This is a guest post by Bethany Rosselit. Bethany blogs at Online Life Coaching, where she offers tips, e-courses, and individual e-mail, chat, and Skype sessions to help people simplify their lives, overcome their fears, and achieve their dreams.

For the first 10 years of my marriage, I thought had it all.

We lived in a four-bedroom house in a neighborhood in the woods. Our (rather large) yard was filled with a three cars, a motor home, a shed full of “toys,” a swingset, an array of grilling equipment, an outdoor kitchen, and even a canoe, row boat, speed boat, and kayaks!

Our house was filled with all the latest and greatest toys, as well as my scrapbooking supplies, my husband’s camera collection, and heirlooms from both sides of the family. My walk-in closet was full, and at one time I used a different purse each day of the week.

We paid our mortgage and kept up our lifestyle with my very steady, “secure” teaching job that I had for 10 years. We were living the American dream.

And right before year 11, we let it all go.

Before that time, there had been an unrest in my mind. I spent every year in my job worrying about being laid off. Such a loss seemed like it would be devastating to my family. Teaching jobs were hard to find in Michigan and we could easily lose the house and everything else.

I was living in constant fear and worry. And all for what?

I wasn’t happy in my home, not really. I didn’t want to spend my leisure time doing housework, maintaining the house and yard. The possessions and the clutter were overwhelming, and even as I decluttered, there seemed to be so much.

The summer we sailed on our 29-foot boat sealed the deal. We loved the carefree lifestyle where we had time to do what we wanted to do, rather than always maintaining our living space. We interacted with the community more, since there was no reason to stay indoors. I loved it, my husband loved it, and my daughter (who has autism) also loved it.

When I went back to work at the job I didn’t love, to pay for a house I didn’t care for, in a town I wasn’t crazy about, I knew it was time for a change.

I had a Skype interview in May for a job in Houston. When I was offered the job, I was ready to walk away and leave everything behind! But getting rid of it all wasn’t that easy. All of June and July were spent emptying the house and getting ready to sign it back over to the bank. On August 1, we moved into an apartment. We lived there for a year, during which it didn’t get very cluttered. After our lease ended, we moved onto a 35-foot sailboat.

Living on the boat has worked very well for us. We have less than 200 square feet of living space, and it is enough. I am still teaching, but I am also developing an online business to pay the bills when we finally leave port to cruise full-time.

Sometimes I look back at the past two years and can’t believe any of this is real. Letting it all go has taught me so much about the possibilities life has to offer.

Here are some of the lessons I’ve learned from starting over with less:

  1. Security is a myth that keeps us trapped. Even the most “secure” job really isn’t. The perception that we need a certain income keeps us stuck in jobs and lifestyles we don’t love. Living with less frees us up to take risks, aware that anyone can lose a job, even if they are “playing it safe.”
  2. Following a dream can strengthen your marriage. In our home (on the boat), we have wonderful conversations about the possibilities that await us. This has brought us closer together. In our house, we were often on different floors, doing different activities. Sitting in the only room on the boat, we have no choice but to interact.
  3. Children can be happy with fewer toys. My daughter has a few toys and that’s all she needs. The bulk of her playing takes place outside or at various locations within the community. She is happier playing in the company of other kids, and her outdoor play has helped to build her creativity. She also enjoys helping out in our daily life, scrubbing the decks and checking the crab trap. These chores help her to learn responsibility and to feel like a contributing member of the family.
  4. Most possessions can be shared. Living in a community of people who live simply in the marina, we have learned to take part in many communal ventures. There is a workshop in a shared storage unit. We share an iron and hair dryer in the bath house. We share a grill. We have found that it’s really not necessary to have “your own” possessions, especially for items that aren’t used very often.
  5. Adventures make the best hobbies. On our boat, we don’t have much room for hobby equipment, yet we find a great deal of activities to keep us occupied. Rather than doing separate indoor activities, we go on bicycle trails, explore in the dinghy, or go for long walks in the woods. Exploring has become our hobby, and the physical activity has been good for our minds, as well as for our bodies.

Letting it all go was a bold move, but I am positive it was the smartest move we could have made for our family. Our marriage has grown stronger, our daughter has blossomed, and all three of us are calmer and happier. We are now free to be who we are and to follow our dreams, rather than being “stuck” in a situation where we were unhappy slaves to our possessions.

What are your experiences with letting go of your stuff and other notions of what makes you happy? Join the conversation with your comments…

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