Freedom From “Stuff”

Dear Friends,

I read an interesting article this morning about living without money.  It’s the story of Heidemarie Schwermer, a German woman who gave up what is considered a typical lifestyle of consumerism.  She gets what she needs by trading services with other people, she stays in various homes in exchange for helping with cleaning or cooking, and the best part is that she is very happy.  One of her quotes that I especially relate to is

“When I needed something, I found that it would just come into my life.”

Mark and I have experienced this same phenomenon, and in many ways are living similarly to Heidemarie.  It started with our no new plastic experiment.  After learning about the effects of plastic on our environment, we decided to see if we could go a year without buying any plastic.  Our year is almost up, and we have found ways to eliminate 99% of the plastic we were using before.  The experiment has led us to create lasting changes in our lives that were totally unexpected.  One of those changes has been freeing ourselves from “stuff”.  Shopping took a lot more thought, and we couldn’t just buy things on a whim, because we found that most products are made from or packaged with plastic.

fruit and vegetable standWe eliminated all prepackaged food and started making fresh meals every day.  This is one of our favorite changes!  Our health has improved, we eat delicious, healthy meals, and now many prepackaged foods sound and feel disgusting to us.  When we started reading the labels of foods we used to eat, we were shocked at what we had previously considered food.  We also started thinking about how the products we buy are made and where they are made.  I couldn’t buy a $70 silk slip I saw made in the Philippines with a clear conscience, for example, when I now know how silk is made and that the workers probably only made a few dollars for their work (if that).  All that to say that we basically stopped buying “stuff”.  And you know what?  It felt good!  Great, actually.

As we stopped bringing more stuff into our lives, our old stuff began to feel uncomfortable, almost stifling.  It began looking and feeling like clutter.  We felt exhilarated giving away books, clothes, and household items that were just taking up space in our apartment.  We only kept what we absolutely loved and needed.  We realized that having less things to clutter up our space actually made us feel better.

The phenomenon Heidemarie mentioned of things she needed just coming into her life happened with us as well.  So many times we would come up with something we needed that we would have instantly gone to the store to buy before, and given a bit of time or creativity, we realized that what we needed was already in our lives.  We realized that our lives were so full of clutter that we didn’t even realize the amazing abundance we had.  One example is that I decided I wanted to start sewing.  I didn’t have any sewing supplies at the time and didn’t want to buy everything.  Then, Mark realized that all of his grandmother’s sewing supplies were in the family storage unit.  None of the other family members wanted it, so days later we came home with boxes and boxes of notions, fabric, how-to manuals, and everything else I could possibly want.  Abundance!

By clearing out our clutter, we realized we had more money then we thought we did.  We made about $200 clearing out our old books, videos, DVDs, and CDs.  We sold or donated furniture that we didn’t love and made money from that.  We realized that since we both were working from home, we only ever used one car, so we sold Mark’s car, eliminating the debt, monthly car payment, maintenance fees, and insurance payment.  All these changes not only made us feel better, but they made it easy for us to have our ideal wedding in Oregon, a 3 month honeymoon, and work less than we ever have (and only doing work we’re passionate about), all while eliminating most of our debt and having fun every day.

Because we have distanced ourselves from consumerism, ads really stand out to us and sometimes do not feel good.  My mom bought me a magazine the other day that I used to love to read.  While there were many great articles in it, the articles were overshadowed by page after page of advertisements.  Even several of the articles felt like advertisements, as they promoted buying more things that I didn’t really need just in the name of consumerism.

My feeling of grossness seeing all the advertisements led me to a great revelation and energy surge yesterday regarding our move to San Francisco.  (Even feeling gross has a positive purpose!)  Although we had planned to move by the end of January, neither of us got the nudge from the Universe that we now rely on to know when to go where (we became great at this on our honeymoon).  We felt the timing wasn’t right.  Sure enough, two events happened in our family recently (heart attack and flood) that made us realize why we are still in Dallas.  However, yesterday I felt very strongly that it was time to clear up and clear out.  We’ve been debating for several months about whether to sell all our furniture and just take whatever we can fit into the car or whether to drive a moving truck to California.  I’ve never been a fan of the moving truck idea, but we couldn’t figure out how to condense what we have into our car and still leave space for us.  As soon as I woke up yesterday, I knew I wanted to get rid of everything.  Sell it, give it away – anything to help us get moving.  I felt that our stuff was keeping us here in Dallas, not helping us move to San Francisco.  I immediately started clearing out, separating everything into donate and sell piles, and only keep the things I absolutely love and feel like I want to bring to our next home.  Today we are doing the same.  Already I feel so much better.

So many times I speak to people about what they want to do in their lives, and one of the roadblocks almost everyone imagines they have is lack of money.  I believe that if you clear out what you don’t love from your home and your life, you will have more than enough money to do whatever you want.  You will feel healthier and happier, your breathing will feel easier, and your creativity will flow.

Okay, time for me to get started again today!

Love,

Melanie Jade

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  • Allison Connealy

    It is so amazing to hear of other people with such a similar experience to my own! It is as if I had written this myself, (we literally even just inherited Grandma’s old sewing machine that was about to be thrown out a day after I mentioned how I wish we had one)! I have been amazed that, since we quit buying food packaged in plastic, we have begun to eat everything that we have, down to the weird random can of whatever has been hiding in the back of the cupboard for a year, and even though we always seem to have so much to eat, our fridge and cupboards always look empty. Best of luck on your knew life in Cali!

    • Melanie Jade

      Hi Allison! We have done the same thing with our pantry – finding ways to use everything. I’ve learned to make soup from anything we can find, and somehow it always tastes delicious. I like not having the pantry or fridge stuffed with food, because before we couldn’t see what was there! Our fridge looks like a garden with all the fresh vegetables and fruit. It’s gorgeous! I LOVE that you shared your story with me!! Thank you!!!