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Last week, my husband, Tim, shared some of the reasons we chose to transition our family of eight into full time RV living. At the end of his post he mentioned a subsection in Jeff Goins’ new book, The Art of Work. This section is titled, Letting Go of What Could Have Been.
As we settle into RV living this means different things for all of us. For Tim it means moving past what he could have done with the restaurant he sold and for the kids it means trading the familiarity of our former life for new adventures.
For me, letting go of what could have been has meant giving up certain badges of honor I had unwisely and almost unconsciously given myself. It has also meant that I had to finally come to terms with certain realities of my life that I had been unwilling to discard.
It’s amazing how selling or giving away approximately ninety percent of your physical possessions can make you question who you are and what you’re doing with your life!
Getting rid of some things were no-brainers. I haven’t scrapbooked since our oldest’s baby shower. After eight years it was time (and freeing) to get rid of those supplies.
However, as silly as it sounds, packaging up all of the kids’ cookie cutters and facing the reality that baking and decorating cutout cookies in an RV wasn’t going to be practical made me stop and catch my breath. Was I taking a necessary experience away from my children?!
I had to come to grips with the fact that my kids can’t have ALL the childhood traditions and memories. It just isn’t possible, and jumping from one tradition to the next would be exhausting and stressful anyway.
One of the hardest purges for me was letting go of cloth diapering. I think God’s been preparing me for this one for over a year now.
In February 2014, Lillian, our then infant daughter developed a bad yeast diaper rash. We switched to disposables while we fought to clear up the rash. It took almost a month during which we stripped every single cloth diaper in our home.
Once we went back to cloth, she was fine for a few months then the yeast rash came back. We went back to disposables for another month. Then we had three months back in cloth. When Isabelle was born last August, we used disposables for the first month to make life easier. Since September we’ve struggled back and forth with cloth and disposables.
Once we had determined to live in an RV full time, I had to seriously look at whether it would be worth it to pack all the cloth diapers and cloth diaper accessories into our limited space and whether caring for cloth diapers was something I wanted to be part of our immediate future.
I’ll admit this was VERY difficult. I had been a cloth diapering mom for almost eight years straight. Unwisely, I let this label become part of my identity not simply a lifestyle choice. I thought cloth diapers were the best choice for my babies and I had made it happen.
But now, with the reality of severely limited space, paying for each cycle of laundry, spending every other day going back and forth to the laundry facility, and not knowing whether Lillian would need to be in disposables anyway, I had to admit that continuing with cloth diapers could be best for my babies’ bums it would not be best for our family as a whole.
I would need to sacrifice too much time and energy (time I could use to help my older kids learn to read, to take my kids on a bike ride, to enjoy a leisure stroll through the woods) in order to hang on to one aspect of parenting. I had to let go of what could have been.
Thankfully, I’ve been blessed (or cursed, depending on how you look at it) with the mindset of making a decision and then jumping into it all the way. Once I decided to give up cloth diapering, I got excited about the families I could bless with my cloth diaper stash.
We sold a lot of the diapers at our huge yard sale (for insanely low prices) and gave bag-fulls to two friends with babies due this summer.
With the rest of our belongings, I had to shut off my emotions and think practically about the space and lifestyle we were embracing. I had to let go of things trusting that God would provide if I made a wrong decision and gave away something we’d need in the future.
I had to recognize that I’d been trusting in my own planning abilities and hoarding out of fear of possible lack in the future. Purging for our RV move was a pivotal moment for me as I came face-to-face with the reality that I could not fit everything we would need for the next year in our new home.
[Tweet “I had to trust God as the provider and not myself.”]
As I continued to purge, it got better and better. It definitely helped me to be able to give some things to friends or family members. If I couldn’t keep the items myself, it was nice to know they were going to good homes 🙂
In all honesty, we didn’t get rid of everything. We have a few bins of clothes for the winter season and handmade heirlooms stored in the attics and basements of our parents.
In the end, we still brought too much with us. We’ve been in our RV full time for less than two weeks now and I’ve already removed another 3 garbage bags full of things we don’t need. Of course, since we packed and moved so quickly, we’ve also noticed a few things that didn’t make it into the RV that should have 😉 Tim and I are drinking water out of coffee mugs, for example.
All in all, the purging process was more of a heart issue for me than I thought it would be going into it. I’ve never considered myself very fearful, but I was forced to recognize the fear behind
having hoarding so much stuff.
Thankfully, I was also able to see how freeing it can be to do away with things that have caused me guilt (all the scrapbook supplies I didn’t use) or stress (trying to keep up with my cloth diaper mom status even though it was negatively affecting my ability to be a good mom in so many other ways).
