Sometime in the next few months our family of nine intends to move from our 7 bedroom, 3300 square foot house, into a cabin less than half that size. Good luck, you no doubt laughingly say, and we’ll need it. We’ve spent the past six months slowly narrowing down our belongings to a reasonable amount, and yet as we look around our full home, we wonder where it all came from…and where it’s all going to go.
Ever since I wrote Three Small Things after a potential house fire threat left us knowing what is important in life, I’ve put a lot of thought into the necessity of “stuff”. Does having stuff hinder us, or does it help us?
Today, as this February warm spell fools me into thinking spring is just around the corner and my time to prepare is limited, I swung into the store and picked up a cart of colorful totes so we could finally get serious about the task of consolidation. And I do mean serious.
My kids have too much crap. And I’m not even a shopper. I’ve never been one to go out and buy them the latest toy or electronic. They have always been that pathetic kid who gets the game system years after everyone else, when I can pick it up used for half the price. Six new versions have been released before my kids get their paws on the original. We still have VHS tapes, for gosh sakes. Blue what?
So this afternoon I handed out the totess with their names in Sharpie on one end, and assigned them each a given amount. Fit all of your things in these, I said. What does not fit…does not go with us. Period.
I was met with far less freaky stares than I had anticipated. Kids who have been in the system usually go to one extreme or the other when it comes to their things. Either they don’t hold onto anything because they have grown tired of saying goodbye to their favorites, or they cling to them with the death grip of one who has done without for far too long.
Mya’s face lit up at the idea of packing, as she is a strict minimalist who’s room resembles that of a prisoner in solitary confinement on a good day. Mya has no attachment to anything, including people, and her possessions are pointless to her. If she can’t use it that moment, she doesn’t want it. Her bedroom is a mattress on the floor because she thinks the frame takes up too much space in her 14×14 room, a few clothes hanging in the closet and a few things neatly placed on her shelf, spaced just so. She disappeared into her room with her tubs and emerged less than thirty minutes later, declaring her room packed. Even her hamster…who lives in a tote that I made into a cage…was stacked neatly with all her worldly goods…ready to move on.
Robin, the second messiest kid here…me being the first…hasn’t quite figured out the tote size limit yet. But she’s diligently working on her sty, one book at a time. Robin is a holder-on-er. The year before she came to us she was living with a relative, between foster homes. When I asked Robin what she got for Christmas she gave me a whole list of what her cousin had received…yet couldn’t really remember what she got. Robin has been making up for lost time ever since. She’ll be a tough one to consolidate.
Destini…well, she attaches to everything. Every single thing she has ever gotten has some memory attached and not only does she want to keep all of her things, she is allergic to clean. And so her bedroom could be a theme show all in itself. No, that is not a beer bottle, hey…is that a ukulele case? And there’s that screw driver I’ve been looking for!
Anthony packed his three assigned tubs very quickly. One with books, one with a pile of old broken game systems some kid gave him that he swears he can fix, and the third with his clothes. I’m not sure what he thinks is going to happen to the rest of his heap…but surely, he’ll devise a plan to get it all in.
Steven and Luke have been here only about a year so they have relatively few things. And Billy…he’s easy. He’s a magician when it comes to organization and will somehow manage to fit everything he owns into three totes, with room to spare. As I type this I hear him, late into the night, going through his things.
The funny thing is, not one of them argued. Not one of them asked why or scrunched their face. None of them said, “Hey…I need more totes!” They said things like, “I won’t need much…” or “Let’s do it now.”
I think even the kids have been evaluating the clutter, rethinking what’s important to them. They seem ready to plunge into the unknown, risk everything to make the cabin our home…and gladly leave all of their baggage behind.