Pretend You’re Moving

It’s inevitable that we accumulate material possessions. We need to be sheltered,  clothed, fed, and nurtured, so we buy or rent a house or an apartment and fill it with furniture. We buy pots and pans so we can cook. We purchase clothes which will, at minimum, keep us protected from the elements. We purchase books that stimulate our mind.

Any or all of these ‘things’ can stack up, especially when we seek variety or prefer a surplus of any particular item. Or when something wears out and we need to replace it, we may get a newer model, but still hold onto the old…just in case. So how do we know what we really ‘need’ and what is really ‘essential’ to our daily existence?

I have a suggestion. Pretend you’re moving. Pretend you’re moving in 30 days. Throw everything you own into suitcases. Or put it in cardboard boxes. Keep only what you’re going to need for the next 30 days.

What will be left in your closet or in your drawers or in your kitchen or in your living room are only the basics. this might include your most versatile jacket, your warmest sweater, your two pair of go-to shoes, or the olive oil, pot, and skillet that you use most often, the book you’re reading right now.

The less useful, less liked, and less valuable items will be out of sight, and perhaps out of mind, at least for the moment.

Now, for one week, use only the things you haven’t packed away. See how your life feels with fewer choices, less clutter, and more space.

If you find that you really need something that you’ve packed away, pull it out and use it. If you can, put it back in the suitcase or the box after use. (Oh, and you may want to label those boxes or make a note about what went where in those suitcases.)

If you can go 30 days without needing or missing something, you can probably donate it to charity. Of course, seasonal clothing may be partially exempt from this exercise, thinking of winter coats or linen dresses. Books may also be exempt, as we may refer to them frequently, or occasionally over a lifetime.

But you get the idea.

This is a great exercise to do around the holidays when we usually have a little more free time. It’s also a great way to start 2023: less stuff, more possibilities.

I’d be interested to hear your experiences once you’ve tried it.

  • BGT

18 thoughts on “Pretend You’re Moving

  1. This is a practice my cousin follows every few years! They clear closets and cabinets and call it “pretend moving”. Having moved somewhat frequently, I understand the value of it!

    However, I am becoming more likely to hold onto items because I fear the quality of things purchased years ago exceeds that of whatever I might look for in the future. For example, I do not currently use many of my dressier clothes, but would not get rid of nicely lined wool pants and coats.
    I think a key is to put them in another area if one has space, and allow the main closet to consist of what is used currently. In a climate that requires a four-season wardrobe, that is a regular habit anyway. Shoes for sand, dressy shoes for rain, jackets for humid but misty weather, pieces for summer but considering freezing a/c, boots suitable for ice and slush that somehow still look chic, the list goes on! (Chicago is a wild seasonal ride)

    Finally, I have learned the wisdom of using the nice things: beautiful dishes, perfumes, candles, etc. rather than saving them for a special occasion.

    1. Elle, I love the idea of using the nice things. My grandmother had terrific dishes that saw the light of day only on Thanksgiving and Christmas. She’s been gone more than 50 years, and the dishes are now mine. Guess when I use them: every day!!

      1. Good! The connection is what makes them valuable. Regarding another recent post, have you taken note of how much smaller dishes used to be? This explains a lot of the difference in how much people tend to eat. Our family dishes from the 1980s are the size of current day salad plates.

  2. An excellent suggestion! We started doing this years ago and we love it. At first the fear was that we would get rid of something that we would later need, but that has never happened. In fact, I can hardly remember any of the things we donated or threw out, I just know there was a lot of it and we are better off without it. Life is so much simpler and easier when you have only what you need.

  3. The end of the year — and the time to reflect on it — is drawing close. I always look forward to your insights and perspectives, Byron! This is a great one. Decluttering is a kind gesture both to others and to oneself: according to research, a cluttered environment increases stress… plus, the more you have, the more you have to clean.

