Who has more possessions? A family of five Americans living in America? Or a family of five Americans living in a village in Cambodia?
(yes, this is a trick question)
You might know that I have a teensy tiny obsession with purging, with having just what we need and not a stitch of anything more.
A few years ago, we lived in a 1400 square foot house, and some of you skeptically (and some enthusiastically) followed along on our journey to get rid of every single thing we could live without (which was A LOT).
Then, at the end of 2013, we moved into a 797 square foot apartment. And we reeeeally had to scale down even more. We sold a BUNCH of furniture and tons of other stuff, and it was lovely.
The girls all shared a tiny bedroom (2 bunk beds and a twin), we all shared one little bathroom. We had a little kitchen, and our table pretty much took up our entire dining room.
We had very little storage space, so we only kept pretty much what we use on a daily basis. And we didn’t have “extras” of anything.
I loved that.
Then we decided to move to Cambodia.
And we sold/gave away whatever wouldn’t fit in 6 suitcases and 5 carry-ons.
And we officially owned the least amount of possessions we’ve ever owned in our 17 years of marriage.
This is what we brought to Cambodia: books, clothes, shoes, maps, banners, special keepsakes, journals, Bibles, all our techy stuff, enough meds and toiletries to last for a little while, and that’s pretty much it.
Two weeks after we moved to Cambodia, we moved into an 1100 square foot apartment. It was already furnished (yay!). Two bedrooms, two king-sized beds (the girls shared one bed for a year), two wardrobes, a kitchen table/chairs, a folding table/chairs on the balcony, a wicker couch, 2 wicker chairs, an end table, and a washing machine.
Over the course of a year we bought 2 papasan chairs, 3 fold-out mats, 4 standing fans, 2 bookshelves, a bike, and a moto. And lots of kitchen stuff and some storage containers.
On January 16, we moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia. To a house on a dirt road in a village. It’s a BIG house. I don’t know square footage, but downstairs is a living room, kitchen, two bedrooms, and a bathroom. Upstairs: two more bedrooms, two itty-bitty bathrooms (in the bedrooms), and a huge open area (kind of like a bonus room).
The house is old and a lot of things are broken, but it has a lot of potential. (Now, if I could just find a spare minute and the tiniest bit of motivation to clean it/keep it clean.)
And in the almost-month we’ve lived here? WE HAVE BOUGHT A TON OF CRAP.
Okay, so maybe it’s not crap, but it feels like sooooo much stuff.
When we got here, there were three (really old) beds (a little smaller than a double) with one very thin mattress and two (kind of) twin-sized mattresses (with no matching beds).
We bought two sets of bunk beds for the girls (after promising them for a year that they wouldn’t have to sleep in one bed forever). And lots of wicker bookshelves for storage (neither of the upstairs rooms have closets, and the girls actually opted to sleep out in the bonus room area).
We bought tons of storage baskets and oodles of cleaning supplies (this place was FILTHY when we got here and some of it still is honestly). We bought a two-burner stovetop, a washing machine, laundry baskets, trash cans, two bikes, a round metal table, plastic chairs, mosquito rackets, mosquito nets, a refrigerator, mats to eat on, and a queenish-sized mattress for me and Gabe (we’re just going to sleep on the floor).
(Where are we getting all this money?? Well, we–thank you, Jesus!–get to live in this house RENT FREE for 10 months AND we live where we work, so we’re saving $10-$15 a day on tuk-tuks. And some very generous people bought us our washing machine.)
And here’s the thing. Because we have all this space and because of what we do and because we live in a city that’s a tourist destination (we’re 3km from Angkor Wat), and because there will always be a steady stream of visitors/helpers from Phnom Penh, we need to make this place guest-friendly.
We’ve already had three overnight guests, and next week? On Tuesday, four guys are coming to help us prepare for our Grand Opening (and staying with us). On Thursday, at least 5 and maybe 10 more people are coming to stay for two nights.
We need enough towels, enough pillows, enough beds/mats, enough sheets/blankets, enough soap/shampoo/toilet paper, enough food to go around.
We also bought another set of bunk beds and another mattress for one of the bare beds (which actually is too big to fit, so someone can use it on the floor).
Bottom line: I have to let go of my definition of simple: HARDLY ANY STUFF and embrace a new one: A MODEST BUT WELCOMING HOME THAT CAN EASILY ACCOMMODATE MANY GUESTS.
(I think I can, I think I can, I think I can.)
(This is really good for me.)
(And I actually love being able to extend hospitality. I’m an introvert, so it stretches me, but it also makes me really happy to share our home and lives with people.)
There are two more glitches in my Living Simply Plan.
1.) We are now running a center for kiddos. And we have to stock it with supplies. It won’t do to have just one of this and two of that. We need enough books, toys, games, supplies to give each child the best possible chance to learn, live, grow, and flourish.
Lots. Of. Stuff.
2.) We live in a place where many of the things we need (okay, mostly just want) are not available to us. People have to bring them to us (or we can get them every two years when we visit the States).
So, no more buying one box of tampons at a time (we can actually buy those here, but they cost a million dollars). We have to find a way to save up and make things stretch without hoarding and having excess.
(EDIT: Ha! I’ve had four sweet people comment/message me about the diva cup. I HAVE ONE. I LOVE IT. (I’m just not forcing the girls to try it, because they are taking baby steps from pads to tampons to yes, someday a diva cup probably. I should’ve used a different example. Like granola bars. Or contact solution.)
Those are my thoughts.
I basically just had some swirling ideas in my head and am trying to make peace with all of this and started to write about it (again) in my journal and then thought, “What if someone else cares about this?”
(I honestly do not know if even one person will care about this.)
So I wrote this post.
It is random. And probably very jerky (not as in I’m a jerk, but as in it is not a smooth read).
Here is what I need to know: Do you have any advice for me? Any encouragement? Any empathy?
THANK YOU in advance.
p.s. Once things settle down (ha ha ha ha ha!), I have big plans to do one of my famous RUTHLESS PURGES and give away bags and bags of stuff to our neighbors. I’ll let you know how it goes.