Week 18: The purge

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“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less.” ~ Socrates

Look around your house at all the things you have in your space. How much of it do you use regularly? How much of it do you truly need? How much of it was bought on credit? How much of it brings stress into your every day life?

Can we talk about the idea of storage for a minute? All of these crazy shops that actually just sell things to store your things in. Is this not the true meaning of insanity? Here is a store where you can go and buy expensive little boxes to fill your cupboards to put your stuff away where you can’t even see it… so then you have more space in your house for more stuff. And then more. And then you will run out of space so maybe you will need a bigger closet, with more shelves, and more boxes… so that you can fill it with more stuff. But you are still only one person/family – you can’t possibly USE all of that stuff regularly, can you? But you need it, don’t you? So you go and you buy a bigger house… so that you can store more stuff. But then your house needs new stuff, so you chuck away lots your old stuff and you take out a loan to buy new stuff to match your bigger house.

Seems crazy doesn’t it?

Storage solutions… booming business. It’s capitalism working at it’s most productive. We must grow, we must upgrade, we must advance – if we are to be successful. 

The crazy thing is the solution is radically simple. The best storage solution out there is just having less stuff.

If you don’t use it, get it out of your home. Don’t replace it with something else. Just remove it. Don’t dump it out on the side of the street at council pick up to get destroyed by the rain or dumped into landfill, find someone who actually needs the item (and trust me, there are plenty of people in need) and give it to them. Take the stuff you don’t use and give it to someone who WILL use it. Sell it, if you need the cash, but get it out of your house. Sentimental items are one thing… but cupboards full of clothes, toys, linen, furniture, knicknacks that you don’t use? They have no use to you.

Whilst I’m pretty simplistic in my attitude toward material possessions, I also seem to have this issue where the stuff we have seems to constantly reproduce. We moved into this house without much and a month ago I started looking around the house and realised that I have acquired so much in the past 12 months. Sure, we haven’t bought anything this year, and prior to that most of it was second hand or gifted or rescued… but we still had an enormous amount of stuff that we truly don’t use. So I started a pretty serious purge and organised a little event in our front yard.

This weekend just gone we held an Honesty Box Garage Sale. I went through every room and cupboard in our home and boxed up everything that we don’t use regularly (or that didn’t have true sentimental value) and I organised it all and put it out on my driveway. I decided that I wasn’t going to price anything, that instead of doing the usual banter of garage sale barter I would just ask people to make a blind donation for what they believed the item(s) were worth and that was it. Just put your money in that tin, no one is going to be watching how much you put in, thank you for your honesty. Lots of people found this very confronting. Some people seriously couldn’t handle it. Others just paid $2 for a huge pile of stuff… because they could. I had to check myself several times. I watched someone pay a couple of dollars for a few things that were worth significantly more than that. And whilst I couldn’t help but feel myself cringe at the time, I checked my attitude pretty quickly.

That’s not what this was about. This wasn’t about “making what it’s worth” it was about trusting in the inherent good in people… and trusting that if a person doesn’t pay, it means that they need that item more than I need that money. Sure there are some dickheads out there, but really, most people are good people and I figure it will all even out in the end. There were families who came through who didn’t have any money at all and lots of mouths to feed. They took away bags and bags of kids clothes and blankets and toys for next to nothing (two families we bagged up things for them for nothing at all), and I honestly couldn’t be happier. People have always been very good to us in our times of need and what goes around comes around. It was our turn to be good in return.

The value of stuff is relative, it’s only what someone is willing to pay for it. The undeniable reality is it is so much more valuable to give someone something for nothing than to have it sit in my cupboard collecting dust for a maybe-baby or a rainy day… By the end of the day we’d made a good chunk of cash from honest folk who took away lots of our stuff and gave it new homes where it will be sat on, read, worn, played with, watched, cooked with… if it was still here, it wouldn’t be being used at all.

I’m sure each and every one of us have households worth of goods that we could easily give to a family in need. Imagine if we all did it. Helped furnish and clothe and warm the underprivileged families who live in our own suburbs… with stuff we already have. Without judgement.

Imagine how much better our world could be.

