How Low Can You Go?

We've had this sign hanging in our kitchen for a few years now. A bit ironic since the sign itself is a mass-manufactured piece of home decor junk purchased at a huge chain store that specializes in selling crap you don't need to clutter up a living space that's too big. Probably made by child labor in a sweat shop in Northern Thailand.

But I digress.

We got it after a particularly insane Christmas in which we could barely cram the boys (and our) gifts into the back of our van for the trip home. The next day, the boys indulged themselves in an orgy of consumerism at Toys R Us, spending about $150 each that they'd received in lieu of gifts. It was clear that something was out of balance in the way we were dealing with money and possessions. We've been in a steady process of downsizing our household for about five years, to the point that we now fit into a 1000 square foot apartment, and a small storage room. Now we're really taking the plunge.

Try cramming everything you (and your family) need, into a 4x4x4 space. We're essentially moving our house into the back of our van. Granted, our keepsakes, some furniture, and heirlooms will go into storage. But if you want to find out what's really important to you, try fitting it into a box that size. It's not much room for an American family of four. We've been making some hard decisions.

When we arrive in Hershey, PA, we'll walk into a furnished apartment/condo. We could pay for it to be outfitted with bedding, dishes, cookware, towels, etc. but why pay to rent those things? We wanted to see if we could save the money by bringing the bare minimum with us. We decided: no trailers, no luggage rack storage, no shipping stuff from one place to the next.

So we started experimenting with tote bins. How many toys/books/dishes/shirts can we fit in one? How many bins would it take? What about the boy's massive Lego collection that they play with literally every day? We can't leave THAT behind! Oh, and the geckos...

We did a trial run last week, and after some re-packaging, minor adjustments, testing space bags vs. Glad bags, etc. we found a way to get it all in there - clothes, cookware, homeschool supplies, Legos, toys, and even the XBox 360. We'll buy dishes and such from second hand shops when we get into town, and give them back when we leave. Self-contained, stripped down to the necessities. (Don't look at me like that - Legos and the XBox are necessities!)

See all the empty space around the edges? That's where the spacebag/giant ziplocks of clothes are going. Our tests show that they start to expand after about 5 days, which in this case is good, because it will squeeze everything together real snug for the actual trip across country. The geckos and hermit crab go on the floor between the boys. It has to be packed in such a way that nothing can come flying over the seats in case Chri- I mean, anyone, hits the brakes too hard.

The great hope is that we will, as a family, learn how to live even more simply, to value experiences over possessions, and hopefully do it as "green" as possible (i.e. no paper plates, boxed/bagged foods thrown away at the end of each move, water bottles, and so on). The boys have even been excited to see how they can fit their needs into a smaller space, give up some things, and store others away, out of reach for a time. Maybe this will be another lesson they can't get from a textbook or worksheet. Hopefully, it changes the way we all live, even when we settle down somewhere again).

(So the challenge was going from this:)

(to this:)

(and for Dad, from this:)

(to this:)

(the boys deciding which Transformers and Bakugans will stay, and which will go in storage to trade out later. MUCH deliberation on the merits of classic vs. animated, and the fragile Autobot/Decepticon balance of power...)

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