This is not a happy entry.
I took a class on the history of Psychology once in college, taught by a man who turned out to be the best teacher I’ve ever had. We spent a great portion in that class discussing western philosophy, specifically the philosophies that came from the Greeks. I resonated with Socrates. He spoke truths to me, and everything I learned about the dude seemed to be right in line with what I believed as well. It was logical, and it was right. I would have killed to tutor under him, even if it meant I had to wear a toga every day. There was one thing I didn’t quite understand, however, one view on life that he had that I didn’t quite appreciate. That is, until now.
Socrates, who was known even in his day as one of the most brilliant minds to exist, caused a lot of waves among the rich and famous in Athens. You see, Socrates had a bad habit of telling the noble class that they were all overprivileged idiots, and they didn’t seem to think that such an accusation was fitting of their status. They took him to trial and Socrates completely destroyed them with his superpower of logic, making them look even more foolish than ever before. His biggest disadvantage was that he didn’t seem to have a stop button, and didn’t quite get the hint that the jury was made up of all the people that were insulted by his genius. He landed himself a big fat “guilty”. Socrates had two options before him: he could accept the death penalty that the court assigned him, or he could easily argue and win for exile. Exile, meaning he leave Athens and perhaps all of Greece immediately and never return. Socrates chose death.
This is what I could not fathom. Surely someone as logical as Socrates could see that life was more important than pride, right? Why was he, perhaps one of the smartest individuals to ever live, choosing to die instead of living out the remainder of his life in some other place? He might even have been able to permanently vacation to Mykonos or some other beautiful beachy mediterranean area where the air is cool and the livin’ is easy. There’s something that Socrates realized, though, that I just didn’t understand. But now I do.
The Hardest Part of Moving Isn’t The Moving… But it Is the Costliest
Over the past 3 months, Emily and I have been selling everything we own. I mean all of it. As in, everything we own from this point forward has to fit inside our ’97 Toyota 4Runner, and that’s with the rear seats up. This is because for the next year and a half, perhaps even two, we are essentially nomadic:
- ~1-3 mo’s: As of the 21st of this month we’ll be temporarily staying at my parents’ house in the Salt Lake City area. Then this ensues:
- ~3-6 mo’s: Once we have baby Carter and Emily’s feeling better after delivery, we immediately jump back in the car and head to Dallas, TX, and are renting a room from Emily’s parents until April 1st.
- 1 yr: Then there’s the big trip.
- ~6 mo’s: When we get back, we’ll likely move to Austin, TX… and then, maybe, we’ll be able to start accumulating things again.
So we did the math. For at least a year and a half, we’d be storing our stuff in a random shed. The cheapest I’ve seen this option be, for the size we needed, is about $50/month.
$50/mo * 18 months = $900
Then, to get our stuff back to Texas—or wherever we may be after our travels—we’d have no choice but to get a Uhaul, or rent space in a semi.
Yup. That’s just the cost of the rental for the distance we’re going. Don’t forget, you’re getting about 8-10 mpg, and Austin from Provo, UT is about 1,250 miles. The Uhaul we need has a 40 gallon tank, so:
40 gal * 10 mpg = 400 mi / tank of gas
1250 mi / 400 mi = ~3.2 tanks of gas
3.2 tanks * 40 gal * 3.56 (nat. avg for a gallon of gas) = $456
Ergo, $456 in gas + $1,120 Uhaul rental = $1,576
Total cost of moving our stuff? $2,476. Basically, no thanks.
How To Get Rid of All Your Stuff in 71 Days
We chose to slim down, which as anyone can conjecture is easier said than done. Our 4Runner is pretty good as far as space goes, but we’re talking about the entire contents of a 2 bdrm
house being parsed away until you have what fits into this mid-size SUV—with the rear seats up, mind you. This leaves us, oh, a 3′ x 4′ space to pack it all about 3′ high. Think you can fit your entire life in that space? Good. Luck.
The first step to making this drastic of a shift is to get rid of everything that won’t sell. We donated about 70% of our collective clothing, which Emily did, surprisingly, with gusto (go ahead, ask any woman to get rid of 70% of her clothing, see what her reaction is). We’ve got some extra cans of food, bathroom supplies, paint, glue, etc. that we decided to hang onto until we take off, but it’s on the nix list.
Secondly, take everything you think will sell, clean off the dust, stick it somewhere that lighting doesn’t suck, take glamour shots of it all, and then post them all over Craigslist and your local online classifieds. For us, this equaled to about 80 individual listings. To help the process run smoothly we listed everything in a spreadsheet, came up with a proper pricing structure and wrote descriptions for the items, and then took inventory when it sold. This kind of over-organization is pretty typical of me. But hey, it worked, and we got it all posted.
Then you wait. And wait. And wait. And then you realize that no one wants to buy your crap.