    Apologies for the slight deviation from topic, but speaking of suitcases… do you have any suggestions for some that are stylish enough to be pleasant to use, but durable enough to protect their contents from rough airport handling? I lost mine recently and need to replace them; but I haven’t bought new luggage in nearly 20 years, so I feel clueless. I suspect that the popular brands are not the best quality (and I hate having an obvious logo on anything). Is there an Old Money suitcase? 🙂 I’d love hearing any history or recommendations anyone can share.

      1. Thank you for the reply, Byron! I really appreciate it. I had learned what I could from reviews online, but so often those are questionable. Happy to have some trusted advice! I hope you and yours are well.

    1. When I became self-employed I bought a Briggs & Riley suitcase, partly because of its subtle and elegant appearance. 15 years later and many airports, baggage handlers, car rides, and hotel stays later, it has only minor scuffs, zippers all work, and there are no tears at all.

      1. Thank you so much for taking the time to share, Andrew! I did a quick search and like the way they look, too: very discreet and classy. Haven’t made a purchase yet, so you may have just convinced me. I love hearing that yours has lasted 15 years in great shape — that’s exactly what I’m looking for.

        Thank you again for the recommendation! Happy holidays! 🙂

      1. Thank you for the recommendation, Trevor! I really love the look of those leather bags, and they seem like they could last a lifetime. I bookmarked the link you shared and will definitely keep them in mind.

        Thank you again! Happy New Year! 🙂

  4. I agree with your recommendation for a Tumi, Byron – and I’ve only ever heard good things about Rimowa. My family has been slowly upgrading our luggage to Tumi and we haven’t looked back. Very pleased with the performance of these pieces.

    This post was so timely, Byron, as I just moved about a month ago and found myself pleasantly surprised by how little I needed during the transition…and unpleasantly surprised by how many things I had accumulated since my last relocation. My family movs every few years for work so I’ve got it down to a science, and for the most part I’m diligent about controlling what we let into our homes in between the moves. Keeping a firm grasp on what we have, what we need, what is no longer useful, and how to responsibly re-home or dispose of items is a bit like compound interest: it starts small but the positive impact snowballs over time. And like compound interest, it’s best achieved in small efforts every day rather than in one massive (and exhausting) push the week before a move!

    Best of luck to anyone moving in the near future – and to anyone with a “pretend” move project, too!

    1. Score: 2 for Tumi! Thank you for the kind recommendation, Erin! I’ve been researching them, and what I like most is that they offer a service to help you find a lost bag. I think they’ll be my choice.

      It’s so wise to think of reflection and self-improvement as investments, and their benefits as compound interest that builds over time and improves many different areas of our lives.

      Thanks so much again, Erin. I hope you and your family have a wonderful holiday season!

      1. Thank you, Jess – wishing the same to you and yours!

        P.S. I purchased my first Tumi (a small, rolling, carry-on hard case) at Nordstrom Rack for a steep discount. Could be a good way to experiment before purchasing directly from the retailer!

  5. I’ve done something like this. Can’t say I liked it very much.

    The problem is, I like stuff. I’m proudly not a minimalist. I can get by with five shirts, but I prefer to have fifteen. Or more, probably. Obviously, I’m not going to use each of those every month, let alone every week.

    I think Aleks Cvetkovic said it rather well: “The thing is, I loathe the idea of a capsule wardrobe. In fact, I tend to dislike anything and anyone who suggests that minimalism or constraint is a bright idea when it comes to living well. Clothes are too much fun to be boiled down to 12 or 24 pieces, or however many the glossy-page fashion gurus say we should own. And can you think of anything more disappointing than a ‘minimalistic’ bowl of pasta? No, indeed.”

    The same goes for everything else as well. As an exercise, of course you can do it (though it will take several days and having all those boxes around will be annoying), but I think a more mature approach is a far subtler one. In fact, I think these kinds of extreme approaches have a very “new money” air to them.

    Of course, one has to declutter from time to time. In this day and age, it’s almost impossible to not accumulate too much stuff, at least momentarily. In that sense the pretend move is a great scheme. Pretend you’re moving. Now, do what all people do when they are moving. Clear the cupboards, and get rid of any stuff that you wouldn’t take with you. Now, instead of boxing the rest, put them back where they belong.

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