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  • May 7, 2014 - 5:40 am

    Mel - You never cease to inspire me and make me think. Thank youReplyCancel

    • May 7, 2014 - 7:29 am

      Sash - Thank you Mel 🙂ReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2014 - 5:55 am

    the SAGA by Steinsdotter - A beautiful and well written post as always.
    Over time you really have become my favorite blogger/writer, and like I alot of bloggers. I might be a blog’oh’holic or somethimg.

    Anyway. I’m at that point now. Life threw me a curve ball, and I’m starting over. Moving into a new apartment and doing a purge, or cleanse if you like. As I mentioned on my blog, having too much stuff can weigh us down. And pretty much everything I own is up for debate. Except my books of course.

    Some of my things are too big to fit in the newer smaller place, so I selling them and are looking for smaller thrifted furniture.

    I believe whole heartly that something good will come out of all this. A big cheer for new starts!ReplyCancel

    • May 7, 2014 - 7:30 am

      Sash - Love a good cleanse! Hooray for clean starts and fresh beginnings! xxReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2014 - 7:09 am

    Rachel - I truly love this idea, even though I am quite sure I will have a hard time with it if I actually do it. I don’t want to feel like I’m being taken advantage of, but the truth is, I just want the stuff out!!! Who cares if someone else profits, I guess? I really want to make this happen my next free Saturday.ReplyCancel

    • May 7, 2014 - 7:29 am

      Sash - I just like to believe that people are inherently honest, and while some people may take advantage, others will be more than generous… stuff is just stuff, it really has very little monetary value at all! xReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2014 - 8:03 am

    Jade - Fascinating post and such a wonderful idea (and experiment in human behaviour)! This past summer we chose to evacuate our home due to a nearby bushfire. It was a strange feeling driving away in our car and realising we had absolutely everything in it that was important to us – photos of our wedding and our sons, and their memory boxes of keepsakes from when they were born. That was all. It was the first time I really realised that all this “stuff” we had in our house really holds no value at all. Nothing like a crisis to make you realise what is important in life.ReplyCancel

  • May 7, 2014 - 2:23 pm

    Kate - Fantastic! I’m going through that sort of phase at the moment and whilst I do need the money as I’m only dabbling with a bit of casual work currently, I’m eBaying what I can, giving away other stuff and charity shopping the rest. A very refreshing read – thank you!ReplyCancel

  • May 8, 2014 - 3:16 pm

    femmegypsy - Love this idea and love that you believe the inherently good in people!ReplyCancel

  • May 13, 2014 - 9:10 pm

    Julie Anglesey - I absolutely love the idea of an Honesty Box Garage Sale! And thanks for honestly sharing your emotions too.ReplyCancel

  • May 15, 2014 - 11:57 am

    Rachel - You’re such an inspiration Sash! and you’re totally right – stuff really does “breed” and it’s so freeing to get rid of it. I sold or gave away nearly everything I owned when I left the UK but stuff is starting to creep back now!

    It really is a shame when people take advantage of you doing something nice like this though. I had something similar happen here – I decided to give away all our old baby clothes instead of selling them and advertised them as free to whoever wanted/needed them. A few different people took them including one lady who wanted to distribute them to poor families in her village in Java. However one lady sent her pembantu to pick up several bags – I later saw on Facebook she has multiple luxury villas that she rents and is obviously not short of cash. A year later her husband was SELLING all the baby clothes – they could have at least passed on the favour! ugh 🙁ReplyCancel

  • May 17, 2014 - 11:25 am

    bron - you’re amazing sash. xReplyCancel

  • May 18, 2014 - 12:34 pm

    Rhiannon - Wow! I would find it tough to do this, especially if someone decided they would just pay nothing for it.ReplyCancel

  • May 20, 2014 - 8:02 am

    zelicat - great post sash. This inspired me to contact my local womens shelter, and pass on some of the lovely toys my daughter has outgrown- they are beautiful and much loved/ played with but my 9 year old doesn’t need a toy kitchen & doesn’t play with her dolls house any more. Moving every 2 years or so with my work, I am pretty good at not accumlating ‘stuff’- but it is amazing how quickly you can aquire things- I start to get anxious if I have more than a days’ worth of packing in my house! a timely reminder for me to ‘let it go’ReplyCancel

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