After visiting the beautiful country of Belize several times, I finally convinced myself that moving to this tropical paradise was the perfect decision for this stage of my life. However, coming to terms with this life-changing decision only led to a plethora of other decisions that followed. My plan of attack went something like this…

Although my children are grown with lives of their own, whether they realize or admit it, they still need their mother. Of course, I reassured myself, they will visit and there will be trips back to the states to visit extended family and friends. Considering this, it seemed like the perfect arrangement to sell the house and move to paradise. The kids agreed and that decision was made!

The next step was to sell the house. Understanding that the typical timeframe takes several months to list, sell, and finalize property, I felt comfortable that I had ample time to slowly adjust to this major change in lifestyle. Much to my surprise, the house sold in 6 days, which dramatically changed the scheme of things. This was a house filled with a huge amount of stuff. What was I to do with it all? Bring on the downsizing!

Enter: overwhelm. What was I thinking? There was so much that had to be done in order to make this transition to island life. I had to face the daunting task of clearing out my stuff. Just the thought of digging through boxes of Christmas decorations, winter clothes, and kids artwork from elementary school made my head spin. I decided to make my mantra, “You’re moving to an island, you’re moving to an island.” It definitely helped in the motivation department.

I needed to dispose of so much stuff. Literally a house-full, a garage-full, and an attic-full of stuff that I once felt worthy of keeping. All of it had to go. As I contemplated my plan of attack, I searched for an answer as to how all this stuff happened in the first place. Don’t get me wrong, I was not a hoarder with tons of cottage cheese containers, old newspapers, and used jars piled up. It was more the typical things you think you may need someday. You have the extra space, so you figure, What the hell? Stick it in the cabinet. Store it in the attic. Move it to the garage.

I had slowly filled spaces with things that held little value, only creating the need for a larger house with more space to fill with more stuff. Years of accumulating stuff – red stuff, blue stuff, old stuff, new stuff. Organizing stuff, buying stuff, re-painting stuff, selling old stuff in order to replace with new stuff. And it was not only my stuff, but my husband’s stuff, my adult childrens’ stuff, and grandkids’ stuff left behind for their next visit. Catch my drift?stuff meme

One day, you awake and think, Oh shit, where did all this stuff come from? Just as the common adage “shit happens” goes, I’ve concluded that “stuff happens” as well. Similar to the extra 15 lbs many us carry around, you realize one day that it’s there, but are not quite sure how the hell it happened. It just crept up on you over the years.

Whatever part of my commercialized brain that had once convinced me that I needed this useless stuff had to be quelled, because it all needed to go.

As I tackled the daunting task of the kitchen, I began to question my sanity. I counted 32 coffee mugs. I will admit that I am an avid coffee lover, however, I am damned certain I would never have invited 32 people over for coffee at once. Most importantly, every coffee lover is well aware that you always have one favorite coffee mug anyway.

Next came the junk drawer. I’m certain most are familiar with this sacred area – where even the most obscure items can be found. When a child or spouse was in frantic search for any item that was not important enough to have its own drawer, it could be found in the junk drawer. Can’t find the keys, need a battery, flashlight, Chinese take-out menu, tape, or scissors? Look in the junk drawer! Staring blankly into the depths of the mess, a sense of power and control swept over me. For my own sanity and in one swift motion, I opened the drawer, quickly dumped its contents into the garbage, and replaced it. The little voice in my head began to laugh. This bitch is moving to an island – and she does not need any of this junk!

Others who have made the same decision to downsize and move to a tropical paradise will understand this “ah-ha” moment. That moment when it suddenly becomes crystal clear that your stuff no longer matters to you. I will admit, this process was not an easy one. Years of accumulating things that we so mistakingly think are the fabric of our lives – it’s a hardwired mindset that is hard to step out of. At some point over the years, I truly believed I loved most of my stuff. But similar to my feelings about old boyfriends or ex-husbands, they no longer served any real value… and they had to go! One day your eyes open and you scream, Enough of this shit. I want sunshine and I want a beach! My stuff must go, I’m moving to an island!

ambergris caye pier

Months have passed and I’m now settled on my little island. It’s apparent now what truly matters to me: moments and memories. I’m learning that making new friends, meeting new people, and enjoying this beautiful country of Belize is what matters most.

I’m here with only my favorite stuff – my one coffee mug, t-shirts, flip-flops, and my soul mate. Free from all the useless stuff and free to enjoy the beauty that is island life.

Written By:

Pepper Carpenter

Current Rock of Residence:

Ambergris Caye & Placentia, Belize

Island Girl Since:

2013

Originally Hails From:

Dallas, Texas

After 35 years of raising children (and nearly killing a couple ex-husbands), Pepper can now start to live her life as she’s always dreamed – however the hell she wants! Although at 55, she’s not certain the path is clear, but is certain it’s somewhere near a beach. She wants to fill her days with bike rides through the village, walks on the beach, sunsets with a glass of wine while yes, wearing one of those flowing “moo-moo” dresses she swore she would never wear. Since 2013, that beach has been on the island of Ambergris Caye, Belize. After falling in love with the area while on vacation, she returned shortly after to house hunt.

Finding a lovely spot to “test” this island life, she decided it was definitely a good decision. Spending the majority of her time in Belize and being able to return to the US to visit kids and grandkids seems to be the perfect combination. Her new motto is, “I’m the captain now!” A couple of days visiting, and she must return to the island!

One small problem: the world is finding this island! Ambergris Caye has grown tremendously in the past couple of years. For investment purposes, this is great, for her grown children who love to visit, this is great – party central! But for this introverted, book-loving, hammock-laying recluse – the island was just getting too busy.

Recently expanding her search to the peninsula of Placencia, Belize, she has found a new home. Although currently hectic with the process of relocating, she is looking forward to the calm of the sea, the kindness of the Belizean people, and those fruity little umbrella drinks that remind her daily that this was a damn good idea! The only remaining issue is whether to tell the children where she moved! (The jury is still out on that one.) You can follow more of her adventures over on her personal blog, Lessons in Belize.

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