Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Moving and weight loss

"He charged them to take nothing for their journey except a staff - no bread, no bag, no money in their belts - but to wear sandals and not put on two tunics." - Mark 6:8-9

Moving is stressful. Even if it's just down the street.

We just got done changing rental houses a couple weeks ago and have pretty much unpacked everything and settled in. But oh man was that a process. Nothing makes you face the reality of how much stuff you've acquired like getting ready for a move. Well, except the actual move itself. Moving a piano: now there is reality!

I've been watching that reality show "Extreme Makeover - Weight Loss Edition" (confession: because it's on right after "The Bachelorette". Guilty.) on Monday nights. It's like Biggest Loser, but you get to watch the whole weight loss process for one person as they condense a year long weight loss program in to an hour. They still have the annoying "standing on a scale listening to it beep as a bunch of random numbers pop up then BREAK FOR COMMERCIAL and we're back with more beeping and tension filled looks by the weigh-ee before the actual number is revealed and the triumphant music plays" moments, but it's pretty interesting to watch people try to deal with the emotional issues that have led them to get so overweight.

Which is kind of like having too much stuff. In the weeks leading up to our move, I kept thinking about how easy it would be to move if we didn't have all this stuff. While I like having a bed and plates to eat off and a piano that my wife can teach our kids to play and a desk to work at and a trimmer to edge the yard and a TV to watch TV and on and adds up. And in the middle of all the "necessities", a lot of junk creeps in. And all that junk just slows you down.

I think we took five car-fulls of stuff to Goodwill before the move, another one since the move, another one that is ready to go, and another couple loads of stuff we gave to family or friends. On top of this, we sold stuff on eBay and Craigslist (probably around $1k in the last year) and just threw other things away. And yet, our new house is still very amply furnished.

I've started thinking about stuff the way the weight-loss-TV-people think about losing weight: A little each day. If you were to total up all the stuff our family owns, you could qualify it three ways: 1) Total weight of all the items, 2) Total volume of all the items, 3) Total number of all the items. A reduction in any of these numbers is victory for the day. Here is how that plays out:

Papasan chair: We got this from friends a few years ago. It is light, but is really three items my kids can strew around (base, frame, and cushion) and occupies a large volume. One of the first things to go.

36" tube TV: This behemoth probably weighed more than anything we moved outside of the piano. And that includes a fridge. Major victory getting rid of this thing (thanks, Goodwill workers, for helping me unload). Now down to one 27" tube...which is no lightweight. Someday we'll get rid of it and replace it with a modest flat screen that pulls HD and weighs a lot less. Maybe we'll hold out for a TV that you can roll up like a scroll or tape it to your wall. Give it 10 years. Just wait.

Kids toys: You have no idea how these add up. Hand me downs, Happy Meals, birthdays, Christmas...and yet our kids will often choose sticks or a hose or a spoon over any of these toys. I'm not sure which ones we got rid of, but it was nice to ask the kids which ones they wanted to give to other kids. That helped them get behind it. BTW we still have like 1x10^6 army guys and a coterie of Disney princesses.

CD's/DVD's: We sold our 300+ CD collection on Craigslist for $50. I have no regrets (iTunes + Pandora = bye, bye CD's). Huge reduction in both number and weight. With the DVD's, we sold some, gave others away, kept a few of the Disney ones. Streaming is the future. Time to rid ourselves of the relics.

Paper files: Yes, these count. Over the last couple years, we've gone from about five file drawers worth down to about 1.5. I'm hoping to get down to .5 and stay there by the end of the year. This could almost be it's own post as it requires a lot of different tactics to winnow down. Evernote and a good scanner are key, but everything from processing mail to online bill pay are part of this. Huge reduction in "number of items" if you're going by pieces of paper or even file hangers.

Clothes: Sam and I both got real about clothes we actally wear. Good victory on number and volume here.

I could go on and on, but the bottom line is "why do I have this?" If it isn't readily clear...time to go.

After all, I'm not sure the missionary lifestyle is really compatible with being a pack-rat. Our stuff isn't our security and it isn't "us".

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