Sunday, June 06, 2010

thoughts on stuff

So they came and took the boxes away on Friday. They arrived at 8:45 while I was still in my pj's and were out by 11:45. When my friend, who was planning on taking my big boys for the afternoon, called at 12:30 to see how things were going and I told her they were gone (please will you still take the kids?) she asked, "Are you sure that was a Brazilian company?" It was very un-Brazilian service-not to be a bratty expat or anything-I'm pretty sure most Brazilians would agree, things don't generally go so smoothly here.

It was a good day. Not only were they out by 11:45, the movers also made a point to tell me that the move went so quickly because I had everything so well organized-thank you very much. And, on top off all that, when we packed out of Mexico for our move to Brazil we had 204 boxes; Friday we had, drum roll please...


Sure, they may have used some bigger boxes, but certainly not all of them were 2X as big. There was some stuff that belonged to the company that we brought from Mexico and that will be staying here in Brazil for the next family-pots and pans, some kitchen appliances, some bedding and towels, storage baskets, tv-trays (thank goodness-I've hated those things since we bought them in Small Town), etc. Then there's all the stuff I have systematically eliminated over the last three years-lots of baby gear (with the exception of Guapo's brother's crib-get ready Abby, it's on its way!), cruddy Christmas and Halloween decorations, clothes, unused toys, some of my treasures, etc, etc.

I feel uber proud to have whittled it down to 100 boxes full of only useful, or cherished, or both, items.

But here's what I've learned about shipments over the last nine years: we will get ourselves all settled and cozy in Colorado and be doing just fine when one day, several months from now, a big truck will show up in front of our house with 100 boxes and I will think, "What am I going to do with all of this stuff? We were doing just fine with the stuff that's already in the house. Where am I going to put it all?"

Happens every time.

I've become much more aware of my "stuff" over the last nine years due to the moving process, the lack of easy access to American stuff in the places we've lived, and the struggles I've "endured" with trying to maintain a stash of my favorite stuff (namely: rash-inducing power shopping, lugging around 70 lb. suitcases and dodging customs agents). Due to this "awareness" I have become much more anti-stuff than I used to be. Basically, I don't want stuff taking up space in my house that is not useful to our family-simple as that.

More stuff=less free space=more clutter=harder to keep clean and orderly

(btw, my goal is to use the word stuff 100 times, in honor of my 100 boxes)

I have mastered stuff removal-I always have a growing pile of stuff in my closet to give away, and I thoroughly enjoy finding new homes for my stuff. But there's another side to this-the intake of stuff into our house. I wouldn't have to be purging all the time if we didn't have so much useless stuff in the house to begin with. The stuff has to come from somewhere.

So, as we move into a house where we hope to live for the indefinite future and will not have the requisite purge every 2-3 years, I will focus more of my energy on the prevention of stuff intake. I've thought of a few areas where I can cut down on intake:

1) Books: we all enjoy reading in our family, and are very excited to use the public library. I will only buy books that I know will be read multiple times. (and, besides the library, my mom always buys all the latest and greatest books-hehehe)

2) Kitchen appliances: I will not be buying a juicer, popcorn popper, George Foreman grill, or electric can opener (I'm sorry, but I am completely prejudice against the electric can opener-I mean, how hard is it to open a can?) or other appliances that I will only use once a year and will take up valuable kitchen space.

3) Sale items: man, am I a sucker for sale items. I will buy something that's not quite what I needed or wanted just because it's on sale; later on I will get rid of it and buy what I initially wanted or needed-and I end up wasting money instead of saving it like I intended. I will try to think clearly before making these kinds of purchases.

4) DVDs: we'll be renting movies and then only purchasing those that we truly love.

5) Promotional Freebies: I don't know how many free water bottles that we received at various activities I got rid of. Or bottles of hotel shampoos-we don't need them! Something in our human nature makes us get really excited when there is free stuff to be had, but I end up tossing most of it in the end. Better to not bring it home in the first place.

So, please share with me your ideas on how to reduce stuff intake as we move back into a very stuff-oriented society.


Super Happy Girl said...

Would you say getting the boxes seven months from now it's kind of like a little Christmas?
100 boxes? Ay ay ay ay ;)

Kari said...

Stuff. Don't even get me started. Remodeling makes you touch every item you own, and I am constantly wishing I had a better stuff-prevention system. Maybe someone will invent an alarm to go off when someone in the family brings it through the front door in the first place? :)

Abby said...

I thought we covered the crib, and by "covered" I mean, didn't it get lost in the mail already?;)

Just kidding. If using that crib will allow me to justify other purchases, I may be all for it. I can see it now: "But Matt, we're using your old crib that is about to fall apart, so we can *totally* afford these new shoes." I like it.

Congrats on getting rid of the boxes and the excess stuff! I'm excited for the unpacking and house-related posts to come (virtual tour, please).

Janice said...

I agree with you. When we moved to Costa Rica, we were so surprised when the boxes came and were very embarrassed by much of the stuff we thought we needed.

I have gotten very good at getting rid of stuff but I have learned that once you settle in one place, it is very easy to collect stuff and not do anything with it. Moves force you to face things that staying put in one place doesn't.

My biggest downfall? Book orders sent home to my kids. I end up buying books for my kids that are so stupid but I thought they would enjoy. Stay away from the book orders.

Also, Amazon free shipping after you spend $25 dollars. I had to stop adding things to my cart to get the free shipping.

Lucy said...

My American neighbor and I were talking about how relatively easy it is to resist buying things here in Spain compared to in the US. The stores are not nearly as appealing, none of them approaching the beauty that is Target (cue angelic choir). People here don't set an example of buying lots of stuff, either. We have had to buy a lot of books and DVDs (ohhh, how I miss the library!) but other than that, I think we've kept it pretty basic. I say this now, but we'll see what I think when I have to pack it all up one month from now.

In the US, where the stores are so alluring and everyone is consuming their little hearts out, you'll be fighting the tide. You could try going to stores only when you have a limited amount of time, just enough to get the stuff you need. You could make yourself wait at least one week before you buy something that catches your eye. That works really well for my Amazon cart. Everything has to stay there a week before I hit the purchase button. Every time I have removed at least a few items--usually more than half!

Good luck in your anti-stuff campaign.

Ballerina Girl said...

It's always stuff....I got rid of a bunch stuff just like you, yet I still look around, and there is more stuff I think I will get rid of! I mean...seriously, why did I ever buy that 3 story small house that looks like a part of Venezuela that I never even lived in?
I know that I don't have to come up with anything wonderful to say, except that

Love , BG

Matt said...

Yes! The crib survives! I can't wait to have our kids chew on the lead paint-riddled bars like I did as a young chap.

amerimeximadre said...

hey girl! its been awhile! I saw your blog on a friends side bar and thought I'd stop by. I quit blogging after we moved back from mexico. I hope you continue with your anti stuff theory. It is fabulous. When we lived in mexico we had just the basics and it was so much easier to have a clean house and play with the kids (the maid helped too ) but guess what? I now have so much crap!!! some of it was in storage before we left and its still in boxes in my garage. I'm so going to tackle it this weekend. but I am trying to get back to basics. try really hard not to go hog wild at Target when you get home and see all the fabulous stuff america has to offer. just remember its all just stuff :)