Five years ago we started to sell and donate our excess stuff, although I can’t recall quite why. A year went by, with a steady stream of visitors collecting eBay purchases, stifling grins at the fact they’d got something nigh-on-new for a fraction the amount we spent to buy it. Arms around bags of clothes, we staggered into charity shops and plonked them in a corner. Boxes of books went the same way.
On and on this went, two push bikes, a used-once suitcase genny, a pedestal drill, multi-gym, our panel camper van, a quad core gaming PC, wii, Xbox, aquarium… By the time we left to go travelling we thought we’d just about sold the lot, but a photo of the house loft told a different story. Ju had it on her phone and occasionally we’d peer at it while parked in some corner of Europe, wondering what on Earth it all was, filling a room so large the previous occupant had used it for a cinema.
Upon finally returning to Blighty we delighted the tenants by turning up with mates and emptying the loft so they could use it. Boxes upon boxes upon boxes. Two irons, two microwaves, 40 computer manuals, chairs, dressing up clothes, chess sets, you name it. After happily surviving with none of it, having it thrust back at us was a shock. What the hell was all this bloody stuff?
For the past 18 months we’ve picked up the challenge again, to be rid of it. The majority of it anyway. Our aim isn’t to sell everything (we’ve met a fair few people who have, hats off to them). Our aim is to constrain what we have down to what we need to live a ‘normal’ life in the UK. Not that we expect to be living a particularly mainstream life, but if we need to, we want the ability to do it.
So the challenge is to fit all remaining stuff into the annex we’re living in alongside the main house. Assuming we let the rooms in the house furnished, we’ll hold onto the furniture and some kitchen items. The rest has to fit in here, a 3.5m by 6m room with a wetroom.
The design of the annex has been heavily influenced by motorhome life. The bed is raised above the living area on a small mezzanine, like an over-cab bed. This frees up a huge amount of ground floor space. The bathroom is a combined shower, toilet, sink, albeit far bigger than most motorhomes. To cater for the odd guest we have a sofabed, somewhat akin to making up a second bed in the living area of a van (or the loving area, depending on how amorous auto-correct is feeling!). A set of IKEA cabinets adorn the wall above the sofa bed, like typical campervan high-level storage cabinets. Like a motorhome though, storage space remains tight.
Being honest, none of this feels particularly extreme to us, since the space is at least twice as big as the motorhome we spent two years in. The challenge we’re currently facing though is the final cut of stuff. The rooms in the house will go on the market soon, and we have to empty the place. Decisions need to be made on what stays and goes, and by this stage in the ‘be rid of it’ game the items left aren’t easy to be rid of.
Gifts we’ve cherished but frankly not used anything like as much as we should have. Tools bought to tackle some particular fearsome greasy challenge. Stacks of photos. The final challenge is perhaps having to overcome the emotional link each item has to our past. Each and every item we touch and make a decision on transports us to a point in the past, reminding us of fun times in the past, days gone by. Choosing what to keep is difficult, very difficult.
I’d say the finish line is within sight, and the constrained size of the Cooler means we’re hopefully unlikely to get into the same position again. Full cupboards and shelves will naturally enforce a 1in 1 out approach to buying more stuff. Having said that, the mountain of tools I’m trying to pare down still doesn’t seem to be getting any smaller…