How much can you live without?

I had lunch with a friend yesterday and we were talking about how surprised we were at how little we seem to need materially.  Both she and I had moved to this small mountain town in Colorado from thousands of miles away – I from Pennsylvania, she from Costa Rico.  And we both left at least half of our “stuff” behind.  I came out here with one carload of stuff and she flew in with four suitcases’ worth. We were blessed to end up sharing a furnished home, which obviously made it much easier.  Nevertheless, furniture, gadgets, decorative items, books and journals, plants – all of this was left behind at our old homes.  And we’ve been getting along perfectly well with what we have.  We can barely remember what we’re missing.

We really need so little in order to survive.

It’s rather mind-boggling just how much we Americans accumulate in our lifetime.  Buying things seems to be rather an obsession.  I am continually astounded at how many women actually seem to love to go shopping – especially at the crazy busy times like Labor Day and the day after Thanksgiving.  Ugh!  I can think of a hundred better things to do with my day.

Men, while not necessarily shoppers by nature, do seem to enjoy their toys.  I know men who love to buy cars, jeeps, trucks, motorcycles, etc.  Or sporting equipment.  Or tools. 

And children!  Our poor children are so susceptible to the influence of commercials and peer pressure.  They want the right clothes, they want their cell phones, their electronic game-playing devices, their I-pods.  And we’ve become brainwashed into thinking that we must buy these things for our children in order to prove our love.  Every birthday and every Christmas, we feel we must inundate our children with gifts.  I have seen tiny toddlers with so many toys they practically need another room in which to store it all.

And speaking of storage, according to one site: “One in 11 American households … owns self-storage space—an increase of some 75 percent from 1995. Most operators of self-storage facilities report 90 percent occupancy, with average stints among its renters of 15 months.”


Another site reports: The United States has 2.3 billion square feet of self-storage space — more than 7 square feet for every man, woman and child.


·          One out of every 10 households in the country rents a unit, according to the association.

·          Storage units were meant to be transitional: places to keep belongings while moving, marrying, divorcing or dealing with a death in the family. But 50 percent of Americans who use them now are simply using them as a place to store extra stuff, even though the average home size has nearly doubled.

·          The United States has upward of 51,000 storage facilities, more than seven times the number of Starbucks.

We have so much stuff we can’t even fit it all in our homes!  Now that’s a bit crazy, don’t you think?

I have a friend who had a large house in one state where his wife and kids lived while he lived in another state, working.  They had two households.  When the economy went south, they couldn’t afford the upkeep and taxes on two homes.  Sorting through the possessions in the larger home was a process that took years.  Multiple trips were made moving possessions from the larger home to the ever-more-crowded smaller home and to the ever-more-crowded storage units.  Now my friend says, “I wish I’d sold all of it. Stuff is only useful at the time in your life when you need it to complete the segment you’re in. After that it’s a burden.”

Perhaps we can all learn to live with a few less burdens. 

Another friend reports that she lost everything in 2009 except for a few clothes. She says it was “oddly liberating.”

I personally have moved fifteen times in the last eight years.  I do not enjoy moving, so with each successive move, I got rid of more and more stuff.  Each move got a little bit easier.  I find it is completely possible to live with only what fits in my car.  Some people can live with only what fits in a backpack.  The trick is to discover what is most important to you.  Is it a laptop?  A guitar?  Art supplies? Is it the photo albums of your children?  Mementos from special times in your life?  Figure out what is important to you, keep what you need to survive, and then maybe add a few things with which to have fun.  Then LIVE!  Get out and explore the world, sit in nature, visit with friends.  You really don’t need to fill your boxes (homes) with more stuff.  Free yourself from too many physical burdens.  Lighten your load and you may just lighten your life!

Blessed be.

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