In my Thriving and Surviving Military life posts over the last year, I had a tendency to focus (mostly) on the emotional toll this life takes on spouses. These are absolutely valuable posts (and they generate some of the best interaction with you guys!), but they take a lot out of me to write, and I have to wait until I’m ready to dive into certain topics. My hope with this series has always been to not only give a glimpse into the various challenges, opportunities, highs and lows of military life…but also to provide tips and tricks for weathering it all. It recently occurred to me that there are also some lighter, even comical, topics I can talk about too. Today’s topic came from a Reader Survey response, and is actually something I’ve wanted to talk about too: what to do with all the stuff you love but just doesn’t fit into the new house. I hinted on Thursday that I’d be sharing a dirty little secret with you today…are you ready to see it? Get your pin buttons ready folks…and take a peek at my Pile o’ Stuff!
(Hanging head in shame.)
I can’t believe I am posting these pictures on the Internet for all to see. I constantly tout that I hate clutter, I hate piles, I hate full garages, and I firmly believe in the power of regular purging. And all these things are true. But there is something else that is true for those of us that move a lot: sometimes things just don’t fit right, but it doesn’t make sense to get rid of it all every time either. And so…I would venture a guess that most of us military families have a pile like this sitting somewhere in our garage, basement, storage unit, etc. (Please tell me I’m not alone here!)
What all is in my Pile o’ Stuff, you ask? Oh! All sorts of things! To start there are the usual things many of you probably have stored too…baby clothes and furniture we’d love to be able to use again and random project items waiting for inspiration to strike. But what is mostly in this pile are good-quality, usable, functional items that we’ve used in homes in the past to meet particular needs, but we just don’t have space or place for them now. These things include drawer organizers, frames, floating shelves, lamps/lighting, bins/baskets, and decorative items.
It’s a pain to move stuff from house to house and never use it. It’s a pain to find storage places for these things (especially when base housing tends to be low on storage!). So if we don’t have a use/places for these items, then why keep them? The answer is a simple one: because we MIGHT need them in the next house or maybe even in the house after that.
If you’re a long-time reader of the blog, then you know I am passionate about making a house work perfectly for you during the time you live there. I thrive in brainstorming solutions, finding the right pieces to fill awkward nooks, and creating ultimate function where there is none. I don’t like cramming things in that don’t fit, and I really don’t like wasted space. And while some items translate from one space to the next, this approach often requires hunting down and/or creating new, tailored items specifically for that home. I certainly don’t believe in carrying around everything we’ve ever bought from house to house (we did have 4 garage sales last year, remember?!?), but it can be costly and wasteful to buy and sell off and buy and sell off with every single move. Because I am a purger and like to have clutter-free spaces, I have been guilty of selling things off (usually at garage sales) only to re-buy it years later because the need arises yet again. This is the frustrating (and sometimes costly) reality that military families face. Get rid of it and possibly have to re-buy it down the road, or carry it around from home to home…state to state…country to country…and maybe never use it again. It’s a fine line to walk and not an easy situation to wrap up into a clean little solution. And while I am certainly not perfect at it (do you see that big pile in our garage?!?), I do want to share a few tips that might help you keep a bit of control on the stuff you do keep and help you decide what to do with the stuff that just doesn’t fit next time you move!
Before You Move
I’m a big advocate of purging both before AND after a move, and this is why: there are things you just don’t want anymore no matter how much space or money you have…so don’t even bother moving them! On the other hand, there are items you may not love but they can fill a need in the new place until you find just the right thing. I say bring them along, and then get rid of them on the other side if/when you no longer need them. Before the moving trucks even arrive, I recommend the following:
- Get rid of any items that you really, really don’t like
- Get rid of any items that are broken or severely damaged
- Get rid of any items that you know you are going to replace on the other side and you won’t need in the meantime
- Get rid of items that will not survive a move in tact
- Get rid of any items you absolutely won’t need again
When You Move In
For most of us (I think), a majority of our belongings are things we love and will make the “final cut.” Move everything you love and absolutely want/need in your home into places first. As you identify storage and/or decorative needs, visit that pile of things you don’t absolutely love and see if you can tweak/alter them to make it work in your new space. Depending on how badly you need to solve a functional or decorative problem (as well as how long you will be there and your budget constraints), then go shopping for items to make your new home work just right.
After You’re Moved In
Once you are moved in, everything you love has been given the right place inside the house, and you’ve solved a majority of your functional and decorative situations, you are most likely still left with a slew of stuff that didn’t make the final cut (see my pile above). What do you do now? Again, the answer is not a one-size-fits-all solution. If you’re going to be living in the new home for a while, I tend to suggest that most things can probably go (unless it’s something super special or a family heirloom you just don’t have space for). Three years is a long time to keep items stored, and if you really loved or needed said item you probably would have found a place for it. However, if you’re going to be re-locating fairly quickly (within 18 months), I suggest keeping a reasonable number of items that might be useful in the next home.
What to Keep
I’m a purger (and a shopper), so I try to get rid of a lot with each move. Here are things I tend to always keep from home to home:
- Storage solutions: good quality bins, baskets, containers, organizers, and drawer dividers. You just never know what kind of cabinets and closets you’ll encounter!
- Furniture: it must be in good shape, has solid future potential, can be easily stored/protected, and/or can serve multiple functions.
- Shelves: we find that both floating and cubby shelves are worth keeping. Not only can they usually be used from home to home, they are also easy to store. You can even use the shelves to store other items you choose to keep/store!
- Lamps: lamps are expensive and when you find some you love, I say keep them. Since each room and each house has a different lighting story, it’s worth holding onto good lamps for the next space.
All that said, I do try to corral what I keep into a single, defined area. It can be easy to keep anything and everything, but then you may be left with a garage or basement you can’t use. Give yourself a defined amount of space to keep what you want/need, and stick to it. Get rid of the rest.
My #1 Tip
Re-evaluate everything with each and every move. It can be really easy to keep dragging items from home to home and never use them. It is also easy to never unpack certain boxes and just keep moving them along. Because many of us have a tendency to buy at least a few new things for each new house, things can really start to pile up if you don’t take the time to re-assess every few years. You don’t have to do a major purge and overhaul every single time, but try to be intentional about what gets moved and what ultimately stays in your life home after home!
Ha! I thought this would be a short and sweet post! I think this post is somewhat driven by guilt, because I do hate that pile of stuff in our garage so much. But I also know that since we are literally moving into another home in 5 short months, it would be silly to get rid of things that could fill certain needs in the next house. My goal for our next home, which we should be in for three years, is to not have such a pile but to be more intentional and committed to the things in our home. That said, it’s a reality that there will ALWAYs be a pile, it’s just a matter of how big 😉
Military friends or frequent movers, tell me your best tips for making decisions on what stays and what goes. And how do store it all? How do you make sure not to be wasteful but not keep too much? Share in the comments below!