Lessons Learned from Reducing a House Full of Items to 6 Suitcases

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This article is part of the MH4C Writers Challenge. Since I’m taking a little break over the next few weeks, I’ve chosen ten guest articles to feature on this blog. I’d like to see which articles you like the most. If you like an article, please take a moment to ‘Like’ it on Facebook, ‘Tweet’ it, or give it a ‘Plus One’ on Google +. (To the right of the title, you’ll see each of those buttons so it should make your job easier.) The winner of the MH4C Writers Challenge is the article that has the most social media shares.

The following entry is by Jeri Ford.  She is the mother of three young children and the wife of MH4C’s Craig. She loves to take long walks with Craig, teach her children, bake, read, and travel.

There’s no denying that owning stuff ties you down.

Many of us don’t realize how much we actually own until we decide to move. It’s so easy to accumulate things, especially after living in one place for a number of years. But when it’s time to pack up and go, all of those things add up quickly.

Since we’re just weeks away from our international move, we’ve had a lot of decisions to make – big and small. In fact, I’d like it if I could have a break from decision making for a while.

One of the most important decisions we made was to get rid of most of our belongings.

We’re in the process of deciding exactly what is most important for us to keep. We hope to only take a few suitcases with us when we leave PNG.

Craig used his mathematical calculations to determine which of our books we’d be better off keeping by researching how much they would cost to re-buy as opposed to ship. There are very few books we’re keeping, thanks to Amazon Kindle. Of course, we’re keeping things that are more difficult to replace like scrapbooks and PNG artifacts. And, I suppose we should all have some clothes to cover our backs.

We’ve learned that most of our possessions aren’t worth much to us anymore and are easily replaceable. Between some wear and tear and lots of mildew, we’ve learned that things on earth just don’t last.

We have become less attached to our stuff over the last few years. That detachment makes this decision much easier.

Getting rid of most of our belongings has actually been a very liberating activity. We started purging about a year ago. We had a sale consisting of things mostly in our storage room. It was actually embarrassing to me to see how much stuff we were storing – for absolutely no reason at all.

Then, about three months ago, we walked around the house looking in drawers and cabinets to find things we never use or were ready to part with. All of those things comprised enough for another sale. We decided to take that sale on the road. We took a truck load of stuff to some of the smaller village churches outside of town and sold the items for cheap so the locals could easily afford them. That was a blessing to them and us.

Within the last month, we’ve been gently encouraging our children to give up more of their toys and books since they’ll only get to take about one suitcase full with them. Last week we took a basketful of books to the pediatric ward at the hospital to start a small library of sorts for the patients.

Now the kids are catching the vision and thinking of schools and other kids to whom they want to donate books. This whole purging thing is becoming a family affair.

It’s fun to watch our children experience the joy of giving.

Now we’re on the home stretch. We will be dwindling our possessions down to four to six suitcases (hopefully). In two weeks, we’ll have our final sale and get rid of everything else.

Then, voila!, we’re free! It really is liberating.

When we get to the States and start to settle, we will gradually buy new possessions – second hand if we can. The idea of starting over is kind of exciting to me. Craig is always up for the challenge of doing something as inexpensively as possible, so it’s exciting for him as well. I plan to be very intentional when I decide what we ought to own.

Do you feel like you need to conduct a ‘stuff purge’ in your home? Here are a few suggestions to get you started:

5 Simple Steps for Purging Your Stuff

  1. If you haven’t used it in the past 6 months, get rid of it.
  2. When you get something new, give away something old. This works especially well for clothing.
  3. If it’s broke and you still haven’t gotten around to fixing it, throw it out or see if someone else could use it.
  4. Challenge yourself to give to someone in need, whether it be time, money, clothing, or books. Encourage your children to do it, too.
  5. Before buying something new, check to be sure you don’t already have it in your home or if there’s an easy, convenient substitution. Think reuse, reduce, recycle!

(I’ve never understood why some people have four open bottles of ketchup in their fridge.)


  1. JD says

    I love the ideas you came up with to reduce your “stuff” and your lighter load helped to bless others! Great. I don’t have all the extra opened ketchup bottles in the fridge but am staring at way too many opened containers of salad dressing. Hmmm

  2. says

    Wow, 6 suitcases is inspiring! I love the minimalist approach in theory but in practice I always seem to keep accumulating more stuff :) In my fridge I have too many opened bottles of wine.

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