Two weeks from today we will be in the United States, in a hotel in Baltimore while we finalize the details on our new truck purchase.

A few days after that we’ll officially move into our fifth-wheel, attempting to squeeze a year’s worth of necessities for two adults, two kids and a cat into 400-square-feet of living space.

According to Zillow, the average four-bedroom, 2800-square-foot home contains 20,800 pounds of stuff. And this article in the Los Angeles Times says that the average household has 300,000 “things,” from paperclips to ironing boards to TVs.

Since about half of our stuff is already in storage in the States, I’ll estimate on the conservative side and say we have 150,000 things with us here in Germany. I’m going to guess at least 500 of those things are ballpoint pens. Another 500 are miscellaneous pieces of paper, some with grocery lists, phone numbers and reminders scrawled on them, while others are oh-so-important things things like two-year-old phone bills and the receipt from that day last summer when I took the kids to KFC for lunch.

There’s probably 50 glue sticks hidden in different drawers and closets around our house, not to mention all the other miscellaneous craft supplies like popsicle sticks, empty glass jars and bottles, tape of all sorts, stickers of all sorts, stencils, hole punches, rubber stamps and half-finished DIY kits. We are not even crafty people. I avoid Pinterest like the plague.

Our movers come on Wednesday. We’ve spent the past week going through rooms and closets, throwing out almost-empty rolls of wrapping paper, socks with holes in them and chargers with no electronics to match them.

Because we move every two years or so, we are pretty good at purging. But we are taking this move as an opportunity to pare down as much as possible.

We’ve gone through boxes of files, kids’ old artwork, honor roll certificates, sports’ trophies and other mementos. We’re taking a good, hard look at kitchen utensils and throw rugs and curtains. The TV is on its last legs, no need to move it. The aging coffee maker and blender are also going to the trash.

We’ve painfully sorted what is going with us in the trailer, which means only things we can carry on the airplane or send ahead in the mail

Blankets, pillows and towels? We’ll buy new ones in the States.

The musical Happy Birthday gift bag that has been used at every birthday in our family for going on 10 years now? That goes with us.

We are used to putting things in storage and not seeing them for awhile. Seven thousand pounds of our stuff has already been in storage in Kansas for five years. Another thousand has been stored in Massachusetts for the last two years.

But this time is painful. The things we treasure enough to always have with us – the baby pictures and the military awards and the newspapers I’ve saved from my writing career – will now also be put into a warehouse with no climate control and who-knows-what kind of security.

Some day, 12 to 18 months from now, we’ll get it all back.

We’ll get our stuff from Kansas and Massachusetts, too. Those two storage units hold enough things to fill a whole other house: Two couches, several chairs, a washer and dryer, a dining room set, a lawnmower, a china cabinet, toys, Christmas decorations, enough for beds everyone in the family plus a guestroom, and a hundred boxes full of miscellanea.

My 14-year-old is already comparing that future delivery day to Christmas, but 100 times better.

I think it’s going to look more like an episode of “Hoarders.”








4 thoughts on ““Hoarders,” here we come

  1. Was just thinking about your old blog, and decided to google your name! Lo and behold, I found you! It looks like your husband is about to retire, eh? I always enjoyed your writing!

  2. Our ability to amass stuff is unbelievable and I commiserate on your dedicating a blog to the process. We vacated our storage unit and put our hoard into my fatherinlaw’s attic above the garage with some stuff remaining in our 16′ cargo trailer because they’re too unwieldy to make it up the pull-down folding attic stairs…you know the ones that make all the noise from the springs when you pull them down. We find our hoard consists of mini-hoards from when the kids left the house as young men. Another mini-hoard from my grandparents home when my grandmother had to move to assisted living, grandpa died several years ago.

    So what to do with all the old pictures, Legos, and matchbox cars? For the time we’ve hermetically sealed them from critters in Rubbermaids with duck-tape, prolonging the decision to toss, sell, or give away. From my experience I’d say I’m a 4 on the 1-10 hoarders index, 10 being certifiable. My goal is to become a 2.

    Jan thanks for the inspirational writing and I look forward to reading the rest of your family’s story.

    1. All of our stuff is in storage (paid for by DOD) in three different places in the U.S. I am just hoping that this year of living small will allow us to be able to part with at least half that stuff when we eventually get it all returned to us. But I am a sucker for the sentimental things!

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