Boston landscape with grassy park in foreground

Oh no.  It’s not going to fit.  Deep breaths.

The cube had arrived, and it was smaller than expected. Much smaller.

Relocube: Actual Size


I stared doubtfully at the metal “relocube” sitting next to the curb. This was supposed to hold everything we were bringing with us?

5’ by 7’ by 9’ sounded MUCH bigger over the phone.

I now understood why the guy asked if I was absolutely sure they didn’t want to leave a second one just in case. “No,” I replied confidently to the agent. “Whatever doesn’t fit isn’t coming.”  

Glancing over and over again at the cube as we ran errands that day, I shrugged off my unease. We had decluttered so much the past several months that surely everything would fit. Surely.

I’ve never been so wrong.

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several moving boxes broken down and stacked together, side view

Packing Priorities 101

Having seen the size of the relocube, we decided to play it safe and mark some items as “low priority”. Boxes labeled playdough tools, dishsoap, extra dress up clothes, canned goods, along with a few other things were set aside, just in case.  

Together, we ruled out a couple of furniture items that we originally found on craigslist. After that, we casually discussed the importance of a few other key items (the couch versus the dining room table), thinking we wouldn’t actually need to make these choices.    

Moving night was stressful. What move isn’t? Factor four young children into the mix, and it gets about ten times more stressful.  

Spirits were high initially. Mattresses fit just fine. The boxes started to pile in, and my husband kept coming back for more, looking extremely optimistic.  

“How’s it looking?” I would ask expecting the worst. “Great! It’s gonna be great,” was his consistent reply.

As the night progressed, however, a good friend with an eye for spatial reasoning started to look nervous. Biting her nails, she looked at me and tentatively encouraged me to go look at the cube. My husband would return and assure me that everything was fine.  

Back and forth they went, until finally, I went to look.  

Oh gracious. It was so NOT going to fit.

close up of hand holding a stopwatch

Keep or Toss. Thirty Minutes. Go.

I returned in full panic mode. The adrenaline kicked in. I surveyed the remaining boxes (there were many), took a deep breath, and started sorting.

If you ever need a push to declutter, try sorting through all your belongings with a thirty minute timer. You have thirty minutes to decide what comes and what goes.  

Thirty. Minutes.

Extra vases and random kitchen items? Gone.

The baby girl clothes I had saved through the past three baby boy announcements? Given to the neighbor down the hall.   

Dining room table and chairs so carefully broken down? Nope. Not gonna fit.  

Canned food? Forget it.

I glanced at my hastily scribbled labels, frantically trying to remember what extra items were packed inside. Baby quilts? Family photos?

I had no clue. I just had to hope that the boxes I set aside did not hold anything irreplaceable.

I really thought I was going to cry when I realized the majority of my carefully selected baskets and bins I had accumulated over the years were not going to make it. I hastily grabbed some that stacked easily and tossed them in the “keep” pile. I don’t even remember which ones made it. I’ll find out in Raleigh.

Stuffed animals (thankfully the precious ones were in the car)? Gone. Outside toys? Box torn open and quickly sorted for valuable soccer balls and baseball gloves. The ones we kept were shoved between car seats in the (already stuffed) van. 

The Unexpected Emotions that Come with Stuff

I truly thought I had worked through sentimental attachments to things. I’d read Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, decluttered like a champ. Box after box was given to friends or charities.  

When we decided against another relocube, we simply weighed the worth of our items versus the cost of a second cube (that cost included the additional monthly storage fee per cube). It was a purely logical calculation and decision. 

Logical calculations do not prepare you for the emotions triggered by needing to part unexpectedly with your stuff. Thankfully, a dear friend watched the kids while we sorted items to keep or toss, so we were able to shield our kids from the stress of the evening.  

Strong emotions and adrenaline kept us awake that night, and we tossed and turned until the early hours of the morning. As we drove away from Boston the next day, I could still feel them, lingering like an echo.

What Remains

The question surfaces as we prepare to open that cube and sort through what remains.

How much more simple can I get?

