Moving + Minimalism

Part 3: Decide what material objects really matter

This post is part of a series on 8 ways moving to a new place helps the pursuit of a simple life. Click here to learn more.


In the last installment of this series, we talked about ruthlessly paring down your stuff. In this one, I want to talk about the things you choose to keep, which are way more important. Moving is the best way to find out what you truly love, both during the packing process and the settling-in process. Why?

  1. You learn what you’re willing to make space for.

Imagine you’re moving across the country tomorrow, and all you can take is what fits in your car. Obviously, you’re going to have to make some choices. Which of your possessions would you immediately pack? What would you make room for no matter what?

The items you’re thinking of are surely the ones that are most useful (like the awesome set of stainless steel pots and pans we invested in) or the ones that bring you the most joy (like the huge jigsaw puzzle that we put together, built a frame for, and hung in our bedroom). Use these non-negotiable items to judge the rest of your belongings and form your list of priorities.

  1. You learn what you actually use most.

Today, 29 days out from our move, I packed our first box: our extra linens. Obviously the things in that box aren’t vital to our daily life; really, nothing we could pack a month away from our move are things that are that important to our daily life. I’m actually a little nervous that we aren’t going to be able to pack much until a few days before our move—but really, that’s a good thing.

You know that stat that says we use 20% of our belongings 80% of the time? Well, if pretty much all you’ve got is the stuff you use daily, that means you’ve made great strides toward your minimalist goals…even though it means your packing will be last-minute. Take the extra time to carefully evaluate the things that you don’t need that often and see if they should be moved at all.

  1. You learn what items you’re willing to make sacrifices in order to keep.

You will probably find that some of your things are logistically difficult to move. That aforementioned puzzle in the frame that we built? Actually, there are two of them—and they’re huge. To move them requires some Tetris-ing. They fit between the front and back seats of a car, but that means our dog can’t be in the backseat, and whatever else is packed inside the car must be arranged carefully so as not to damage the frames. But they’re worth the trouble to us.

There are lots of sacrifices to be made when you’re moving, mostly involving effort, space, or money. If you treasure a large collection of books, for example, they’re going to be heavy. If you ship them, that could be a major expense. Or maybe you have to donate a bunch of dishes that you wanted to keep in order to fit your beloved knitting materials into the car. Moving your favorite things might require you to make sacrifices, and if that extra time or cost isn’t worth it to you, sell or donate the item and enjoy having the space for the things that do matter.

  1. You learn what adds value to your life even after a major life change.

It’s safe to say that after a big move, your lifestyle will probably change a little (or a lot). As a result, some of the things you loved may no longer add value to your life. So as you settle in, pay attention to what possessions fall out of use and which ones still hold your favor. Curate your belongings to reflect who you are in your new home.

Remember that every step you take toward minimalism is a step toward finding out who you really are. The material items that inspire you both before and after a move clearly indicate how well you know yourself, and prove that you’ve skillfully cultivated those parts of your life. Celebrate the items that you get rid of as well as the ones you keep after your move, because even those are teaching you what truly matters to you.

  1. You learn what you’re willing to get back.

Depending on how much you were able to take with you when you moved, you might have had a few possessions that you really wanted to take but decided against or simply couldn’t make work (like a bulky bedframe or a bandsaw). It’s a bummer to leave behind things you really like. But on the other end, you get to decide what fits into your new life. If you want something from your old home that didn’t make the trip so much that you choose to save up and purchase it again, it’s clearly something that adds value to your life—and that’s the dream.

So what’s on your non-negotiable list? What items are you willing to do anything to keep?


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