Downsizing: Or Why I’m Embracing Letting Stuff Go Downsizing: Or Why I’m Embracing Letting Stuff Go
When we first started talking about life in a converted school bus I thought there was no way we could fit a family of... Downsizing: Or Why I’m Embracing Letting Stuff Go

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.

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Our dining room table/school room in all its glory

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.

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Where do you even begin to clean this up? BTW, I hate Legos. 

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.

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Yes, that is a paper plate on my living room floor. I have since picked it up. We aren’t heathens. 

Abigail Epperson

Coffee drinker, skoolie owner, partner, unschooler and parent. When Abigail's not hiking through our National Parks she's talking theater as the managing editor Of PerformInk Chicago and Kansas City. She's on Twitter as @Abigail Trabue when she's not leaving a status update, picking filters or tweeting on behalf of Our Wandering Family.

  • Anastasia Platt

    June 19, 2016 #1 Author

    I am SO into this blog. I adore this idea but it’s not something my husband would ever go for so I don’t have to decide if I’d ever really do it or not. I, however, am thrilled for you guys, and obsessed with your story.

    Reply

    • EppersonFamily

      June 19, 2016 #2 Author

      It was Jason who had to convince me of this endeavour, and it was because of my attachment to stuff and my fear that leading an “unconditional” life was a gamble we couldn’t afford to take. I can’t say what flipped for me regarding bus life, but one day it didn’t feel so terribly scary. But it took me over a year to get there, and sometimes I still look at Jason and think we are out of our minds. I think freedom to enjoy life comes in lots of different ways, and if this hadn’t been realistic for us, I think we would have just done more camping. Taken more opportunities to escape city life even if that was just for the day. Jason and I are so appreciative of all the support we are getting, and hey, maybe we can all meet at a campground one day and enjoy the great outdoors?! – Abigail

  • Cory

    June 20, 2016 #3 Author

    You and I are kindred spirits. Or at least, both wives, mothers and coffee lovers. 🙂 Love the blog and following your adventure!

    Reply

    • EppersonFamily

      June 20, 2016 #4 Author

      Cory, we should drink coffee together soon. Jason is not a coffee lover, let alone a drinker, and couple that with being a dude and we have very little in common. 😉 – Abigail

  • Rebecca

    August 17, 2016 #5 Author

    I could have written this. I’ve gotten postpartum anxiety and depression with my 2nd and 3rd kids, and clutter is a trigger for me. Yet it feels inevitable with 5 of us in a 3 bed 1 bath apartment. I’ve been going through the process you’ve described, yet there’s still soooooo much stuff. This post was freeing for me though — that you choose to experience life and ignore the clutter. Whereas many days I wish away the hours with my precious babies so it can be evening and I can tidy without them undoing it. Many days, I keep the kids inside so I can work on organizing and purging and putting away… Which leads to horrid behavior on their part because they NEED to be outdoors, and then everyone’s angry especially me. And if I just took them out of the house, they’d be happier, I’d be happier, and the house (apartment) would be no worse for wear when we got home. Pardon my rambling… Reading your post was therapeutic. I think tidying has becoming obsessive and compulsive behavior for me!!!
    (By the way, hi, it’s Rebecca who bought the armoire)

    Reply

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