“We don’t really have lives of our own. If we are not shuttling our kids around to hockey games and track meets (you have to keep up with everybody so, of course the kids are scheduled for 10x more stuff than they have time for…) we are fixing or cleaning or replacing or moving something around the house. It’s either work, kids, or house. It’s just too much. I dream about a little house… Someday…”
I believe this comment from one of my neighbors is the struggle of our generation- the very late Boomers and Gen Xers. Our lives have grown and upsized and expanded to become so busy and so full of activity that we feel there is just no time for us anymore. In order to be an adult member of our 21st century world, we feel as though we must be always moving ahead, always having the lasted tech, always trying to be one step ahead of our ever-smiling yet ever-competitive neighbors, always moving.
When I was younger, I used to have grand ideas. My young and sheltered mind thought these ideas were so obvious and so correct yet so (obviously) under-appreciated that I was certain that nobody had ever thought if it before.
This is not one of those ideas.
Many of us are now starting to realize how crazy this sort of life is. Its exhausting. Its unsustainable. Its unrealistic. And our children aren’t really happy with it either. They don’t fully know how to play the “constant upgrade” game yet but they are learning. They certainly are developing unrealistic expectations of how life is supposed to be that they learned from us!
The first step, as they say in addiction counseling, is to admit that you have a problem. “it’s just too much” can certainly be an acknowledgement of the problem or it might just be that you are catching your breath before heading back into the game. It is much more difficult than you might expect to actually understand that the life you are living is not healthy and be willing to do something about it. Changing long-standing habits can be very difficult to do because it calls for a consistent and conscious effort. Its a little bit like snowshoeing- all you are doing is going for a walk in the snow but it is such a struggle at first! Every single footstep is carefully placed and your gait is modified to accommodate the unfamiliar equipment on your feet. Soon you find that, as you become more accustomed to the activity, less of your focus will be on the basic mechanics of walking and more on the ability to go places that you otherwise would not have been able to visit.
The child in me says “sell it all! Burn it! Move into a yurt! Buy a VW camper or an Airstream!” I agree with him. I usually do. However, the adult in me knows that this is a longer duration life adjustment. Meaning, my wife and I have put certain things in motion that require us to stay here and follow through with them. But that does not mean that we can’t start clearing out unneeded stuff, revisit why we do the things we do, and adjust our level of consumption in preparation for that upcoming change. We have the time to ask ourselves: do we actually need it? What is that new item replacing? Where would it “live?” Will we use it tomorrow? The day after?
CraigsList, eBay, consignment shops, yard sales, give-aways, Salvation Army, or even Dumpsters are all great options. I have had pretty good success over the last couple weeks unloading some of our possessions on eBay. Made a little extra money but, even more importantly, I have gotten rid of a number of items that were just taking up space in our house. Now that I have gotten started, I am finding all sorts of stuff to get rid of!
The benefit of having a longer term goal is that you don’t need to rush the process. That extra time can also be a detriment if you are a well-trained collector of stuff- like most of us. Moving forward, an even better thing to learn is how to say “NO.” The culling of your possessions is going to take several different waves of chukking. If you aren’t ready to let something go yet, then keep it! Maybe next time you will be ready.