Getting rid of stuff to remember what's most important

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Sandy (or 'Auntie', as many people call her) is our FIFO Survivor. Her husband works offshore in oil/gas and they've been together for more than 30 years - many of them as a fly-in, fly-out (FIFO) family. In that time they've raised two beautiful daughters (both now in their 20s) and moved more than 19 times! Sandy wanted to write for Mining Family Matters to show you can survive FIFO.


It's the little things in life that matter to me: not the five-star holidays with all the bells and whistles.

One of my most precious mementos is a little card my girls made for me while they were poor university students – it's covered in photos and hand-written notes. 

Actually, despite all the travelling and moving we've done, only four special keepsakes remain with me. They were given to me for special events in my life. Plus I have just one small box of photos of childhood memories.

I'm ruthless when it comes to throwing things out. Even when I'm buying a new pair of shoes, I always ask the attendant to keep the box. I don’t want the clutter.

But I wasn't always like this. We lived in the same house for nearly 20 years. There was so much stuff surrounding me that I couldn’t see straight. I could never throw out clothes. You know how it goes: 'Oh, it might come back into fashion. Or I’m sure I’ll fit into it again one day.' 

Moving to Australia gave me a fresh start. 

Now I'm one of those people with matching coat hangers in the closet. I face all the coat hangers in the same direction, and as I wear something I turn the hanger around the other way. When the season is finished, I look to see if any hangers haven't been turned around, and then I cull the unworn clothes.

Before this new-found-me, I had to get my mum to throw out anything she hadn’t seen me wear in years. I'd make her take the bags away immediately, otherwise I was tempted to go through them and accidentally pop all the clothes back into my wardrobe!

Now, every year as Christmas approaches I go through the whole house, cleaning up and de-cluttering in preparation for the visitors I hope to receive.

I start with one room. Usually it's the kitchen: my busiest space! I remove everything from a single cupboard at a time. In the pantry, I check expiry dates, wipe down the shelves and reorganize. (In our house everything has to be labeled, as the FIFO worker doesn’t recognize the difference between the white sugar and the caster sugar.) I always throw out any broken china and containers with no lids too.

And if there's anything that's lovely but really never used, I donate it to charity. Most of us have way too much stuff, but sadly there are plenty who have way too little.    


More from Auntie Sandy:

If you've got a question for 'Auntie' Sandy or would like to make a comment about FIFO living, we'd love to hear from you. Click here!