When we first started talking about life in a converted school bus, I thought there was no way we could fit a family of 5 in a bus. We have so much stuff! Even in a small three bedroom, one bath apartment with no real storage, we’ve managed to accumulate a lot of stuff. There are toys, and books, and gadgets, and clothes, school, and art supplies, and more kitchen items than we have a need for, oh, and nostalgia. There’s a lot of nostalgic stuff in our house. I am a very sentimental person who for the longest time attached the special memory with the item I brought back, was given, etc. It wasn’t until the birth of my second son that I stopped holding on to a lot of sentimental stuff. Why? I don’t know. Probably because I realized the memories I wanted to keep couldn’t be contained in an item. I am incredibly sentimental about my children growing up. Tomorrow my youngest will be 3. We are no longer facing sleepless nights and round the clock feedings. All our kids can communicate (and argue) with us now, and no matter how much of their baby clothes I hold on to, I can’t get what I want, which is to stop time and keep my littles little forever. So, I stopped keeping a lot of stuff because I found it was keeping me stuck in the past and not appreciating what was in front of me and what was to come.
There are still items I associate with moments in my life that I can’t let go of, no question. My wedding dress is still hanging in a closet almost 8 years later, The little blue sweater Jack, almost 9, wore when he was a newborn, my HELLO DOLLY costumes my mother sewed with such love. Those are just things I have brought from apartment to apartment because I am not ready to part with them. I suspect they will find a place at my parents since they can’t go on the bus, but what about all the other stuff? We are selling almost everything we own. That’s sometimes hard to wrap my brain around. In a few months, I won’t be sitting at this dining table. I won’t be putting my kids to bed in their bunk beds. I won’t be cooking meals with the pots and pans we’ve had since day one. This all feels scary, but liberating.
I don’t like a mess, and my house is always a mess. Over the years I’ve had to accept that we can’t keep up with it all, that many times we have chosen time together, time relaxing, going on adventures to cleaning the house, doing the laundry, washing the dishes, picking up the toys. I have accepted that my time with my kids is fleeting, and I’d rather spend it with them and not clean off the dining room table. I think that’s what I look most forward to about bus life. The lack of stuff to clean.
It’s not easy to show pictures of such a messy house, but this is who we are. I am writing this blog post rather than cleaning off the table or picking the papers up off the floor. We are five people in a small space, and maybe in a bigger house it wouldn’t look like this, or maybe we’d have more stuff and more rooms to clean? I am not a productive person in chaos. I have never been. I try to clean the living room at the end of the day because I need a clean space to come to if I’m going to relax. I like my kids to have a clean room when they go to bed because I believe you sleep better when you aren’t surrounded by clutter. If my kitchen is a mess when I wake up the next morning, I already feel behind the eight ball, and yet more often than not those tasks are the last on my to-do list for the day, so they don’t get done.
Last weekend I went through the storage unit (a small closet off our back porch) and spent an hour going through containers that contained my past. My childhood, angst years, my 20’s, and it was hard. It was so hard to say goodbye to that stuff, but I hadn’t seen those letters or programs, or knick-knacks since I put them in the container millions of years ago, so why keep it? Regardless of the why it was still hard to toss all those letters in recycling, but I don’t regret it. I don’t regret any of this. Every time we put something in a garage sale, every time someone picks up something we’ve sold on Craigslist, every time we take one more step towards freedom from stuff and freedom from the day-to-day toil of a life needed to hold on to all this stuff, I feel like I can breathe a little easier. I feel like my life will improve because I won’t feel suffocated by the things around me because I refuse to compromise living to have an orderly house. Now, I will tell you I am going to go and vacuum up the cereal on the living room rug, because that’s just taking it too far, and it’s easier to just vacuum than to try and talk Henry into eating in the kitchen.
So, see the pictures of my house, try not to judge us too hard, and realize that in about eight weeks all this is going away, and it will become someone else’s problem. The only things I can’t live without are the four people I am lucky enough to call my family. All the other items coming with us on this adventure are just a bonus.