The Last Things

Letting go of the last things might be the hardest step for me.

I, alongside my darling wife and sweet five-year-old daughter, have been purging our possessions for the last year. Initially we met this challenge with fervor and a surprising will of spirit, knowing that what was ahead of us was greater and more beautiful than the thousands upon thousands of things cluttering our cottage home. We found it easy to sell our televisions and extinct electronics, clothes and shoes that were no longer our style, or anything cheap and plastic. Round after round we went through the rooms, tossing items into bags and boxes with distinctions written upon them in black permanent marker. Things were sold, donated to charity, recycled. An avid set of thrifters with a penchant for well-made, well-worn, beautiful pieces, we jumped at the chance to participate in a local flea market my dear friend started and sold some of the loveliest pieces to good homes and good people. Within less than six months, the house had begun to feel clean, sparse, and bare.

We are moving into a fifty-eight year old Airstream in just a few days shy of three months and hitting the open road. We plan to travel with an indefinite timeline, and through this, find a simpler and more intentional way of life, one spent out of doors instead of hiding away behind four brick and mortar walls. A life spent exploring, hiking, finding ourselves entirely immersed in nature, a life where our creativity is sparked and fueled by the great Earth we have the privilege to live upon and be part of. For us, this meant selling our house, trading in two cars for one, and selling nearly everything we own.

The countdown has begun: eighty-nine days until departure and a fresh urgency to finish the process we began a year ago, boxing up more of our things for various outlets. Yet this time, with our goal so clearly ahead of us and marked on our calendars, it’s time to kick things into high gear. Whilst we’ve mastered a dozen or more rounds of serious purging, we still have a house full of things…things that we don’t need and won’t serve a purpose sitting in storage while we pursue our nomadic life, waiting for us to come round and collect them from a dusty unit.

It’s not been an easy transition for us, and perhaps when we are actually living in our Airstream and traveling, I will understand the reason for extricating ourselves from the burden of excess more fully. Yet now, as I look through my daughter’s piles of drawings and sketchbooks, the letters sent between my wife and I when we were first dating, the various items we’ve picked up on previous travels and local hikes for one another: stones, driftwood, river glass, pinecones…stored in washed and reused pickle and caper jars, the one-dollar macrame wall hanging we bought at an Ann Arbor thrift store the weekend I proposed, I find myself completely overwhelmed with the task before me. I am a sentimental being, romantic, a mother and a wife, a maker of home. I believe in the transformative power of things in our home, especially the meaningful ones, the well-made ones, the beautiful ones.

So we keep these things, and sort them in three boxes: one for each of us. We talk through everything and as time goes on, we find our hearts releasing on things we previously felt we could never rid ourselves of. In this process, we’ve found freedom, clarity of mind and spirit, and a focus on the real beauty and sentiment: time spent together, daily. In eighty-nine days, we will load our few remaining possessions into our Airstream and find a new normal, a simpler way of existence with only what we need: a lovely and clean shelter from the elements, basic clothes on our backs, implements for eating and cooking, and the tools we create with. In many ways, I can’t wait to get to that point, unearthing myself from the cycle of buying and accumulating, yet until then, you might find me in tears underneath a pile of stuff I am sorting.

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