Sylvia and I recently installed new hardwood floors in our entire home. Bedrooms, closets, kitchen, hallway, etc. Everywhere except the laundry room and 2 bathrooms, which received new tile the month before. The process of doing this in an occupied home required a packing and moving of stuff not dissimilar to actually moving. Every part of the home had to be emptied out completely, just not all at once. So we migrated piles of stuff from one part of the house to the other as the new floors were installed. Meanwhile, we lived in a semi-construction zone for 10 days.
I learned a lot about wood flooring and the install process, but this article is about our stuff. I heard myself say at some point, while carting boxes out to the garage, and will now quote myself, “how is it possible that people who have gotten rid of so much stuff still have so much stuff?!”
No joke, our living space over the last 4 homes in 12 years looks like a bell curve. We’ve gone from 2,000 sqft to 3,700 to 3,300 and now down to 1,800 square feet. During each move, we’ve parted ways with what seemed like massive amounts of stuff. I’ve always enjoyed that aspect of moving. The cleansing and thinning out of the material barnacles that cling to us as we live life. We could fill a semi trailer with all the stuff we’ve given to Goodwill over the years. Especially on this last move going from 3,300 sqft down to 1,800.
Yet, here I am trying to move stuff out of the way for new floors and I just can’t believe we still have too much. How do people who’ve unloaded so much still have too much? By only getting rid of the easy stuff. Now it’s down to the emotional stuff, and that’s harder. Way harder.
Today I sold my vintage 1977 Aria Pro II Precise Bass guitar. I don’t really even know how to play bass, but I’ve hauled this guitar around for over 15+ years. It’s a Fender copy, but a better made guitar than the original Fenders of that era. I kept thinking I’d take bass lessons and learn to play it. Yet it never happened and the bass actually survived 5 moves without getting let go. Today I did let it go.
We also let go of the piano. I’ve played it since I was about 5 years old – about 44 years. Mom gave it to me some years ago. I can bang out some old Beatles tunes and chop around on the keys, but with only one living room and the kids well beyond piano lesson years, that’s some pretty valuable living room space to have dedicated to a seldom used piano. We donated it to Sylvia’s 5-year old nephew.
I still have some vintage guitar amps and guitars. I may just keep the acoustic I bought when I was 16, and the Telecaster and 1 amp. The rest needs to go. Sylvia has a bunch of artwork and other knick knacks that could use thinning out. And we have boxes full of artifacts of our kid’s lives. Old school papers, art, drawings, etc. That stuff takes up a lot of space also, but will probably survive this latest culling.
Like many Americans, we’ve made the recent decision that we don’t want to live in a big home anymore. We value being in the urban core of Austin in a smaller house. The location is so wonderful. 6 minutes to down town. Austin feels small again when you don’t start every drive from 3 miles past the Y in Oak Hill. I can get most places I need to go in 15 minutes or less. I even walked to Zilker Park for the Shakespeare play one night last summer (though it took an hour).
The trend to smaller homes is not going to abate. People are downsizing. The corner has been turned and the Builders know it. But in order for the American Consumer to be happy living in a smaller home, some stuff is going to have to go – or not be bought in the first place. Theoretically, that’s easy to know and accept. But when you’re actually picking up your stuff and deciding whether it goes into the “keep”, “goodwill”, “sell” or “trash” pile, it’s not so easy.
I’m going to miss that bass. Even though it went untouched, unplayed for years at a time, I knew I still had it. I liked owning it. I’m sad it’s gone. But if we’re going to be “small house people”, we just don’t have the luxury of clinging to impractical sentimental possessions like that anymore.