Letting it go…

One of the questions that many people ask us is, “what about your stuff?”  It is a curiosity for some and a critical question for others.  When we tell them that we are letting it go, we often get a look of uncertainty. I imagine that their uncertainty comes mainly from two perspectives: 1) they are uncertain that we made a wise choice, and 2) they are uncertain of what that really means.  When we say we are letting it go, we mean that we either sold, gave away, donated or sadly trashed the large majority of the things that we owned.

For those of you thinking we are crazy 🙂 I will assure you that we kept a few things.

  • Our Subaru – originally I had planned to sell that car in Houston or Austin, but Amy convinced me to keep it.  Amy’s parents generously offered to keep it and manage it for us while we are gone.
  • Photos, valuable books, our camping gear, small family heirlooms and any clothes that weren’t at the end of their useful life already – these items went mainly into Amy’s sister’s basement in a stack about 6’x6’x6′.
  •  A few kitchen necessities – things like a few knives, a pot and pan, and a couple other small implements. These also went into the same stack in our sister’s basement.
  • The kids furniture – my mother just bought a new house and has put this into a kids room there. Assuming we don’t end up living in a yurt when we come back we will likely retrieve them.

This is also probably the part that is the hardest for many to come to terms with. Often the next question is, “Won’t you need all that other stuff when you get back?”  This is a tough one for sure…the simple answer is maybe.  Do I really need a garlic press, three types of blenders, two types of mixers or a myriad of ultra specialized things? Perhaps we will come back and repurchase all that and more, but I think the reality might be somewhere in between.  Our life was a constant press to acquire more and more things that took up more and more space. And the more space we had, the more time it was taking to not only manage the space (mow, trim, garden, paint, repair, remodel, clean, etc.), but also to pay for it all (more time at work). It is somewhat ironic that we then buy more stuff in an effort to make the added tasks easier and less time consuming. In fact, Amy and I were considering buying a bigger house this spring when we realized we were simply perpetuating a vicious cycle.  Worse, we felt like we may have been inadvertently teaching our kids to place too much value on the material things in our lives.

Now I am not saying that getting rid of everything is the only solution to this problem, nor does one need to travel the world for a year. For us however, it felt like a way to break the cycle and truly take a new approach in our lives. As Amy likes to put it, “we are hitting the reset button.”  Step one, remove the material constraints that were inhibiting us from taking this leap. Step two, take advantage of the time and the newly freed resources to explore more of what is out there.  At minimum we have a fairly unique experience to look back on and hopefully find new opportunities with our changed perspective.  As an added bonus (except when the four of us are all piled into one bed) we get to spend some serious quality time together.

As we travelled from the Front Range, we slowly discarded a few more items. Some old clothes we had brought for camping, a box of toys and kids books given to a nephew, an old tent on its last leg, and some car ride friendly kids activities.  Our original plan had us getting down to two large backpacks for Amy and I, two small packs for the kids and two small carry-on packs for Amy and I.  For the kids education and support we chose to add a bag late in the game and are now carrying a small duffel (carry-on size) filled with school workbooks and some school supplies.  I am still hopeful we can shed a few more items in the future to lighten our load, for as of now we are packed to the brim.  Sherry asked us if we would like her selfie stick to take with us as we left Tucson…I told her no, “it would mean getting rid of underwear at this point.”

When we were in Phoenix I made one more leap in letting it go: I buzzed my hair for the first time.  I had been thinning for years and much like the other things in my life I couldn’t let it go.  But I felt like it was time, this shaving would be a symbol for me of the transformation we were about to undergo.  It is taking some getting used to, but I think it was the right decision. See for yourself:

21 thoughts on “Letting it go…

  1. Jacob – This is so wonderful! Brought tears to my eyes. This takes courage and commitment, to stand up and say ‘no’ to all the surface things our culture teaches us to value, and ‘yes’ to what really matters. I’d love to hear any struggles you have had, or are having, with this process as well bc that’s where a lot of us get stuck. And if you’re feeling a need for support for this decision, check out http://www.mesimple.com, and search Facebook for Voluntary Simplicity groups. Sending you, Amy and the girls huge love!

    • Thank you Kris! There are definitely some challenges and I will continue to share this line of posts as I learn through this process. I will definitely take a peek at the site you mention as there are definitely areas of support we will need.

    • Kris, I will say that as we settle into our life in Costa Rica one “letting go” is the convenience of eating out. It just isn’t in our budget to eat out everyday. We got into such an unhealthy “to-go” habit at home because of business. Not just from planning and packing but long before that with full time jobs, school and school activities. Both Jacob and I noticed that even though it takes a little longer and though the hunger is strong, cooking at home is so much more healthy and cost effective. Now, I am definitely going to indulge, don’t get me wrong (can’t wait for Spain!) it is just one piece of our letting go process that was noticeable today.
      we love you!

  2. It is the concept that as we go through life and we become parents that we strive to give our children a “better” life than we had and/or give them more than we had. In general this means that we want to give them more material things than we had growing up. Some will look at what you are doing as selfish and that you are denying your daughters all the trappings of a comfortable life. But it is my opinion that living is about doing rather than acquiring. You are giving your daughters a different kind of wealth that will never go away just because the market crashes. You will give their souls something that burglars can’t break in and steal from them. Memories, experiences, skills and confidence are things that you can’t by them at Target.
    Just don’t forget that the connections with your large wonderful family are just as important as experiences with strangers (much more important from my selfish perspective) :). There is something very very powerful about a touch, a hug, a kiss and a moment of individual conversation that can’t be conveyed via “Skype” or posts on “Facebook” or well written blogs. And I miss those things so much already. Have a wonderful adventure filled time and come home safe and sound.

  3. Thank you Jacob for this great post. I really appreciate that you and Amy are sharing your deeper personal process around this adventure. Certainly gave me much to ponder in my own life. Love you all.

  4. As someone currently in the process of getting rid of almost all our worldly possessions, I can really appreciate this.

    I am finding so many things I am pointlessly attached to that just aren’t worth shipping to Japan. Reading this is a great reminder of what is important and what is not. Hint: not many things you can fit in a box are that important.

  5. HIESENBURG LIVES!!! if you love it, it will come back to you, if it does’nt, it wasn’t meant to be. p.s. it’s just hair. hope you are all well and having the times of your lives. love brad

  6. Jacob, love the new “do” I didn’t think you could be any more handsome!
    sent a couple of comments to you, but may all have gone into cyber space??
    Love all the pic’s and posts. Looking forward to seeing more.

    xoxo, Leah

  7. Flashback!! Driving from college back to Denver. All that we had was what fit in the car. Best wishes and love to you in your minimalist adventure!!

  8. Jacob,

    Wow! you look great. The kids watched and Alex said hi and he said why isn’t Jacob saying hi back 🙂 which made us laugh. Hope you all having a great time on your journey. Miss you guys. Keep up the posts.


    Steve, Jo Ann and the Kids

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