Have you ever had to downsize your possessions significantly? Do you find you save things just in case you might need them in the future? Do you think it would it be freeing to get rid of certain things you’ve been holding on to? Join in the conversation by clicking the button below.
I began to realize a short while after adding a 16 x 40 addition to our house that it was a mistake. What we needed to do was divest ourselves of things not make room for more. I have spent the last 2 years giving away and donating things to charities. I will admit some of it was hard to let go. we want to move and downsize as we are getting older and want more time for us than house and property will let us have. we want smaller plot of ground and a much smaller house. this is not an easy road but I can already feel the benefits of downsizing. I have decided to look at this next part of our life as an adventure to experience and enjoy. Our kids are grown and gone and now it is time for us.
SUSAN SHIPE says
How can a family of ten live in an RV? How I hope you post photos!
First. we’re a family of 8, although I’ve read about a family of 12 RVing full time! Second, the ONLY way it is possible is by cutting back on our possessions drastically. It helps that 6 of the eight are little (our oldest will soon be 8).
Even with 8 people in a midsize RV our home is not cluttered and (almost) everything is stored behind closed doors 🙂 You’ve no idea how happy that makes me!
I’ve posted several photos on Instagram.
SUSAN SHIPE says
You are very brave and adventurous!!! I could (almost) envy you!!! *happy face*
Crystal D Williams says
I did have to downsize due to a divorce, we had a huge house and sold it during the divorce, we had to live in a hotel until we found a place to rent, meanwhile our stuff was stored in a rental trailer while I decided what to do, you see, we lived in Hong Kong for many years and my daughter was born there and had so many special clothes, pictures from trips around the world, school things as well as a bunch of furniture that we bought while living there, when It came time to move there was just no room for it all, so I did donate most of the stuff but I do regret it today, as these are things that cannot be replaced and things I wanted to hand down to my daughter who was born there, but at the time I had to make a decision, I wish I could take it all back.
Rachel Cox says
Yeah, letting go is so freeing!!! It truly is amazing what we keep, thinking we need, when in all actuality, we do not need very much! It is crazy how much stuff we accumulate. It is definitely easy to do so, especially with numerous children. You save clothing, to pass on to the next child, makes sense. But life circumstances change and we need to be able to adjust accordingly. I have learned that our children adjust as we do. If we struggle, then they will too. Those pics you posted, were so familiar as we did same thing 6 years ago. I have seen it work that when we needed anything, we got it, even when we had zero money! God gives us what we need when we need it!!! These memories you are giving your babies are priceless and it will be amazing to witness this journey with you all!!! Great job and awesome leap of faith here to show others who may have similar fears!!
We would down size with each move for retirement, our cross country move, and then to our new home. Not nearly as much as you have but in the end I would say it was at least half if not a little more.
With each one I would save things “just in case”, then realize that since the last move it didn’t come put of the box, and I didn’t even THINK about it or wonder where I put it! So, then that item would go. I had more time to process and let go, your downsizing was very drastic and immediate! I don’t know if I would have done so well with letting go of so much at once!
I can agree though, the one thing that made it easier and at times fun, was blessing others with those items that we were letting go of, and knowing that they were serving another great family. In the end donating the leftover things was also nice, a hope that it will find a family in need at a great price!
For me getting rid of the clutter was freeing (like you mentioned) I would feel guilty about not crafting or sewing, all the supplies were right there! I like neat and orderly (possibly too much) and all the “stuff” I had could never be that way!
For my husband it caused anxiety with the “what ifs” the first time around, but the proof was in the action, luckily he trusted me and did it, then the second time around I think I was saving stuff from HIM! The third time around we were boarder line over doing it and had to real ourselves back in!
Now we just try to keep things in check, new toys/clothes come in, for our son AND for us, then old ones go out. Haven’t used it in 6-12 months, it doesn’t belong. And my favorite especially with kids stuff, if it doesn’t survive or go in the dishwasher or washing machine, then it doesn’t belong in our house! It’s amazing how much that limits AND how freeing it is to not have to hand wash things! We still admittedly have more than I’d like, but with greater awareness and a 6-12 month timer ticking in the back of my head!
Julie Kieras says
Wow – that is an awesome story! I have been cloth diapering for 5 years now, and even without that big event, I have often wondered how much did I “wear it as a badge” versus just let it be something we chose for this time of life. I purposefully cut way back on my blogging about it, just so it didn’t have so much mental “space” in my life. And I’ve been so much happier! 🙂 (I still think I might like to do one last “goodbye” post when my son finally potty trains! haha).
Right now I’m looking at a closet/wardrobe purge… perhaps you’d consider writing a post (or are already!) about how you decided what to keep in your own personal wardrobe and/or your kids?