Preparing for Travel: Clearing the Clutter


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Hey, we know it’s a personal decision whether or not to sell up everything, put everything in storage, or somewhere in between. This is what we did and it worked for us. If what we did doesn’t fit what you’re trying to do that’s fine. If you get just one little thing out of our experiences, we’ll be super happy.

 

A professional organiser (yes, they exist!) asked “I’m about to help a family get ready for their travels, what are some good questions to ask?”

 

What did we do?

 

We started with questions.

 

The very first thing we did was start looking at things around our house, and the first question we asked was:

 

Are we taking this thing on our travels?

 

Take very little. Mother Nature has kindly provided most of the toys you’ll need.

 

This was a pretty easy way to start. The good kitchen knifes. The iPad. The duplo. The baby rocker. The bathers. The Weber Baby Q.

 

It was about this time we went on a practice run with our caravan for a weekend away. It was absolutely terrifying when we were driving (still in our street) and we realised that we pretty much had what we were taking with us… and everything that was behind us in the house still needed to be sorted. We had a house, that was full, and didn’t want or need any of it.

 

The next question we asked was:

 

If our house burned down and we had to start again, would we let this thing back into our lives?

 

We started getting rid of stuff. The easy stuff. The stuff that’s never used, and there’s no emotional attachment. You know what we’re talking about. The salad servers still in their box. The ski goggles that had been used once. The shoes that never quite fitted. At this point we already felt ‘lighter’, and our lives less cluttered.

 

BONUS: The kitchen chairs that we bought when we were just starting out? Well, up until now we didn’t have a good reason to buy new ones just because of colour. Upgrading to a king sized bed? That’s a bit fancy. Now, we had a great reason to get rid of the things that were a mish-mash of furniture… the result of sharehousing before married life, being in our first tiny apartment, and (lack of) taste that had changed over the years. We can travel, and come back to a house that has furniture that actually works.

 

The saying “the easiest way to organise your stuff is to get rid of most of it” is true. After we got rid of the easy stuff first, then it was a case of physically touching everything we owned Marie Kondo style. Our minimalism journey had already started, but now it got real.

 

Now we had to decide whether or not to store everything that remained. In the end we decided to keep only a few things in a small storage unit. The question we asked:

 

If we sold this, would we be able to get another one for much the same price?

 

Microwave? I’m sure when we get back we’d be able to get another one second-hand that’s pretty much the same for around the same price. Gone. Same goes for that Ikea rug that was in the loungeroom. Gone. Black leather couch that we bought to fit the shape and dimensions of our living room? No way in hell. That thing is in storage (hopefully not getting eaten by rats).

 

It snowballs and gets easier … Goodwill, Gumtree, eBay, and the local Buy-Swap-Sell pages were our thing. There was a sense of satisfaction and community knowing that someone would appreciate what we weren’t using. The money we made also helped to pay for our shopping list for the trip.

 

It was at this point that every single item got a name. It was either going into storage, or

 

Do we get rid of this now, or just before we leave?

 

The spare television that was turned on once a fortnight? Let’s get rid of it now. The bed? Yeah… we better keep that to the last safe moment.

 

This also sounds pretty clinical right? Well, once you get onto the minimalist bandwagon you just want it GONE. But… there were some things that we just couldn’t let go of. Boxes of photos. Artwork. Kids’ pictures. That’s cool. The amount of ‘stuff’ we got rid of meant that there were absolutely no regrets paying to store some sentimental items that were purely for emotional value.

 

Michael would paraphrase (or butcher) a quote from The Minimalists, “our memories are not in our things”. There were some items that were sentimental keepsakes that had been living in boxes, and only brought joy once every few years when we happened to wonder what was in the box, hold it, reminisce, then put it back for another few years. The question that jumped out was:

 

Can this memory be stored another way?

 

Taking photos of these items meant that Michael could willingly part with the object, keep the memory-prompter digitally, and now actually come across it more often. It was like keeping the object would have done the memories more of a disservice than getting rid of it!

Now Michael gets to remember the meaning behind this turtle every time this photo comes up… aww!

The good news is there was no need to pressure the kids into giving up anything. They saw what we were doing, and over time naturally followed our example. They saw how much easier it was to find their favourite things when they had less, how much more time they had without constantly picking up their things, and the money went into their ‘Bank of Mum and Dad’ for the things they really wanted.

 

What things do we miss? Nothing.


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