The Big Purge – the story of how we eliminated all (ok, most) of our stuff

Y’all this was hard. But if I’m being completely honest, my organizational skills closely resemble those of Monica Gellar, so this project was a beast, but I owned it. In about 5 months we got rid of about half of our stuff, meticulously sorted and stored our remaining furniture, clothes, and belongings at relatives’ and friends’ houses, sold 2 cars, bought 1 car, sold our house ourselves, and packed the remainder of our lives into our new Subaru. Whew. We are certifiably insane.

Our purge started about a year before we sold our house, and several months before we’d even started entertaining the idea of traveling full time.

We have one son, who was born in April 2011 (and happens to be quite a handful…massive actually, but he’s awesome), and with my insane health situation, we’d been on the fence about having another biological child for months and months and months when this all came to a head in the winter of 2015. All of our baby stuff was sitting in our attic and felt like a dark cloud hovering over me at all times. We needed to make a decision about baby #2 or no baby #2 for the sake of my sanity. Ultimately, we decided “if we do, it won’t be any time soon and all the baby stuff will be expired anyway, so let’s get it the hell out of the house.” Fortunately, I have a lovely group of fertile myrtle friends who happily took everything off my hands. While we were already cleaning the baby stuff out of the attic, we went ahead and cleaned out absolutely everything else up there as well. Attic, check!

Once the baby stuff was done, I felt much more sane, and we headed to Tahoe for the summer. It was that summer, in 2015 that we started kicking the idea around of changing our living arrangement, but when we got back to Texas in mid-August, we only had 2 weeks before a 6 week Europe trip. Rough, I know, but stick with me. Well, actually, there were parts that were incredibly rough because my health was still a roller coaster and man did we have some craptastic challenges in the midst of all the good stuff. Anyway. It was on the Europe trip that we made our final decision to sell the house the following spring (of 2016) and travel full time. We got back to the States mid-October and it was like a mad dash to the finish line. We barely made it through the holidays that year and I had a horrible setback with an Epstein Barr relapse. Come to think of it, how the hell did we do this?

Okay, the real process of getting everything organized involved a massive, color coded spreadsheet. I went room by room, drawer by drawer, furniture piece by furniture piece, pile by pile, and made list after list after list until I was blue in the face.

Over time we amassed a giveaway pile in the garage and a sell-on-Craigslist pile in the living room, but I think choosing what to get rid of was the easiest part of the whole process. I happen to not be terribly sentimental when it comes to things, which really worked to our advantage here. My dad likes to ask me after shopping trips if anything I purchased actually made it home with me or if I threw it away before pulling in the driveway. Soooo funny, dad.

The real trick was deciding what to keep and where to keep it. As it stands right now, we don’t have a storage unit and our life’s possessions are scattered between our parents’ and friends’ houses. We had to keep stuff that we want long term (for when we eventually move somewhere permanently), plus figure out what exactly to take with us on our travels. We travel in a Subaru Outback with a car top carrier and 4 bikes on the back. It’s not a lot of space, people.

The placement/storage of our furniture really fell in to place quite beautifully. My mother-in-law purchased a home in College Station not too long ago and it still needed some furnishings. We were able to basically transport Kyle’s room to the grandkid room at her house, and our guest room furniture to her guest room. This was huge! She was also kind enough to lend us some attic space for our dining room chairs, keepsakes, and the few bins of kitchen stuff we kept. My parents also happened to be building a home at our family ranch during this time and we were able to put our master bedroom furniture, art, a rug, and a number of odds and ends in their guest house. Our dining room table is being used by some of our friends, and the couple who bought our house purchased our remaining furniture (so long my precious perfect most comfy couch), fridge, yard tools and some other garage stuff. Boom!

The clothing we kept but are not traveling with is at my mother-in-law’s and I feel like we donate another big trash bag of clothes and shoes every time we visit her. Our life is a continuous experiment in minimalism.

Travis’ responsibility was to clean out the garage. That was the biggest nastiest chore of the entire ordeal. We remodeled our entire house from 2008-2014 and had acquired copious amounts of tools, scrap wood, scrap metal, spare pipes, pipe insulator, every kind of glue imaginable, and clamps for days. Every weekend we took time to work on a little section of the garage. I honestly thought that job would never be done, and in a way, it wasn’t – the couple who purchased our house kept/purchased a lot of the house and garden “starter” stuff that everyone needs, but costs a small fortune to stock up on when you buy your first place. Think hoses, sprinklers, a ladder, shelving, garden tools, yard tools, painting supplies, extra fridge/freezer, work bench, organizational pegs and hooks, the list goes on.

I feel like my next post needs to cover what we actually travel with, but the sneak preview is this: what you’d take on a 2 week trip plus our bikes and associated gear.

Oh my goodness, I almost forgot – paperwork! Ugh, ok, this part sucked. I must’ve blocked it out of my my memory. Night after night after night and Friends episode after Friends episode, I would sit on that couch and sort through all of our file folders: scan pile, burn pile, recycle pile. We travel with zero paper other than our passports and Kyle’s school workbooks, but that’s it. Shot records, all insurance paperwork, every last detail about our lives is electronic. It’s so wonderful now that’s it’s done, but dang boo, not again. We also had all of our hard copy photos digitized through and they did a wonderful job.

If you know you need to purge your house, condo, apartment, flat, whatever, just start by taking care of one drawer at a time. That can be one drawer per week, or one each day. Break it up, don’t drive yourself crazy. But whatever your situation, you can probably get by with less, and I’m guessing you can get by with buying less, maybe a lot less, too. We feel so free now because we are not weighed down anymore by house chores, remodeling projects, debt, fixing stuff ALL. THE. TIME., yard maintenance, and generally trying to keep up with the Joneses. We just don’t do it anymore, and it’s really freaking nice. I’m not suggesting you do what we do – we’re crazy – but I think it’s reasonable to evaluate your particular situation and take stock of your priorities and lifestyle. Are you living intentionally or are you doing what everyone else does, because that’s what you’ve been told you’re supposed to do? What would your eight year old self think of how you’re spending your life?

Man, this thing turned a corner! Bet you weren’t expecting that. I wasn’t either, but think about it.