What happens when your house and stuff own you? Other folks chime in on the topic
The other day I wrote an article, then another, about how recent news about the rather sudden dissolution of my company has led to an equally sudden dissolution of my dream to live in Oregon. Apparently, as with all such big life issues, there are plenty of us dealing with similar, if not identical issues.
My situation has caused me to have to completely let go of my belongings, at least most of them, and that has caused me to think hard about how much more baggage I've accumulated after four years of getting rid of baggage. How did I end up with so much after so much letting go?
What does it mean to have all that STUFF, and have to have a house big enough to cram it all into (nod to Jim Stutsman here for the George Carlin reference today)?
Several commenters' contributions were so striking that I am going to share them with you here. I wanted you, wherever you may be in your evolution, to get a glimpse of how different folks are dealing with some of the same issues I am juggling right now. I sincerely hope you find these comments as insightful and useful as I did.
From Elizabeth B:
Oh, god, don't I understand! We have a beautiful home here in Petaluma (just north of SF) full of my FIL's art (he was a famous painter for a while), exquisitely sited over a pond on 13 acres. BUT what I wouldn't give to be able to leave it all behind. The maintenance is never-ending (as you are finding out), constant worry about the pond koi being eaten by river otters and herons, the pond itself drying up because of drought, the aging donkeys who keep the grass down, the gardens where I am attempting (the important word here) to grow food, the other garden where I am having not-so-great luck at flowers. I'm 70 here, and weedwhacking 13 acres (well, the 2-3 acres around our house, anyway) is not my dream retirement! There was a time a couple of years ago when I was so unhappy I tried to soothe myself with buying art supplies (that never works except in the moment, when will I ever learn). Now I have an entire LARGE room overfilled with art supplies I don't know how to use and books telling me how to use them; I don't even have the time to clean it up, much less figure out how to use all that STUFF! I would dearly love to give it all up and travel before it's too late, but my MIL is 92 and until she is gone, here we shall remain. Not to mention FIL is buried up on the hill and so will be MIL. So, selling the place someday?! Not likely. There are some days I love it here still, but mostly it feels like a beautiful anchor. (author bolded)
On Medium another commenter wrote:
Three years ago I did something that was unthinkable a couple years before then. I sold the very large, spectacular house I had built, on the water, into which I had put decades of my life and soul. Like your house it was filled with memories and mementos of a diverse life and family.
I sold it (to a friend) and moved into a two bedroom apartment, steps from the beach. I downsized by a factor of 20, square footage.
There was a tremendous period of adjustment, and just now becoming comfortable with my substantially smaller life footprint. Now, I didn't completely get rid of everything, I have kids with houses, and still have property. However the substantially reduced obligations to take care of "stuff" and time to travel, and pick up sports and hobbies I haven't had time for in decades, is liberating.
The most amazing thing I've done with this time, besides adventure travel, sports, fitness, theatre, music.... bit of dating...
I had time to put together a tech startup in alternative energy. There is no way I would have been able to tackle this with the house hanging over my head. I’m over 60, and feel like my life is just starting.
Getting rid of the house and those obligations gave me the most valuable thing in the world. Time. (author bolded)
A different Elizabeth B from Medium added this:
Yes!!! Here’s to focusing on what we love…! Although I don’t travel the way you do, I have recently realized that my house is holding me back - I am beginning the downsize that will take me to a ‘winter home’ in a nice apartment, that will allow me to spend my spring, summer, fall free time visiting, travelling, hiking, crafting, and writing - instead of maintaining a large home with a GINORMOUS yard and gardens, in a town where I no longer wish to live. (author bolded)
And this from D.S:
We spent 30 years creating a space so comfortable that we didn't want to leave it. It too was filled with all of our "trophies". Similar to your situation it seemed as if the only people who got to see our place were carrying tool boxes. Aside from the comfort drag it was also becoming a financial and maintenance drag. We love to spend our time down south in the winter along with some spontaneous side trips to Europe, New York or Montreal. It was no longer making any sense from a financial or social perspective to try and do both and the "comfort" was also making us mentally stagnant...so after a year of agonizing we finally pulled the trigger, sold it and moved out last week. We moved to temporary digs and we still have no idea where we're going to land. What a truly liberating and invigorating experience. (author bolded)
Each one of these people speaks a great truth, but each in their own way.
I've bolded what stood out for me. These comments tell me that a great many of us of all ages are questioning, rightfully so, the need to have instead of be. How having and acquiring aren't all they're set up to be. For some of us it's taken a while. Does it matter?
It matters that we see what we're doing, and make the kinds of changes which can give us another life.
That's what matters.
Warmest thanks to the generous folks for their comments. What do you think?