Friday, July 01, 2011

There Was a Woman Who Lived in a Purse

I couldn't find a picture of our current home; this was our last one.
Evidently I had time to do yard work back then.

    Have you ever noticed that no matter how big a woman’s purse is, it seems to be full? And that she usually has to dig around a fair bit to find what she's looking for? (She probably just needs to buy a purse organizer. Of course there's a product for that. ) I’ve always been happy with a very small purse. When I have a baby I carry a small diaper bag instead, and then graduate to my Sherpani bag, which is still big enough to carry a diaper and more.  I personally have no desire to carry a bag the size of a small suitcase! But I digress; this isn’t actually a post about the size of a woman’s purse. 

    Ten years ago, I'd just gotten back from nine months traveling around Thailand, India, and Nepal. I loved the freedom of traveling with nothing but what fit in my backpack, knowing  I had whatever I needed. I would sometimes think about the boxes of things I had at home, and realized there were only a few things in them that were truly important to me. Upon returning to the US I settled in with my parents, and within a few months was engaged. When Erik and I married the following winter, we moved into a small duplex. At that time, pretty much everything I owned could fit into my Toyota Corolla. After a year and a half, we’d added a little Peregrine baby to the mix, as well some more stuff. We soon found ourselves buying our first home, which was still relatively small, just under 1200 square feet.  Fast forward two years, add a Poppy baby (and some more stuff), and we were on the move again. This time we filled up a decent sized moving truck and made several smaller trips  before settling into our current home, which is just over 1400 square feet. We’ve now been here for six years, and have filled it up nicely, adding two more babies and a whole lot more stuff. This is where I'm reminded of the purse: no matter how big our home is, we seem to fill it up. 

    I've been thinking a lot lately about how much of this stuff is actually important to me, and the answer would be very little. Sure, a lot of it is useful, and makes our life more comfortable, but beyond that, it's been easy to collect a lot of it because it was a good deal, or I really liked it, or because I thought  it might come in handy someday. In the last year I've been routinely going through rooms, shelves, and boxes, and getting rid of a lot of things that don't contribute to our family's purpose. It's a fantastic feeling to see boxes leaving the house, knowing that I'm freeing up not only space, but also the time it takes to organize, clean, and otherwise care for things I don't really need.

    A while back Erik and I sat down and made a to-do list of sorts. One of my goals simply says "Reduce by Half". I don't actually have a way to quantify at what point I'll have gotten rid of half our stuff, but I'm beginning to start to feel a difference. Amazingly, the kids have hardly noticed that a lot of books have disappeared off the shelves, or that there are fewer toys in their rooms. Peregrine has really embraced this; he jumped right in and helped get rid of many things he's been holding on to in his room. I was so proud of him, not only being willing to part with pictures he'd drawn, junky toys, clothing, and crafts he'd made, but to watch him discover the joy of having less. I've been getting rid of homeschool curriculum that I might use some day, and clothes I haven't fit in for years. (Insert sigh of resignation here.) There are open spaces on bookshelves that used to be stuffed. There are empty hangers, and plenty of them, in closets where space used to be at a premium.

    Is the end goal of all this purging simply to have a cleaner, simpler home? No, although I certainly think that's a good thing to work towards. But we have something different in mind, a new way of life altogether. It's really not about the size of my purse or my home,  but of embracing a new way of looking at life outside the confines of these spaces, of living in harmony with our purpose, of pursuing the dreams that are in our hearts. We're excited about what the future holds, and slowly taking steps toward making it a reality. Living with less is just one step in the journey.



  1. Anonymous11:23 AM

    Funny you should write this. Not only am I deep in the process of purging I'm also switching purses!!!! Haha! I also have a goal to reduce my stuff by half. The fact is, I will have to move from here eventually and all my stuff cannot come with me. I'd like my garage to be mostly empty except for a freezer (that I don't have yet), canning supplies, bikes, camping stuff, and the toolbox. Oh, and maybe some yard work stuff...

    Well, anyway, it feels good to purge. Next up will have to be my craft supplies. Sigh. Either use it up or give it away!

  2. Zenaida Buck12:57 PM

    Yes, yes, yes. This process is much more difficult than I anticipated... like Fr. Timothy said "The problem is not the problem". May God give us the strength to run well!

  3. Love this! As an organizing-junkie and advocate for simpler/more frugal living I love how you are talking about living closer to your purpose by living with less stuff. I've been homeless and learned that it isn't impossible to live out of a suitcase--full-time, with kids! Thanks for sharing your journey!

  4. God you can tell my mind jumps around; I commented before I read the subtitle, that it was your old house LOL! It is nonetheless cute. I love this post, and I have purged much of our belonging, and lived without any of my books or movies when we were in Italy; it changed my perspective greatly on what matters to me. When I lived in LA I actually ( hate to admit it) paid attention to trends, and bought expensive jeans and pointless items. Now, I would never do that. I hope to keep gravitating towards what really matters most to me, which is my family, and lose the consumer I became.


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