Living Healthy Simplify

Forced to Simplify

I kept saying I wanted a simpler lifestyle. I kept saying I didn’t want so much stuff. I kept saying we’d get organized. A move out of the country put feet to those words real quick!

I was forced to simplify in a hurry when I got two months’ notice that we were moving to Germany!

As I purged closets, boxed up books, stored furniture and homeschool curriculum in my laundry room in piles and teetering stacks for our yard sale, I realized how much I have completely sold out to consumerism.

Stuff is an idol.

I found things I thought I had lost. Forgotten projects were discovered, never opened or begun. Into the pile they went – to sell, donate, or throw away. If I never got around to these projects in four years, I doubt I ever will. I exhausted myself in a purging frenzy. I was near tears if I was interrupted when I was in the zone. I was stressed. I was overwhelmed. Why did we accumulate so much stuff? What hole was I trying to fill with things?

Just like with other situations, God didn’t wave a magic wand and get me out of this. What took me four years (at least) to acquire took me at least that many weeks to purge (and the days seemed to fly by). I had to dig myself out. Literally.

As I looked at the stacks and boxes and bags filled with items I sorted and sifted through, I sighed in frustration. In a way, I’m relieved that we had to get rid of so much stuff. It made me metacognitive of our possessions and helped me value things more accurately. We knew we would move some time this summer, but I had procrastinated, thinking I could go through things a little at a time this spring. When my husband called to say our PCS date got moved up and changed – to Germany! I had to move quickly. I ran through the house listing what we could sell at a yard sale. I felt accomplished for a moment until I realized how big an undertaking a yard sale is. Depression set in.

I made lists for what we put in storage and for our two shipments (not that having an early and late shipment really mattered so much until we had an address). I realized that I had to organize stuff for the three different packing/moving situations. Books were still priority, and I dreaded even putting some in storage. The china cabinet? Storage – easy. Anything with a timer or clock that plugs in – storage (the timers won’t work even with adaptors in Europe). I was thrilled to purge toys and preschool items. My son is a big boy! Four years old and ready to move on.

Cleaning out my desk was a Herculean task. Sorting and hole punching homeschool papers into divided binders for storage was almost the death of me. I didn’t want to go into the cellar by myself. I cleaned out the garage with Tori’s help. I organized the camping equipment so I could actually close the lids on the bins. The kids cleaned out the playroom all on their own and vacuumed it and shut the door. One room down. I organized all my homeschool files and manipulatives and realized I had lots and lots of pretty laminated printables that I could just give away at the yard sale. Another room down.

Forced to Simplify

After the yard sale, I coul breathe for a couple days. Then I started stacking some of the smaller items for storage in the music room. We made $700 on that yard sale and drove 2 van loads of leftover STUFF to donate to the consignment shop. I felt so liberated.

Then there was the kitchen. While we tried really, really hard to eat up the pantry items and clean out the freezer, pretty soon my creativity started to wear thin and I just wanted the comfort of potato chips and good chocolate. We’d been told that our vast spice collection could be packed but to “keep out the Italian ones because they confuse the drug dogs.”

I had a mama tantrum the other day – out of being overwhelmed and the kids having been uncooperative and clumsy and thoughtless. It really was more me than them. I put myself in a timeout with my Kindle app for iPad mini and a cup of tea. Everything was so much better when I emerged from my room later. Kate was reading aloud to her sister, Tori, who was drawing. Liz was completing her history notebooking and Alex was playing quietly by himself. They didn’t even need me!

The last project! I got to clean out the refrigerator and freezers and haul those last food items to TLF (Temporary Living Facility – it’s like an extended stay hotel on base, with furnishings) where we lived for a couple weeks until my husband was released from duty and we traveled across the country to my parents’ house. Thank God that I had packers and movers, and I could just sit around and read while I supervised and answered questions and provided sub sandwiches and Gatorade.

Then I had to clean the entire empty house that shivered and whispered to me to fill it up with stuff when we moved in.

Do you keep too much “stuff”? If so, does it make you feel overwhelmed? How do you deal with it?

About the author


Jennifer is a displaced Southern belle, thanks to the Air Force, but she wouldn't have it any other way. Amidst desperate attempts to balance her various roles as a wife, home educator, and writer…she seeks daily dumptruck loads of God’s grace. Her four little lambs, all of whom possess vastly different personalities, much to her chagrin, make her proud with their razor wit and scathing use of sarcasm. She and the children are quite obsessed with Doctor Who. Along with her husband, Aaron, she passionately educates about natural health. Jennifer shares her heart at her personal blog and her family’s homeschooling journey at Royal Little Lambs.


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  • Yes! I have too much stuff and our family of 7 lives in a small place. We don’t have room for all this STUFF! Where did it all come from? I keep trying to get myself in the zone to purge purge purge. It’s a terrifying prospect. It’s a huge undertaking. I’ll feel so much freer. It’s like when I take down Christmas decorations and I haven’t yet put back up the regular decorations I realize I don’t even want them back up. So each year I have less and less on the walls. It’s so freeing and so much less visual clutter. You’ve inspired me – I’m gonna get on it – and I won’t wait until Monday 🙂

  • Thank you for sharing your story. I helps me realize I’m not going through some kind of midlife crisis when, like you, I’m afraid of going into my bedroom vs. your cellar, by myself. Keeps me inspired to know I’m not alone in the way I feel. God bless.

  • We went through something similar back in 2012 -2013. My husband had been back from deployment for 7 days when he got orders to Okinawa. I was getting read to embark on the beginning stages of thyroid cancer treatments after putting it off for my husband’s deployment. Needless to say no one ever Q coded us or put me in EFMP when I had been first diagnosed a few years earlier..anyways..once I got done with radiation and the 2 weeks of isolation and managed to get some strength back we began to purge like crazy people and then suddenly 3 weeks to our port call date our orders were cancelled. UGH!

    Now, looking back, I see God’s hand.

    One year later, 13 years into his career, my husband’s job and rank were overmanned and suddenly he was on the list of the 8,000 that were involuntarily separated last year. We were given a year notice that he would have to meet the Retention Board, he was TDY at the time and I was 6 months into a very high risk pregnancy and had 2 little boys. Thankfully we did not know for sure that he would be losing his career until after the baby was born and my husband was back from his TDY. We had 5 months notice that he was being separated. My husband was blessed to find a job within a month of learning this news, but the new job was three states away. Had we not been through the Japan orders fiasco we would have had a much harder time purging. It was a devastating blow to us and we felt like we were losing so much, my husband’s career, our much needed healthcare, our air force family and community, our entire lifestyle was going to just vanish after almost 14 years. It would have been very hard emotionally for me to purge while dealing with all of that loss with 3 kids, plus trying to sell a house, while also preparing for the transition to the civilian world and civilian healthcare. In the end we landed on our feet, mostly. I’m so thankful that we were able to do our purging a full year before my husband was laid off. God’s hand is in everything! whole point in writing was to let you know that when we were stationed in England I shipped my spices via the USPS in one of those priority mail boxes. I listed it all on customs forms and bubbled wrapped the heck out of my spice bottles and mailed them to our next base. Some had been opened but they all arrived safe and sound. Maybe that will help when you pcs back stateside 🙂 Have fun in Germany!