As you know, I am a two-time cancer survivor, having been diagnosed with chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) in 1996 and myelofibrosis (MF) in 2011. Thankfully, the CLL remains in deep remission, and the symptoms of MF are well controlled with a new, targeted therapy, ruxolitinib. I am living a full life. Two years ago, my wife, Esther, and I decided to move from suburban Seattle (Mercer Island, Washington) to Barcelona, Spain. We wanted to become “global citizens” and also see if we could foster patient empowerment in Europe. That’s a work-in-progress. Before we left, we spent a couple of weeks getting rid of a lot of old books, toys, and old clothes our family no longer needed. We had trunk loads of the stuff. Now, two years later, I find I am facing that again, in spades.

A few months ago, we decided to sell our house. After 25 years, we are ready to move on. The three kids are almost all out on their own. And we also have recognized we don’t need all that “stuff.” Now the real work begins!

Andrew ready to get rid of "stuff" from storage locker

Andrew ready to get rid of “stuff” from storage lockers

When we moved to an apartment in Spain—and since no corporation was paying for the move—we each took only two suitcases. That’s it. As we settled into Barcelona, I would ask Esther, “Do you miss anything?” Other than family photos, the answer was always “No.”  Most of the time, we couldn’t even remember all the things we left behind. The people, yes. The “stuff,” no.

Now we are back on Mercer Island, staying with friends for the summer, reconnecting with the U.S. Patient Power team here and hoping the house will sell soon. There is a lot of interest in it from younger families.

And where’s our stuff? In four big storage lockers nearby. And that is our job for the summer: to cull what is trash, what is for sale, what is to be given away, and what is to be kept for the kids. Basically, we are doing what surviving family members do when there is an estate sale after a loved one passes on. But we are not dead! The truth is, though, that it feels great. The move has taught us that we are not our “stuff” and that we need very little. It IS quite liberating.

So, my advice to you is to consider not only downsizing but ridding yourselves of a great deal. You don’t need it, and later on your family won’t know what to do with it. Why wait? Having spent many days going through my dad’s belongings after he died a few years ago, I am happy to do this for myself now, exercise more control, and also know it won’t be a burden for our kids.

So consider an “estate sale” now while you are feeling strong. Take it from me, it will feel great. You are not your “stuff.”


Wishing you and your family the best of health and a great summer!