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Just before I released my first minimalist book Minimalist Monday: Declutter Your Way to a Zen Home (Order it in all electronic forms here!), I received the following email from Tammy:
"Almost 3 years ago, we decided to become traveling nurses. We put our house up for sale and sold most of our possessions (or gave them to our college aged kids :). We now only own what can fit in our 2 cars. We try to limit our possessions to about 100 items each, however the dog also fills up much of our limited space. I am amazed how easy life is without a lot of clutter. Everytime we see something that we may want to buy we really think about if we really need it or just think its cute. We are also to the point that we know if we choose to buy something, we must get rid of something. As a traveling nurse, our housing is provided so we don't have to worry about that."
When I read that she and her husband limit themselves to 100 items each, I was crazy impressed. And as a minimalist whose journey began with downsizing and decluttering (you can read about my own personal story in the book), I just had to ask Tammy to share her experience.
Hopefully you'll find her story just as inspiring as I did!
I hear it a lot. "We could never do what you and Jim do". Yet so many people are talking about becoming minimalist these days that apparently a lot of you would like to.
Fifteen years ago I married the love of my life. It was a second marriage for both of us so we not only were combining families, we were combining stuff. I remember moving into our brand new home and even with all our possessions we had empty cupboards. I didn't know what to do with all that space.
Fast forward 12 years. Our youngest son was getting ready to graduate from high school and head off to college. Jim and I were getting ready to start the adventure of a lifetime. We are both nurses and decided that we did not want to retire in Michigan with its cold winters. We had heard about traveling nurses and decided it would be a great way to see the country and figure out where we eventually would settle down and retire. Making that decision meant that we would either have to put everything we own in storage or get rid of almost everything except what we could fit in our two cars. Our travel company does provide us with furnished housing so we didn't have to worry about that.
As I started going through our possessions, I remember opening boxes that I had placed in the attic when we first moved into the house. I had not been in those boxes in 12 years. That is when it started to hit me that we had collected “stuff” that we did not not need or use. Going through the house, which by the way no longer had any empty cupboards, was not a quick task. If you are like me you have boxes of old photographs and albums that hold so many memories. How can you part with that?
We decided to scan our photos and now have them organized on our computers. I gave each of the kids their own baby books and offered them any of the possessions of our home that they wanted. I found it sad that they did not want all my Christmas decorations that I had collected over the years. It is interesting the collections that are important to us do not have the same meaning or value to our kids. This year my christmas decoration consisted of my homemade quilted Christmas tree that we can hang on our wall. It's not the same as a big tree but it still gives us the feeling of Christmas where ever we are at.
In limiting ourselves to around 100 items each, it made it much easier to say we really didn't need 6 sets of bath towels or 8 pair of jeans each. We had a big garage sale and were amazed at the fact that we sold most of our possessions for a fraction of what we had paid for them. It is a standing joke with us now when we are looking at buying something to ask, "How much will that go for at the garage sale?". I think it is important to think about how much you value an item. My husband loves to cook, however he decided that he didn't really need his Kitchen Aid mixer. 3 weeks into our first assignment we were out buying a new one.
After almost 3 years of traveling, we still go through our items each time we are getting ready to move. Each time we get rid of a little more stuff. The idea is, if we haven't used it during the past 3 months is it because it is a seasonal item, (like the winter boots I had to purchase because of our assignment in Northern New Mexico) or do we really not need it. For me, not having a lot of possessions is not hard. I do not mind wearing the same jeans and sweatshirt everyday. I don't have any holiday decorations in my home but am able to enjoy the decorations of whatever location we are at. We were able to live and work in the Virgin Islands for 6 months and there, the only thing we were able to take with us was 1 suitcase each. That limited us to truly only our work clothes and a couple pairs of shorts, tops and swimsuits. It was such an amazing experience and we did not miss anything.
Jim and I are so blessed to be able to travel the country, make so many new friends, help so many different people in our jobs that having things has become even less important to us. People, relationships, family, that is what is important, not things.