A life of travel demands I become a minimalist. It terrified me. A week after giving up over 65% of what I own, I’m in love with less. It’s more. Read on.
I did something last week that I wish I had done years ago. I got rid of about 65% of what I own, maybe more. From clothing to storage items through to furnishings, it’s all gone. Some sold, some donated, some given to family — but none of it here. Not anymore.
It’s the price I pay to chase my dreams this fall. I have to sell or get rid of everything I own, get myself down to a total of 10 boxes stored, and get everything I need in the world for five years crammed into a 32” duffel bag.
So far, what did I lose from my large 1-bedroom apartment?
- 4 boxes clothes/linens donated
- 2 boxes linens given away
- 3 boxes things consigned
- 10 boxes books sold
- 12 boxes donated to charity
- 3 full garbage bags thrown out
Then there are the 6 large antiques and 3 giant bookshelves I traded for 1 small utility shelf and a small bookshelf, and a hand-me-down dresser. It’s… a dramatic difference.
Psyching myself up for the ride
I told you recently I faced this challenge, and I was psyching myself up for the ride. It was far more emotional than I ever imagined. Every item I picked up had a history. Every “thing” was a choice. Getting rid of my books was the most emotional thing I’ve ever had to downsize and I had a good cry over it. I learned a lot too.
This was step one. I get to live like this for four months. The plan originally was to get rid of all these things in August, and when I found out I had to speed this up and “live in austerity” for four months, I felt I’d be living in a place that couldn’t feel like home again. How could I lose so much and still feel like I had a home I loved?
Shockingly, I love the result. I think there’s still more I can get rid of, but I’ll be trying to sell it piece by piece over the next four months.
The benefits of scaling down
I like the openness, the airiness. I love my nearly-empty bedroom and had the longest uninterrupted sleep I’ve had in years this week — seven straight hours.
I’m only now sort of finished the “reorganizing” required to make it liveable, but I’ve found myself spending less time cleaning up this week. Easily done when there’s more floor space and fewer belongings.
Getting rid of the books might have been brutal at first, but, boy, I sure increased my focus afterward and I got rid of more stuff at a faster clip and with fewer hangups. It was very freeing.
Here are a few things I learned in the process:
One: Little is worth what you paid
When I “sold” my many boxes of books, some with up to 40 books in a box, do you know what I made? $110. That’s pennies on each book. And I used to work in a bookstore, so I had the “good” stuff and not just mainstream crap. If I wanted to sell it all privately, it’d have taken tons of my time, eating into my work earnings. I had to make a choice and I’d do the same thing again.
The only things you’ll make a good return on are items you paid dramatically under market prices for, or nice stuff you bought used, which you might be able to sell for what you paid.
This means you’re throwing money out on unnecessary things, money you’ll never recoup, and possibly money you’ll be paying interest on if you’ve bought it on credit. Stop the bleeding. Don’t buy it.
Two: Space is a beautiful thing
I’ve always loved art and furniture and my homes have always been crammed full of them. I kind of thought that’s what homes were for — filling with stuff we love to look at.
Somewhere along the way, I realized all the things around me were things I went into debt to buy, things I felt sort of guilty for owning, stuff with weird histories and torn emotions.
When they got removed nine days ago, seeing more wall space and more floor was a jarring experience. I could even hear a bit of an echo at first. But then I realized it was like wrapping my life in a blank canvas. I had some beautiful things remaining, and I arranged them in an attractive way, and now with less around me, my beautiful things really speak to me in a more powerful way.
But oddly, I have become less attached to what remains, because I’ve learned now that none of it really matters.
Three: I’m gonna be okay
I’m breathing deeper, imagining a simpler summer ahead of me. I have no regrets for what’s gone, and no fear of getting rid of more of it. Some of what I disposed of went to charity, some is making me money, and some has become the cornerstone of my brother’s new family home.
I remembering all the hours I’ve lost to cleaning my home, the allergy attacks from the dust it held, the grind of organizing clutter, and I wonder how much more life I could’ve enjoyed had I opted into this lifestyle years ago, rather than losing the better part of a decade associating a “good life” with having a lot of stuff around me.
Never too late to change
Yes. Why didn’t I do this years ago? Here’s to it never being too late to change. I might have half my life left, and what a free, open, inspiring half-life it might be if I continue on this path of appreciating life more than I covet my things. There really is life after stuff, it turns out.