They say you never really know what you have until you lose it. People that aren’t grateful for what they have usually regret losing items and people because they realized that their lives weren’t as bad as they thought they were, and they were lucky to have what they did.
I used to believe that myself, but over the past two years, I’ve lost just about everything I have had in terms of material possessions, as well as some family and friends, and it took losing almost everything to gain the knowledge that I was better off without them.
It all started about 2 years ago when I decided to pack up my life in a busy Chicago suburb and move to a greatly less populated farm town down south that had about 1500 residents. My boyfriend at the time lived down there and had found me a job. So my one year old and I packed our belongings and said goodbye to the big city in search of a new life. And we did find it. A life filled with simple pleasures and laid back summer nights. Friends coming over for a drink and some small talk, the kids playing outside in the pool and riding their bikes until dark, or fishing on a small pond at the park by our house. Life was pretty simple down there, and even though the initial culture shock was immense for me, it didn’t take very long for my daughter and me to settle down and grow accustomed to our new life.
After getting married to my best friend and adding a son to our brood of 2 girls, we felt the need for a bigger house and a different location. Jobs in a small town can be hard to find, and with me finishing school, I wanted to be where I could make enough money for us to live comfortably. So we packed our things and put a “For Sale” sign in the front yard. After months and months of trying to sell our house in a town that did not have a large amount of people running to buy houses in, we were faced with the difficult decision of whether we should stay and stick it out, or whether we needed to move on with our lives and take a loss.
After the economy hit my husband’s job we decided that since we no longer had a reason to stay at our present location, we would move out and leave the house for sale. Because we had not sold our house yet, we made the tough decision to leave most of our furniture and a lot of our things behind, because we had no place to store it. We packed up what we needed and what was important to use at the time, and moved 2 hours north to where my family lived. While our house was on the market, and we were looking for work, we moved in with my parents temporarily.
Money was very tight while we were looking for work and eventually led to us having to sell many of our belongings including a lot of my husband’s expensive tools, childhood toys and home d©cor we did take with us. We sold jewelry and children’s items, toys and just about anything we had of value. At first, getting rid of our treasured items was difficult, but by the end of it, nothing was sacred when it came to needing money. Everything could be sold and replaced at a later date.
We finally found stable work and rented an apartment. The house was still on the market, but no one was even looking at it anymore. Not many people buy houses in a small town. It ended up being on the market for two years before we finally gave up and made the difficult decision to let it go and file on it. Yes it would hurt our credit, but we had no other choice. It would not sell, and there was nothing left for us back there, not even jobs.
So we filed on the house and after months and months of paperwork and waiting, we were finally free of it. That was our last tie to the town my husband grew up in. And it was sad that it seemed so final, but it was necessary to move on. Meanwhile, money continues to be tight living in a big city by Chicago. We have lost a lot of material items, and have the thinking that if it is worth something it can be sold for money if we need it. But it has also given us a new way of thinking.
When you have to leave your life behind and start over, you tend to think about what you leave behind. We had to say goodbye to friends, some family, and material possessions. But by having to do that, we also learned that life isn’t measured by how many things you have. It isn’t at all about what you have in terms of material possessions. It’s about coming to finally realize that you can lose almost everything you have, and still be happy with what is left.
We have learned that if it isn’t played with anymore, it gets donated to kids that will play with it, and if it isn’t worn anymore, then it’s donated to people that will wear it. If it isn’t needed anymore, then you don’t need to keep it. We live on what we need and what we use, and nothing we don’t. It keeps the house less cluttered as well as our lives, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. The point is, that maybe it takes losing almost everything to realize that it isn’t what you’ve lost, but what you have left, that is really important. And I don’t feel sorry at all for myself because of that.
There will always be other people worse off then you, no matter how bad you think your life is, and every time you think differently about that, donate something to someone. Donate your time, effort, money or belongings. You will feel much less sorry about yourself, and much better that you have helped someone in need.
I believe that everything happens for a reason, and that maybe my reason was because my story needed to be told to help others come to the same realization. Material things may make you happy for a while, but they aren’t as important as you think. And when it comes down to it, you probably don’t really need them to be happy.