Too much stuff? (Killing the Junk Beast)

We moved to our new house on August 1 last year. We used the biggest U-Haul we could get, and we filled the entire thing. Twice. This is what our garage looked like 10 days after moving:

garage full of crap in August

27 days later, on September 6, our garage still looked like this:

And that was after purging a ton of stuff on craigslist

retro shelf in driveway

This was one of maybe 5 shelving units we sold.

…and carting so many carloads to Goodwill we lost count of how many trips we made.

kitchen full of moving boxes

All of these boxes hold kitchen stuff. We gave away nearly half the contents of these.

As we unpacked box after box after box after box, my head played an endless David Byrne tape:

“You may say to yourself, my God, what have I done?”

How did I get here? That’s the question I kept asking when confronted with the undeniable load of crap I’d stuffed into my life.

6 months later, I’m pretty sure I know the answer:
I bought a bunch of stuff that wasn’t quite right because I thought I needed something and wasn’t willing/felt unable to wait for the right something.

It’s not a new behavior. I have done this all my life. Sometimes with really big things. College degrees. Houses.  Cars.

I think we all know the folly in making those kinds of not-quite-right choices. But we downplay the costs of making those choices in the smaller things. Chairs. Shelves. Lamps. Clothing.

shopping bag full of empty hangers

The hangers I gave away after purging my closet last winter of everything that fit wrong, felt wrong, or looked wrong.

It’s not just about the money we waste. (Though, don’t get me wrong:  I have wasted craptons of money this way.)

It’s about the time and energy we waste. We think we’re saving time. We tell ourselves, I’m just going to get this thing and be done with it. But we’re not done with it.

We take it home and realize that, no, we just can’t make it work. Then we have to take it back. Or we find the right thing just a few days later, and, again, we have to take the first thing back. Or we keep both things and have to find a place to store the wrong one, and a reason to justify keeping it. It takes so much energy to dance that dance.

It’s also about the weight we carry. Our things weigh us down.

They clutter our spaces. It can be hard to see, to move, to breathe when we feel smothered by our things.

They clutter our emotions, too. It’s really hard to feel good about ourselves when we’re feeling wasteful, stupid, or lazy (all of which I’ve felt in response to poor purchases). Can I tell you how much better I felt when our garage looked like this?

clean garage

There's still some stuff lingering in the back, but by the end of September, we could park both cars in the garage.

By why am I writing about this now?

Because I got the most beautiful lesson this week in doing it another way.

The lesson

For about two months now, I’ve had a hankering for something to carry and hold firewoood. We love the fireplace in our new house, but we haven’t had a good solution for carrying wood from the outside in.

girl reading book in front of fireplace

You can see the wood just stacked on the floor in the corner of this shot.

I wanted something just the right size–not so big I couldn’t lift it and not so small that it wouldn’t hold enough wood.  I wanted something with some style. And I didn’t want to pay much for it.

I looked a bit at thrift stores, hoping the right thing would appear. I thought about shopping retail, but it was Christmas and I didn’t want to spend money that way. (And then it was after Christmas and I didn’t want to spend money any way.)

I found a few things that sorta worked, but I thought of all the times I bought things that sorta worked and then regretted it when I found the perfect thing a short time later.

I thought of the garage (which is still not entirely detoxed of our extraneous stuff).

And I just walked away from any only sorta right thing I found.

I decided to have faith. I decided to believe that the perfect thing would appear if I just got clear about my intentions and waited.

I don’t know why I believed this. Maybe from our experiences in finding new lights? It doesn’t matter why:  I just believed.

And it then happened. Last weekend, on a walk with Cane, we passed a dumpster and I saw it:  Our firewood carrier.

It has handles, for easy carrying.  It’s a nice size, so I can actually lift it when it’s full of wood.  It holds just the right amount for an evening’s worth of fire.

And it’s got some funky charm to it. In a previous life, it was a carrier for milk bottles. It comes from Yelm, Washington, a small town in my home state.

In terms of our design values, it’s hitting connection, function, frugality, and simplicity. Hard.

We really like it. It’s perfect.

fireplace with fire and milk crate full of firewood

What’s this have to do with getting rid of stuff?

In the title we promised a solution for helping you kill the junk beast. But this post isn’t so much about killing the animal already living in your home as it is about refusing to let it in.

Here’s the solution:
Don’t bring anything into your home–your life–unless it is perfect.

That’s it.

It’s that simple.

Perfect means it costs what you can afford to pay, it does what you want it to do, it looks the way you want it to look, and it fits. If it doesn’t have all that, just walk away. Know that the right thing will appear if you just wait for it.

This isn’t just about home decor

Since finding the milk carton/wood holder, I’ve been thinking about other things I’d like to find. I’m letting go of my need to actively seek them. Finding something to hold firewood wasn’t the most important thing in my world, but as I identify bigger things I want and need, I’m doing what I did for that holder:

Going about my business.

Doing what I love doing.

Trusting that what I need will appear if I keep my life clear of clutter that sucks up my time, energy, and spirit.

cool retro fondue pot

So many things we love (both big and small) have come into our life when we weren't actively looking for them.

How about you?

What is it that you’re looking for these days?  What are your best tips for finding what you need?  Would love for you to comment and let us know what works for you.

Giving credit where credit is due:

Speaking of things that appear when you need them:  This post from Slow Your Home contributed greatly to my thinking on this topic.

UPDATE (of the coolest kind):

Thanks to a high school and FB friend, I’ve learned that it’s actually Stiebrs Farms, and our find was most likely an egg carrier, not a milk bottle carrier.  Better yet, it’s a family-owned farm that produces all kinds of good food.  Check them out here.