70: Release the Stuff, Unleash the Magic

70: Release the Stuff, Unleash the Magic

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Joy of Less

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Release the Stuff, Unleash the Magic

All our dreams can come true — if we have the courage to pursue them.

~Walt Disney

“How would you feel about selling most of our stuff, packing up the Prius and hitting the road on a cross-country adventure?” We were sitting in our rented duplex in Richmond, Virginia, surrounded by books, furniture, antiques and paintings. It felt heavy, suffocating even.

We had just returned from a three-week adventure in Tunisia and France, my husband’s birthplace and childhood home, respectively. Living life from two suitcases each had been surprisingly easy, not to mention freeing. About every three days we were someplace new, experiencing everything from budget living to five-star luxury. One night, while staying with family members whose home had no heat, we huddled underneath seven layers of blankets to keep warm. Having just put on our winter hats to sleep in for the first time, our eyes met in the dark and we both broke into huge grins. “This is fantastic!” we exclaimed. While some travelers might have yearned to be back at the five-star resort, we loved all the diverse experiences. The food, the people, and the places were all new and exciting adventures.

Now we were back in the comfort of our own home, surrounded by all our stuff, and feeling… stuck.

My first book had just been published and most of my days were spent at home writing and working out how to market the book effectively to its target audience. I was buried under marketing materials, formulas for success and books that claimed to teach me everything I needed to know. But what I really yearned for was to connect with people in person. To have face-to-face conversations rather than deciphering emotions behind e-mails and exhausting myself keeping up with social media’s many likes, shares and comments.

That’s when the idea came to me. Thanks to this technology I could technically work from anywhere. And our recent trip proved living out of a few suitcases was not only possible, it was fun.

“Yes!” It took my husband a split second to answer in the affirmative.

And so the challenge of living with less “stuff” began.

The decision took a split second but letting go of our possessions and getting our affairs in order took four months.

We put in our notice to leave our rented home, had yard sales, listed items on craigslist, consigned clothing and donated to local charities. With the release of each piece we were relieved as greater peace of mind washed over us. I was feeling lighter, freer, and more excited at the possibilities that opened up with each passing day.

We arranged to have our mail forwarded and changed as many accounts as we could to online statements. We rented a small storage unit for the few things that we wanted to keep.

With each item, we asked ourselves: Do we love it? Do we use it? If the answer was no to both it was thrown out or sent to a new home.

One day I was looking through a pile of business cards. I came across a person I had met at a conference for aspiring book authors. She was a lovely woman who I wished I had kept in touch with. I probably hadn’t because her card got lost in the pile of cards I had stored. There was no website or e-mail address, just a phone number. I felt weird calling, wondering what I could say and if she would remember me. So, I said out loud in the empty room, “If I’m meant to meet this woman again, may you bring her to cross my path once again.” Speaking to God, angels, the universe, or whatever higher power handled that kind of stuff, I hoped they would hear me.

Then I let go of the card and forgot all about it.

I began booking events for my book launch, and friends and family offered their homes for us to stay for short periods when we were in town. It seemed the more we released the more magic happened. Out of the blue, a woman I went to grade school with had seen my book come up as recommended reading on her Amazon list and contacted me. She was living in Illinois with her husband and five kids and invited us to stay and even got me local events and my book featured in a local book club!

In April 2014, we set off, our Prius packed, Pittsburgh-bound for the night as we made our way to my hometown in Michigan. As we drove out of Virginia, my husband and I looked at each other in awe. We did it! We really did it!

A few hours later we booked a last-minute hotel through an app on my phone. Later that night, we arrived in the wet and windy city. We went to the front desk to check in only to discover they had no record of our reservation.

I started to freak out inside. Had we made a huge mistake? Should we have just stayed safe, at home with all our stuff?

Seeing the look of terror in my eyes, or just sensing my fear, the receptionist said kindly. “Don’t worry, it all works out in the end.” Then he repeated it. Twice. It all works out in the end. Message received, angels.

And it did work out. Only ten minutes later we were entering our room, which turned out to be a two-bedroom suite with full kitchen, sitting and dining room, along with a wrap-around balcony. Bliss.

We dubbed our adventure the JOYride and met so many amazing people along the way. We cooked together, ate out together, explored cities and connected with heart-to-heart conversations. Many of the people we met we now consider family.

So many magical moments occurred, including reconnecting with the woman whose card I threw away. She happened to be speaking after me at one of the events! Our books had only been thoughts in our heads when we first met and now we reconnected as authors. That higher power had heard me after all.

What initially began as a book tour has now become a new way of life. Instead of staying with friends and family, we house-sit across the country, and continue to connect with new people and enjoy pet-sitting and exploring new cities.

Releasing stuff wasn’t always easy, but it was worth it. When we came back through Richmond a year later, we even released more from our storage unit, knowing we were happy to live with less and share the joy of some of those items with others.

Life feels like freedom now. Not stuck under stuff and feeling overwhelmed. Now our lives are filled with more joy and magic than we ever could have imagined.

Here’s my mantra: Release the stuff, unleash the magic.

~Aimee DuFresne

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