I thought I had already simplified enough. Well, I received quite a shock that November night: I wasn’t as simple as I thought.

I still wanted all my stuff, every single thing that had made the cut through every purge, every decluttering session. It still had a hold on me, one I didn’t realize remained.

And yet, there was something freeing about letting it go. To know that stuff is still just that: stuff.  

It’s not what really matters. What really matters is right here with me, and truly is irreplaceable. Thank goodness what really matters survived our non-negotiable downsize.


Were you ever forced to downsize unexpectedly? Share in the comments!

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  1. My parents lost everything in a house fire when I was 5. They suffered a total loss house fire again 16 years later. 11 years after that, a tornado struck their home and removed the second story of the home. I have 10 brothers and sisters, so we have always been so grateful that the entire family was safe (that’s a lot of little kids to get safely out of a burning house. While there are things that we lost that cannot be replaced, like photo albums and my wedding dress, life went on. We still have each other. I have a hard time decluttering my home because we are on a very small budget and Because the “what if I need it?” Question is a tough one for me. Sometimes it’s easier for me to ask myself, “if the house burned down today, would I care that I lost this? Would I have to replace it to function?” It helps me to remind myself that my parents lost everything twice, but they still have the things they need. So fearing the future is not necessary. After I read the life changing magic of tidying up, I started with my clothes and tried it but I couldn’t bring myself to throw away things that didn’t spark joy that I knew I wore or that I would need to wear in the winter. It did help me to get rid of a lot of clothes that needed mending that I have been keeping around for over a year and hadn’t gotten around to mending. And while none of my clothes spark joy, touching each one of them individually did remind me oh I get compliments when I wear this one 40 this one looks terrible on me and I really Never wear it unless all my clothes are dirty so if I got rid of it and it wasn’t there hanging in my closet looking like something to wear, I would realize that I needed to do laundry sooner. After that I stopped because books or next and I love my books too much to part with them a few times that I have parted with books I immediately regretted it soon after. Parentheses with the exception of some of those children’s books that are written from the movie from the Disney movie.) never wear it unless all my clothes are dirty so if I got rid of it and it wasn’t there hanging in my closet looking like something to wear, I would realize that I needed to do laundry sooner. After that I stopped because books are next and I love my books to much to part with them the few times that I have parted with books I immediately regretted it soon after. (with the exception of some of those children’s books that are written from the movie. ) i’ve since read the second book spark joy where she talks a lot about more about what to do with every day things that don’t spark joy but that you need to get this like you’re back. She encourages not replacing it but to start appreciating it look at that vacuum and say thank you vacuum for helping me to keep my home clean and a healthy environment for my children. I suppose that while I haven’t really been able to apply the “letter of the law” that Marie Kondo lays out, I have really appreciated living my life with more Gratitude. That is the spirit of what she’s encouraging, and I do like that. I think that gratitude for what we have is also the solution to the craving for more stuff

    1. Author

      I love that perspective, Rebecca! I too have been through a house fire. I was only 6. I think it has made me less sentimental about stuff. I will have to check out Marie’s new book. Im curious to see her philosophy fleshed out more. Even though I’ve moved on from the Life-Changing Magic of Tidying up (I liked the Joy of Less much better), the aspect I did like was being thankful for how an object served you over the years, even if you are going to get rid of it. Thanks for much for sharing your decluttering journey!

  2. I’m rereading this great post as we’re looking at a(nother) interstate move in a couple of months. It really is very difficult to imagine how much stuff yiu have, measured in cubic feet. I’d love to read a post on your ideas and suggestions for moving on a budget with kids! 😀

    1. Author

      I’ll add it to my list! So many post ideas, so little time. The one thing I’ll say off the top of my head is so many costs you don’t think of: car registration and new tags, car insurance payments up front for six months, renter’s insurance payment up front for six months, utility set up, etc. I didn’t think about that and would definitely recommend it to families moving! But I will start a post draft with other notes. 🙂 Thanks so much for reading Heather! It always makes me smile when I see a comment from you.

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