You get to take 3 things

I don’t know when this all started, but my wife, Jennifer, and I have done some serious downsizing this fall. We had our house re-roofed about 6 weeks ago, and that house project kicked into full gear what had already started.

This a picture of our bedroom after we relentlessly downsized. 🙂

We travel pretty light to begin with. Neither of us are collectors or packrats. But we’ve now gone through almost everything … our shed, our bedrooms, our bathrooms, our kitchen, the laundry room, my office, our boxes of personal memorabilia.

I gave away 300 books, and yes, I still have plenty. (I think this was my 4th purging in the last 25 years. 10 years ago I gave a young pastor 300 books.) Because we have just painted several rooms, we removed almost every painting or picture from our walls and we’re deciding which ones we want to keep. Some of them will go bye-bye.

We completely emptied our dresser and chest of drawers in our bedroom and then moved them out of the bedroom. The clothes that we wanted, the ones that didn’t get pitched or given away, we put into little hanging cubby holders we that we attached to the bar in our closet. To make room for those, we went through our closet and got rid of everything we don’t use — shirts, dresses, shoes, hats, ties, belts. Many arm loads of clothes and bags of socks, t-shirts and running shirts left the house. In our bedroom we now have our bed and a small night stand with a lamp on each side. That’s it.

We moved to the kitchen and and went through all the cabinets and every drawer, giving away lots of items. Then we headed to the laundry room and went through those shelves.

We got slowed down when we started going through all our memorabilia in big plastic tubs. A lot of that we kept, but not all of it. I came across my thesis from graduate school from 1985. Guess how many times I’ve looked at it in the last 35 years? That’s right. Never. I looked it over. It was a lot of work. I skimmed it. Frankly, it’s not that great, which I knew when I first submitted it. I picked it up and held it. I pondered it. I wondered if my daughter would want it. “Ah, dad. No!” I wondered if the cavernous British Museum of Natural History might want it. I put it back, but then I took it out and pitched it.

You threw away your thesis? Well, it might still be out in my trash if you want it. I’m sure it would increase immensely your fount of knowledge if you took it and stored it in one of your big tubs.

How’s all this been for us? My goodness, quite freeing, to be honest. Do we still have way more stuff than we need? Way more.

As we were going through everything, we decided to play a little game. If your house were burning down and you could take just 3 things, what would you take?

I settled on taking my family picture books (But I have 20 or so of them. So which ones? You see how hard this game is?). I’d take my cell phone and my car keys. What about the file with the birth certificates, death certificates and passports? Well, you only get 3 items.

What does any of us really need? The question is not “What does any of us really want?” What does it mean to travel lightly, to not be burdened by all your stuff? How much of your stuff that you say “really, really maters to me,” does in fact matter to you all that much? Yes, you feel nostalgic about parting with it. But come on, be honest.

So what do you think? Your house is burning down and you get to take 3 things. What will you take?