey with 4 kiddies (they were 7, 5, 1,5 and 4 months old), we decided to empty all the suitcases in the back of the car, push as hard as possible and quickly lock the car. It worked. We left the suitcases at the airport… No turning back!!
Our new house was completely empty. No beds, no couches, no fridge, no stove, N O T H I N G. We camped out for the first few months. Luckily we brought some of our camping gear, inflatable mattresses and sleeping bags.
I can clearly remember how free I felt without stuff in our house. So much space. Very little to pack away, clean up and take care off. So much time to do fun things and explore our new town.
Instead of regretting the things we’d left behind, I actually enjoyed it.
That feeling didn’t last long however. Before we knew it our house was stocked again. We bought new furniture and our new friends blessed us with a lot of different things. As a new missionary, without a salary, fundraising every dollar, we were grateful and accepted it all. It was free, you know ;-).
It took me another move within our town to realize we’d accumulated just as much stuff as we had in Holland before our big move… I was shocked!!
Too much stuff plays with your mind
That’s where I figured out that ‘having things’ does something with your mind. You see, here in Africa there is a believe that having few possessions makes you a poor man.
So we accumulate things, not only because we need them, but also as a sign of status or because of the Joneses next door. You will find the tiniest houses packed with stuff. Big TV screens, big couches, and lots of cheap toys.
The interesting thing is that I actually see that same mindset in the Western world. The average (!) person in the US spends around 800 dollar on Christmas presents. And most children’s bedrooms in Holland are packed with toys.
The mindset behind this is that having more stuff enriches your life.
But here’s the thing. Many of our possessions are actually just clutter. They don’t serve a specific purpose. They don’t contribute to a better life style and are not valued for what they are. In stead it’s a ‘thing’ in between many other things, just taking up space.
Having too much stuff created a lot of clutter in our house. I didn’t have space to pack my things away. It moved from the table to the window sill, to the hallway. It could rest nowhere.
I felt tired and overwhelmed of the never ending story of too many things. Tired of the clutter floating around in our house.
I wanted peace in my mind.
I wanted space to breath.
I wanted to enjoy the beautiful things in my house, rather than seeing clutter swerving around.
I had to get rid of my own mindset that having few possessions is a sign of poverty. One of the first things I had to learn was to say no when people ‘bless’ us with things.
To be fair… many of the clutter in our house is mine, or the kiddies’ stuff. Either toys, or projects in making. My hubby is actually quite good at this. He doesn’t own a lot of things and is very organized. Soo much to learn for me ;-).
At the beginning of the year I read Marie Kondo’s book, The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing. It was the start of a new journey for us. A start on our way to minimalism. My challenge is to create a place that has a little possessions as possible and still is a warm and beautiful place to be. It must be peaceful, organized and warm.
If you would come for coffee today, you will see we’re not there yet.
I’ve thrown out, given away and sold bags and bags of stuff.
Literally every day I’m trying to find things to toss out and simplify our lives.
I love the process.
In my house. In my mind. In my live.
How do you feel about your living space? Do you have that same feeling of too much? Are you overwhelmed with the clutter in your house?
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself if you’re tired of too much stuff:
❤︎ Take a serious look around in your house. What do you see? Does it bring joy? Do you feel peace? Is it a place you want to be and hang out? Or does it make you feel stressed, too much clutter around?
❤︎ What do you believe about the things you own? Why do you own them?
❤︎ Find 3 things you own that you don’t like and toss them TODAY.
❤︎ Find 3 things that you really love. Share a picture. It’s a way of celebrating and being thankful for what you have.