I've never been all that sentimental about things. In high school maybe, but once I was on my own (and started moving every time my lease was up in search of cheaper rent), I detached. Stuff became just that, stuff; and while there may have been memories attached to my stuff, I decided I didn't need a thing to remind myself of them.
Incidentally, the day I trashed my wedding dress in the Portland Color Run and left it in the garbage was the day I realized how much stuff matters to people - and how much my stuff mattered to those on the outside looking in.
"But it's your wedding dress! How could you do that? What about the memories?"
"Well, I still have my marriage to remind myself of my wedding day. So there's that."
Regardless of my lack of sentimentality, in my almost 36 years, I still managed to collect quite an array of items. Items that once had a purpose, that I thought I needed, that I couldn't live without.
Turns out, I actually can live without them.
Love People, Use Things
A few months ago, Mat and I watched Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things on Netflix. Within the week, we loaded multiple trash bags, stuffed full and threatening to rip, into the back of my car to donate. We sold furniture and books. We emptied every drawer and opened every cabinet to take an honest assessment of what we were storing and why. In the process of de-cluttering our home, we learned it's not really about owning less, it's about making space for more [of the important things].
The Minimalist's mantra: Love People, Use Things, has been a helpful way to gauge whether or not the stuff we have owns us. We are always asking ourselves, "Does this [thing] allow me to love people? When is the last time I used it?" I currently own the least amount of clothes and shoes and books in my entire life. If I buy any of these things new, I get rid of something to balance things out.
Saying we are minimalists isn't easy. There are a lot of assumptions that come along with it, like any label you choose to define or explain yourself. I equate saying I'm minimalist to someone saying they are vegan; there is a perception of snootiness, of being better than others in some obvious way. I can't change that perception, but I don't think I'm better than anyone else because I have less things. And I don't think people who have closets full of clothes and shoes or rooms full of furniture and decor are bad. (Truth be told I'd be vegan, too, if I wasn't so lazy and could stop eating eggs.) Living this way, as minimalists, is personal, and for Mat and I it's a necessary step. But we don't expect anyone else to do what we are doing.
My brother - whose book is now in paperback! Grab Eleanor here! - texted me the other day and mentioned a book called Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less. I haven't read it yet, I can't buy books right now, but the summary on Amazon made me save it to my Wish List, "The Way of the Essentialist isn't about getting more done in less time. It's about getting only the right things* done. It is not a time management strategy, or a productivity technique. It is a systematic discipline for discerning what is absolutely essential, then eliminating everything that is not, so we can make the highest possible contribution towards the things that really matter."
*Things - not defined as stuff, but defined as what we find important, what we believe in. For us, things are wrapped up in who we love and that makes us do what we do. We are eliminating everything that is not essential.
Back in June of 2015, Mat and I wandered aimlessly across the country dreaming about what we wanted our lives to look like - where we wanted to live, what we wanted to be about, who we wanted to invite along with us. We learned not to worry about how it would happen and instead focus on existing in the present with the dream already realized, instead of it being something far away from us, always in the future without a light at the end of the tunnel. Turns out, being still while perpetually on the move was exactly what we needed, and what we continue to dream about doing over and over again. Having no jobs to tether us to a narrow thought process blew our minds wide open.
The Dream to live in an Airstream, to exist on the road while at home, is alive and well - and always closer than we think. We've moved eight times in the 10 years we've been married. It couldn't be any clearer that we don't have those deep, forever-home roots. There is nowhere that is our home because everywhere is our home; and we are always open to a new view, and changing scenery.
We minimize the stuff in our lives to make physical space in preparation for life in an Airstream, but also to make room for new experiences and new ways of doing essential things. In two months, we'll move again - to another apartment with a smaller footprint than the one we are in to save a couple hundred extra dollars a month - and we'll purge and donate and sell.
Everything we do is through the lens of living in an Airstream because we want to make the highest contribution at all times to intentional, creative living - to further the dream - while loving people along the way.