Instead of emails, texts, and the phone ringing off the hook with people prying at the opportunity to own a little piece of our lives, we had radio silence. In the first couple weeks we probably sold 3 things. Out of 80. If you have an advanced degree in mathematics, you can probably deduce that this rate was undesirable. We continually reposted/renewed the existing posts so that they fled to the top. We posted in other places, like message boards, facebook, garage sale groups (yes, they have those here), and were almost ready to grab a phone book and start telemarketing. This helped, but not to the extent we needed. We had already determined that if things weren’t selling we would make the necessary adjustments. We’d drop prices, rewrite the content, take better pictures, so on so forth. But even that wasn’t enough, and by the time mid-July rolled around we decided we needed to do what we were hoping it wouldn’t come to. We were doing a yard sale.
Yard sales are not typically bad things. If you have a lot of stuff that you can live without but aren’t a charitable enough person to just give it away, you can host a yard sale and make a couple bucks. No one has a yard sale expecting to sell items for what they’re worth, that’s just not the point. The point is to just get rid of it. Which was exactly our problem—we were stuck in this mode of “we HAVE to sell our stuff because we don’t have room” and “we’ve spent years collecting these things and can’t possibly go any lower than we have already”, and to yard sale it all for pennies on the dollar was like an insult to our own self-worth. But this was no time to be maintaining our pride. We posted some signs around the neighborhood… and waited. This time, people actually came. Here in Provo, the only thing that brings people to an event faster than “yard sale” is “free t-shirt”. In retrospect we should have done the t-shirt thing too.
Many people snubbed their noses, scoffed, offered to take our stuff for free when it doesn’t sell, and blatantly told us they’re only buying things that they can turn around and resell for much more (which apparently none of our things qualified for). By the end of each yard sale, we were beat up. We could not lower our prices any more than we had, and it was almost getting to the point where it was more worth it to store and Uhaul it and sell it later. I don’t blame them for wanting a good deal, but we were offering some pretty stellar ones. By the time we ended our 3rd and final sale, we were more willing to give away our things then try selling them anymore.
There was a light at the end of a tunnel. Except for about 2-3 of the more expensive items, all of it had sold. Dishes, appliances, music equipment, furniture, decorations, frames, all of it. There were a few things we decided we would keep after all, figuring it would fit in the nooks and crannies of our 4Runner. In a brief 71 days, we had rid ourselves of nearly everything we owned that was not essential to our lives for the next year and a half.
The Downside to Selling Out
One would think that after all this we’d be happy. And we were happy, but it was intertwined with lots of other feelings. Regret. Worry. Excitement. Sadness. Selling everything was not some casual weekend activity; like mentioned before, it was a whole 71 days before we were finally satisfied with what we had rid ourselves of. We had plenty of time to think, change our minds, and choose the Uhaul option. But there’s a difference in how you feel about a situation before it occurs and how you feel about it after. Let me help set the stage.
I LOVE music. I love listening to it, playing it, writing it, and performing it in front of a crowd. I once played my bass to an audience over 1500 strong. 71 days ago, I was teaching myself how to play the drums on my own drum set. I had written several songs that I was preparing to perform at some local venues. When I was sad, I’d invent melodramatic tunes on our 100+ year old piano and cry myself to sleep on the keys. That was not comfortable.
My wife first noticed me when I was up on a stage. When I proposed to her, I performed a song I wrote for her on my guitar. I owe my relationship with her to the fact that I was involved in music. During the past 71 days, I sold the acoustic guitar I’ve had since I was 16, the bass I was playing when Emily met me, the piano we found together our first week back from our honeymoon, and other various musical equipment of various sentimental value. When we let these things go, I was not just selling my stuff. I was selling my past. I was selling a piece of who I am.
And finally we make it back to Socrates. Socrates refused to consider the option of exile. Sure, he was in his later years by the time of the trial, and there’s a definite chance he just wasn’t up to moving one more time. But from what I can tell and from what I’ve been taught, that’s not why Socrates was so afraid of exile. It was probable that his prosecutors were aware that Socrates had the option to be exiled. It was also probable that they knew he wouldn’t take it. This is why.
Socrates believed that relationships, friendships, and a sense of community are primary virtues. He believed that a great portion of who he is, if not all of who he is, is directly related to what he does and who he is around. His presence in Athens is what made him him, and if you take away Athens, you take away his meaning. If he couldn’t have his identity, he was nothing. I believe with Socrates that who you are is defined by what you do, who you’re around, and where you are. You cannot strip someone away from those things, because we are all relational creatures. I am my father’s son. I am my wife’s husband. I am my friend’s friend, my coworker’s coworker, and my accountant’s client. I am who I am because of who I’m around and what I do with what I have.
Us leaving Provo, our home for a good 5 years or more, wouldn’t be as difficult if it were as simple as us just leaving Provo. If we could take all our stuff, all our friends, and all our comforts, that wouldn’t really be a big deal. But we’re not taking any of that. We’ll still have friends and family, but when we go around the world, we’ll really only have each other. Socrates would hate it. Thankfully, we’re not Socrates. Though I do value the same things, I think I can be a better friend, family member, and part of a community if I understand more about the world around me. Travel is our ticket to experiences we could never get staying in Provo, and perspectives on life we couldn’t possibly obtain while living in the comforts afforded us here in the United States. Leaving everything we have had that makes us who we are sucks, but it is temporary. And, when it comes down to it, if I have Emily and our baby with us, what else really matters?