Thursday, September 8, 2011

selling our stuff

Since it relates to my recent posts about money choices, I thought I would answer Laurie's questions about how we feel after selling almost everything we own and if we miss or regret selling anything.  For newer readers, since our families were a plane ride away and we didn't feel right about paying to store stuff we weren't going to use for a very long time, we sold almost everything that we owned when we moved to Peru.  The only items that we stored at our parents' homes were my scrapbooks, some of the kids artwork, and a few other meaningful items.  (Being the paranoid person that I am I made us carry on the plane my large and heavy collection of scrapbooks.)  After that, we only kept what we could take on the plane with us to Peru.  So, here we are with everything we owned the day we moved.  You can read about our adventures trying to get all of that through the Mexico City airport here.  Let's just say that two adults and 24 suitcases/backpacks is not a favorable math equation.  

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The simple answer to how we feel now about selling everything is that it feels really, really good to have gotten rid of so much junk.  Because really, when it comes down to it, most of what we owned was junk and doesn't matter in the scheme of life.  There is something about moving to a foreign country with my family that made me realize they are really all that I need.  We had a similar experience a few years ago when wild fires came within a mile of our house.  We packed up our van with the important stuff and left not knowing if our house would survive.  I had a lump in my throat leaving our home behind both times, but driving off with my family and knowing that we were together and safe became all that mattered to me.

One thing that I realized as I sold everything was how little it was all worth.  We had spent more money than I want to think about furnishing our home and filling every nook and cranny with stuff and when it came time to get rid of it I sold it for pennies on the dollar.  And I even worked my tail off selling stuff on Ebay and Craigslist so that I could get the most out of it.  I almost had a full time job keeping up with all of the appointments of people coming to buy stuff and taking things to the post office to mail to buyers and I still didn't make much.  It gave me a new perspective on the wisdom of spending a lot of money on stuff that turns into junk quite quickly.

There are a few items that we regret selling only because we have found them to be more expensive here in Peru.  We kept ourselves to 12 checked bags because we didn't want to pay for anymore, but we have realized that paying $50 for an extra bag that we could have filled would have saved us some money in the long run.  For example, a simple booster seat for a kitchen table (literally just the plastic kind that straps on a seat) is $70 here.  We definitely can't bring ourselves to spend that much money on an unnecessary accessory, so Tyler spends most of our meals getting in trouble for standing up or trying to leave the table.  Obviously, it would have been worth it to throw our old, cheap booster seat in a suitcase and bring it.  Hindsight is always 20/20, right?

Everything we sold is replaceable, but I have to say that we have not wanted to replace much of it.  Our kitchen cabinets are pretty bare, our kids have very few toys, and we have nothing on our walls.  And it feels really freeing.  We have realized that we don't need much and that accumulating stuff only creates more work.  These days if we lose something we don't have to look far to find it because there really isn't many places it could be.  And it certainly doesn't take the kids long to clean up their toys.

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Once again, living in a developing country also keeps me in check.  Above is a picture of the boys' bedroom which also serves as playroom I suppose.  All of their toys (except Lego sets and these silly Transformer helmet) are stored in the two drawers under the bed.  Part of me feels so proud that the boys' room is so simple.  Then I step outside my front door and suddenly I feel ridiculous.  The ladies we have working for our program?  Some of their entire homes are not much bigger than that room.  They dream of being able to afford one Lego set for their children.  And I realize that I am a big jerk for feeling like we live so simply, simply because we have less than we used to. 

I can honestly say that selling all of our stuff was much easier than I expected.  There were absolutely some sad moments as people carted away the couch that we loved or the crib that all four of my babies had slept in, but in return we have received a much greater gift.  We have experienced freedom from "stuff" and this new adventure as a family.

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